O’Neill is Gone Also

For IMMEDIATE Release

December 15, 2017

 Statement from Pitt Offensive Tackle Brian O’Neill:
After careful consideration over the last few weeks, I have decided to enter the 2018 NFL draft. I do not take this decision lightly; therefore, I took an extensive amount of time discussing the situation with my family and coaches. Ultimately, I believe this is the best course of action to achieve my ultimate goal.

“Looking back on the past four years, I consider myself one of the luckiest guys in the world. As an incoming freshman, I was welcomed with open arms into this team, school and community. I am extremely proud to have earned my degree and will always call the University of Pittsburgh home.

“I am forever grateful to a number of individuals instrumental in my development as a player and person. Coach Narduzzi and Coach Peterson’s support and guidance has been incredible. I am truly appreciative for them and all my teammates and coaches. Additionally, I maintain a special appreciation for Coach Dave Andrews, Coach Dave Bucar and Mark Diethorn. I will never be able to thank all the people who have helped me throughout the past several years, but their support does not go unnoticed.

“Moving forward, there is nothing more important to me than representing my family, teammates, coaches, and this great University in a first-class manner. The entire Pittsburgh community has been great to me – thank you!

A Long Look Back at Pitt’s history and its Athletics.

This article is written by a friend of mine who prefers to remain anonymous. Rest assured that his history with, and knowledge of, the inner workings of the University are such that his word is solid and match much of what I know about the earlier years of the University also.

The article by Notrocketscience on the apathy of Pitt Alumni was timely for those who wonder about the commitment to building loyalty. Perhaps not so good in timing with LOI Day approaching as rival coaches and family members who would prefer not to have the athlete sign with Pitt relishing any negativity.

I’d like to offer some commentary regarding the Pitt Alumni. I’ve been a Pitt fan for 63 years. I go back to when my cousins played for Pitt, and I got to know members of the 1955 and 1956 Pitt bowl teams. I later shared a hospital room with a Pitt football captain, so players and coaches were constantly there. I’ve also had cousins and a brother-in-law who were professors at Pitt. So, there is a little family and personal affiliation with the University other than just my undergraduate degree.

If you don’t mind me going back before most of you readers were born, let me recount some of Pitt’s history.

People forget or are unaware of Pitt’s history as a private university until the financial repercussions of Chancellor Litchfield’s massive effort to turn Pitt into an Ivy League member. He spent lavishly to build new facilities while hiring away top professors from other institutions. That was an exciting and challenging time for Pitt.

Daresay we even looked down on Penn State as just a state party school for applicants who couldn’t muster the SAT’s required at Pitt. No one thought of West Virginia other than on the football field. Ohio State and Michigan were not nearby, so they seldom were a factor in the area. Pitt had many New York City area students and sadly too few African-American students. It was such a different time as we went through the fifties and sixties with the cultural and civil right changes.

Continue reading “A Long Look Back at Pitt’s history and its Athletics.”

QB Thomas MacVittie is Transferring Out

QB Thomas MacVittie is Transferring Out

Seems it is now official… MacVitte saw the handwriting on the wall. This comes as absolutely no surprise folks. I wrote that this would happen as early as last year as soon as Max Brown was brought in, but we all knew he that sooner or later he was just going to have to go somewhere else to get playing time.

From the Post-Gazette:

As Pitt keeps trying to put the full-court press on prospective recruits, attrition  continues for the current Panthers.

Monday, Jordan Whitehead declared for the NFL draft, and Tuesday, quarterback Thomas MacVittie tweeted that he will find a new program.

“I will be transferring in January after having completed my redshirt freshman year,” MacVittie wrote. “I’m excited to continue my journey and looking forward to the next three years of this great game.”

It was evident from his landing on campus that the expectations for this young man were way too high given his physical talents.  Good luck and have fun playing the game in a better situation.

We’ll  see some more transfers before fall camp guys, some may be unexpected.

The Pitt Alumni Disconnect

The Pitt Alumni Disconnect

Here is a nice submission by Notrocketscience:

It has become quite apparent that there is a large amount of apathy by Pitt alumni toward the support of the football program and to a lesser degree the basketball program.  Not all alumni feel this way but too many do.  The alumni donation numbers are not good either in percent of alumni who donate or in monetary donation totals, ticket sales are not good and attendance is not good (with already purchased tickets).  

So I ask, why?

In my opinion, it isn’t only ONE thing.  It isn’t the bad traffic, limited  parking, Pat Narduzzi shutting out the media from practice or the color of the uniforms.  It is Pitt’s college experience as a whole.  It is the campus location, the campus atmosphere, the immediate Oakland area and the campus topography.  I believe the alumni disconnect is driven by the lack of true college atmosphere at the city location and the university’s failure to improve that atmosphere over many years.

