Usually at the midpoint of the season we like to look at where the team stands as opposed to what we thought the team would be and do during and after fall camp. We are a week late on that but who cares?
Suffice to say I think I can speak with certainty when writing that no one saw this first half (seven games actually) coming. Two posters who I can remember were pretty adamant that we’d win four games at the most and they may be found to be right on the mark.
I thought that we would be 1-3 after four games but I figured we’d win enough to get up to my prediction of 7 wins (or no less than 6) that I stated back then. I’m sure I’ll be wrong on that.
But most of us thought we’d see a dip from 2016 and not a nose dive. Every so often a poster would throw 8, 9 or 10 wins out there but we already knew they were crazy anyway.
But that said I did have some real reservations about this 2017 team that I wrote about and pretty much everything I predicted as far as play on the field has come true. I assigned red question marks to the negative predictions and green check marks to who I thought would do well.
Here are some of them, both things I got right (so far) and things I swung and missed on – and share your correct/incorrect thoughts you had earlier with us in the comments:
Max Browne was not going to play well for us. I figured he’d have a poor outing and he did. One key fact that jumps out at me when looking at his Pitt body of work is that, aside from the Rice game, he had no TDs in regulation play in his other five contests. Not one. He did have an overtime TD for the win against FCS Youngstown State but other than that he was almost totally ineffective.
The conversations I had with those SoCal sportswriters back in May were true as described – he was not going to be a successful D1 QB.
Our Offensive Line play was going to be poor. I based this on two factors. First being that we were replacing Bisnowaty and Johnson, both great college OLs, with untalented Jared Jones-Smith and Alex Officer, who I thought didn’t play all that well at Center and would not fare well with the switch to another line spot.
Second was that we have zero depth at the second string offensive line. Both of those things have contributed to no running game whatsoever. Next year will be bad also I think.
Chris Clark was going to be a non-factor in our offense. This partially because Watson doesn’t use TEs as much as Canada did and partially because I felt Clark’s history and his 5* recruit rating didn’t add up. When Narduzzi got rsSR TE Mike Flanagan to transfer out of Rutgers I wrote that he was brought in to compete (and probably win) the starting job and not just add TE depth.
Quadree Henderson being given the starting WR2 job was a mistake. I have felt for sometime that Henderson is not an adequate talent as a receiver to be taking this spot from another more consistent WR. What we have seen transpire is that Rafael Araujo-Lopes has risen to the #2 spot and done very well there as our leading receiver to date as shown here:
But since Watson will never use a double TE formation we will still see three WRs out there on almost every offensive formation we have.
The bottom line with Henderson is that the staff wants him on the field every play so they can use him as a receiver, running back or a decoy – and it is that latter role where he seems to be much of the time. Last season at this time QH had 32 rushes for 349 yards and 17 catches for 174… way more used and productive last year than this.
On defense I felt that Elijah Ziese and Dewayne Hendrix would not play up to fan’s expectations and the staff’s hype. First I don’t like switches from offense to defense. it rarely works and a lot of the time the player’s talent is almost completely wasted. We saw that writ large when Wannstedt took RB Dorin Dickerson and tried to make him a LB with zero results, then in his SR year finally moved him back to offense when he shone as a TE/H-Back hybrid and made All-American.
The Ziese experiment should be shut done at the end of this season – he’s been totally ineffective and a detriment overall in that Money LB position (left side LB).
Dewayne Hendrix, along with Browne and Clark, suffered from the star ranking system also and that led to way-too-high expectations from Pitt fans. How many time did we hear …” Well, he’s a 5* recruit so he’ll be a star for us…” or something to that effect?
I can see that sort optimism when a kid is coming right out of HS but for transfers it is a whole different ball game. They already went to a D1 team and failed in some sort of way, otherwise they wouldn’t be on the transfer market. Hendrix has been a non-factor at DE just as Ziese has been a non-factor at LB.
Our defense was going to be as poor (or almost anyway) as what we had in 2016. Statistically we fare a bit better this season than last at this point in the season. In five defensive categories we are better in three and worse in two… especially the rushing defense. To give up 77 more rushing yards per game is pretty bad and is a direct cause of lost games.
I did predict that our Pass Defense was going to hurt us again this year and be almost as bad as last season. I couldn’t take hearing “It can’t get worse can it?” because it sure can – remember we have five games remaining against some pretty good passing teams.
The deal with the above defensive predictions though is that they weren’t that hard to see because my main beef with our defense is the Coordinator Josh Conklin. When you have total ineptitude leading the troops bad things happen – especially if the HC is as stubborn and blind as Narduzzi is.
Finally, and back to offense, I wrote that QB Kenny Pickett would surpass Thomas MacVitte on the depth chart and that MacVitte would never start a game at QB in a Pitt uniform. That obviously happened – as far as the depth chart goes.
Further I said that if the above happens that MacVitte will transfer out of the program and play ball elsewhere. We’ll see if that happens but the vast majority of QB transfers happen after their 3rd year of college ball. I never understood the hype surrounding MacVitte in the first place – he had one Power Five offer in Pitt (with a short phone call from LSU ) and was a normal 3* kid. This was another example of fan’s way too high expectations.
Some things I was completely wrong about fell on the offensive side of the equation.
I felt that Qadree Ollison would revert to form and meet or exceed his 2015’s 1,121 yards and 11 TDs now that he was the featured runner for us. Boy – that is a fail if ever. Now, there are reasons other than Ollison’s talents that made this dismal year happen – our rushing game as a whole is putrid.
Look at this comparison; in 2016 we were 28th nationally with 225 ypg. Today we stand at 113th and 114 ypg – a drop of 111 yards !! That is a killer right there. But I said Ollison would hit stardom and was dead wrong.
I predicted All-American status for LT Brian O’Neill. Far from this happening he’s having his worst season in a Pitt uniform. He banged up his shoulder in spring practices and in fall camp but he and the staff assured everyone that he was 100%.
I wonder about that as I believe he’s injured again and playing through the pain.
Which leads me to this – I do not agree at all with Pat Narduzzi’s stance on not talking about injuries. If you take what O’Neill’s season has been like at face value as pro scouts are doing – then it looks like he just regressed badly as an OL. But if he is injured and the staff makes that public then it provides reasoning for his poorer play. That could make a big difference later on. It isn’t enough to say on draft day “Wait, he was fighting an injury in ’17” because by that time he’ll be way down on the status boards.
I wrote that WR Aaron Mathews was going to be the solid #2 receiver and put up good stats. That hasn’t happened and too bad because I had a great conversation with him at Tyler Boyd’s camp for kids. He hasn’t done badly at all – just not what I expected. His 15 catches for 80 yards (12.0 ypc) isn’t chopped liver – he’s the 5th leading receiver for us… but I expected mini-stardom. maybe next year.
So win some lose some but I think I was pretty spot-on in the important stuff.
Here is an interesting chart found on one of my favorite sites – Teamrankings.com. This site breaks down a team’s season, starting in a detailed pre-season analysis, and updates the listings weekly based on how the team performs (not just wins and losses) against other ranked teams.
I know people love Jeff Sagarin and his numbers about our Strength of Schedule but I think this is more accurate at this point… but it is debatable. Sagarin has us at #63 and Teamrankings has us at #73 overall – either way we suck.
One fact is that for sure we are playing a schedule that is tougher than most Power 5 schools play. Here are those charts:
|Strength Of Schedule||1.6||#41||#9|
|SOS – Basic||2.6||#19||#4|
|Last 5 Rating||-5.7||#86||#14|
|Last 10 Rating||-5.5||#86||#13|
|Vs. 1-10 Rating||-4.9||#109||#11|
|Vs. 11-25 Rating||-10.9||#115||#13|
|Vs. 26-40 Rating||-5.7||#110||#13|
|Vs. 41-75 Rating||2.7||#46||#9|
|Vs. 76-120 Rating||5.2||#49||#9|
|First Half Rating||1.2||#58||#11|
|Second Half Rating||-7.7||#106||#14|
Want a glimpse of what I meant in the spring when I wrote that as I watched all the QB run plays in practice Pickett just stood way out from the others and that he seemed to have a ton of confidence? Well, here is a quote that explains what I meant.
Pickett is also grateful for the opportunity. Pitt planned on redshirting him before Browne hurt his shoulder in a loss to Syracuse and DiNucci was forced to sit out the final play from scrimmage after his helmet came off on the penultimate snap.
Just like that, Pickett found himself in the mix. He completed 5 of 13 passes for 61 yards and tied for the team lead in rushing with 18 yards against the Wolfpack, drawing raves from his teammates for his poise.
“He came in and said, ‘What’s up? Let’s go,’” tackle Brian O’Neill said. “As a lineman, you’re kind of excited about that, a freshman coming in and he doesn’t care about the moment. He didn’t get all rigid and scared and nervous per se. He let it fly and we knew that’s kind of how it is and I give him a lot of respect for that.”
“Ridged and scared and nervous” is exactly what we saw out of Browne when he was under Center this year – the future at QB bodes well in my opinion with Kenny Pickett getting reps now.
Here is that photo of the QBs at Kennywood I mentioned the other day- you can see that there isn’t a huge height difference – Browne and MacVitte are tallest (but the suck the most) and DiNucci and Pickett are about the same height with Pickett being a bit taller. Plus
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