A huge part of school pride is sports related.  For basketball at Pitt, it is an above average experience.  The Pete is a great facility and the Oakland Zoo is great.  I attended the WVU game this past weekend.  Kudos to the students.  Screw the season ticket holders, including the private box holders, for selling their tickets to WV fans.  I find that disgusting.  What those season ticket holders missed with their crap attitude was a fantastic game. But I digress…

How about the football experience?  About 27,000 students go to the main campus.  That is full time graduate and undergraduate students.  About 1/3 are from out of state.  Pitt has an allotment of 10,000 tickets for students.  I have no idea if they sell all of those.  I assume they don’t, that is why it isn’t 20,000.  We also all know the student section is not full for most games.  If 10K showed up, that would be about 37% of the student body, so it is really closer to 25% that show up.

Everyone likes to compare Pitt to PSU even though I think that is ridiculous.  They have about 46K students at the main campus and allot 21K student tickets (I think it is even higher).  So 47% of their student body attends games and their student section is 100% full.

The poor student turn out at Pitt is because of the location of the stadium.  You want school pride?  Then have students experience university sports on their own campus in what they consider their university’s stadium.  Not a rented stadium.  That is a fact.  More student tickets would be sold and the percent attending would sky rocket in an on campus stadium.  I guarantee, when those students graduated they would give back more.  Current alumni would attend more games and give more.  Pitt needs to focus on the core of its fan base.

Let’s get back to the campus experience.  Sad to say, I don’t think it is a great one for students.  Don’t take that the wrong way; I loved my time at Pitt.  Sure, we all remember nights at the bars and the “O”, but if you have been to other colleges there is something about having a campus students can hang out in and the general public can enjoy.

For the most part, the biggest changes in Oakland in at least the last 30 years, has been new hospitals, new low income housing and Pitt stadium going away.  Of course the university has made campus improvements, but there has been no effort to expand the campus and make it a destination for people other than a student going to class.

 Obviously, the city environment gives Pitt its uniqueness.  However, Oakland needs to feel like a campus, like a college section of Pittsburgh.  Instead Pitt feels like just another part of the city.  Pitt’s campus is listed as 132 acres.  CMU’s is listed as bigger.  Pitt doesn’t compare to PSU or any ACC school.  Pitt compares very very closely to Temple (115 acres strong).  Yes Temple.  I am not talking about being like a Big10 campus.  

Most of Pitt’s campus is on a hill side.  No one is driving into Oakland on a nice day and saying, “Let’s take a stroll up the hill”.  The campus needs to be expanded and Oakland cleaned up.  Pitt needs to work with the city to do this, create some more green space, close a small section of a few streets for pedestrian only use and create shopping areas on the Shadyside model.  No one wants to sit on the sidewalk of Forbes or Fifth and enjoy a beer or glass of wine in the summer while inhaling bus fumes.  

Where is the 15, 20, 25 year planning?  It sure is there for the hospitals.  Can some of that UPMC leadership work its way over to the University?

In summary, I don’t think the alumni disconnect has a short term fix.  You want me totally engaged and connected to my university?  Show me the plan that makes it possible for a student to do this.  The plan for an on-campus stadium; the plan to improve Oakland; the plan to bring my University strongly forward into the future.  

Show me that there is a real and genuine commitment to a full campus experience for the students.  Show me life for future students will be better than what I experienced.

Do this and reach out to students and alumni during the planning and doing stages and you will find that alumni donations will rise along with a real sense of ownership.

 

Another All-ACC Listing Out & OL Talk

Another All-ACC Listing Out & OL Talk

Here is another All-ACC team listing. Pitt isn’t as well represented this last season as in the past.  We have only three 2nd string players show up here; Maddox at DB, Newsman at Kicker and Henderson at Kick Returner.

Two of those three are gone for next year.

What is interesting, and I think  adds accuracy to this particular list, is that both OL’s O’Neill  and Officer are not on it, nor should they be in my opinion. They both played well below what fans, and I’m sure what the coaching staff, expected.

There is a good chance O’Neill  will declare also even though he’s be better served sticking around for his SR year. But here is an interesting about that. So much of an OL’s individual success relies on the quality and teamwork of the other lineman around him.

I believe that was a big part of O’Neill ‘s problems in ’17… The fact that the other lineman pretty much sucked, especially  both Officer and Jared Jones-Smith. Our Center Morrissey  was a true rsFR also and his “or” Center mate Dintino was sub-par. Transfer Hodges was brought in for depth and he was about average for his short time here.

I have written in the past that our offensive line for 2018 makes me very nervous.

Below is a listing of those players that I think we’ll be seeing as starters next year and they aren’t something that jumps right out at me to say ‘Boy this is going to be a big improvement over last season.‘ and folks this last season wasn’t very good for us in this area.

Left Tackle
70 BRIAN O’NEILL JR*, 6-6, 305 (If he stays)
72 Tony Pilato (SO*, 6-5, 320)

Left Guard
66 Mike Herndon (JR*, 6-4, 310)

Center
67 JIMMY MORRISSEY FR*, 6-3, 300 OR
76 CONNOR DINTINO JR*, 6-3, 315Ȏ

Right Guard
78 ALEX BOOKSER JR*, 6-6, 315
66 Mike Herndon (JR*, 6-4, 310)

Right Tackle
71 Bryce Hargrove (FR*, 6-4, 310)

Not exactly Murder’s Row is it? I am not impressed at all with Narduzzi’s OL recruiting. His OL recruits have all been 3* players save for a 2* thrown in.  He’s recruited only nine OL over his first three years and of those I’d say maybe three had any offers that really stood out above average FBS schools, and a few had mostly FCS offers.

Two key stats for me when looking at OL effectiveness are “Sacks Allowed” and “Rushing Offense”.  As to the first – Sacks Allowed – we let the opponent get to our QB 31 times last year. 31! That is as bad as it has been for sometime. We ranked 102nd nationally in that category… and that was in only 12 games. Boy, compare that to our 2016 season’s  work in this area when we were 3rd nationally allowing only 10 sacks over 13 games.

Our Rushing stats were almost as bad as we were 85th nationally with only 3.85 yards per carry.  That is as low as I can ever remember over the last ten years at least.

Can you imagine what we’ll  be like here if O’Neill declares?  Pickett under Center will help with the sacks as he is more mobile, and smarter with his pocket presence and decision-making, than our other two ’17 QBs.

We’ll  go into more detail with this when we get closer to Spring Practices but from what I watched last season, and what I’m  looking at now, this is an area of huge concern for me. We saw a marked decline from ’16 to ’17 and even if it stays at the ’17 level next year it will be a hard thing for the rest of the offense to overcome…but that maybe wishful thing on our part.

PSA: PGH Area Veterans Need Our Help

PSA: PGH Area Veterans Need Our Help

As you all know by now I’m involved with volunteering help with Veterans issues here in Howard County, Maryland.  Most specifically I work in helping Vets get their due VA and Social Security benefits and in getting homeless Vets into short term emergency and transitional housing.

I just received an email pointing out that there is a very effective group in the Pittsburgh area that does this for local Veterans – it is called “Veterans Place of Washington Blvd”  and here is their mission statement:

Veterans Place is dedicated to ending homelessness among veterans in the Pittsburgh region. We offer homeless veterans a safe, supportive and regenerative environment as they gain the necessary skills to face real life challenges, secure permanent housing and lead productive and self-sufficient lives.

I called over there and discussed the details of their various programs and have to say I came away impressed with their approach to problem solving. They claim high success rates: 91% of every dollar goes to the missions, 87% of the Vets get employment and/or receive permanent pension or disability payments and they have a 77% overall success rate.

One interesting thing to note that their transitional housing is in ” supportive and sober living environment that can accommodate 48 homeless veterans for up to a 24-month stay in one of our 13 townhouses on Washington Boulevard.”  I have found this to be a key ingredient of success in these specific areas of help.

So – if you find an extra few dollars in you pocket or have some hours to fill volunteering for a great cause then this looks like a good place for that. I find it rewarding, educational and many time just plain fun…

Thanks for reading this….

Reed

 

Say Goodbye MacVittie… (and Whitehead)

Say Goodbye MacVittie… (and Whitehead)

It looks like Pat Narduzzi isn’t real happy with the depth at QB for 2018.  Here is the Post-Gazette article on JUCO QB Tyler Zelinski:

Pitt may have found its quarterback of the future in Kenny Pickett, but that doesn’t mean depth isn’t necessary.

Tyler Zelinski, of Erie Community College, has accepted a preferred walk-on spot with the Panthers for next season, he said Sunday afternoon. Zelinski, listed at 6 feet 4, 200 pounds, threw for 1,756 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in nine games this year as a redshirt freshman. A native of Medina, Ohio, Zelinski starred at Medina Highland High School as a senior in 2016, then began his college career at Division II Ashland University.

Zelinski

Safety Jordan Whitehead took off also