Feb 28 (Wed) 7:00 PMACC at Notre DameSouth Bend, Ind.TV: ESPNU Radio: 93.7 The Fan
Yesterday we discussed our TE’s unit on the roster so let’s stick with pass catchers and discuss the ’18 wide receivers today. This is an area where I think Pitt has taken a big hit over the offseason…. and one that depends almost solely on the caliber of the Quarterback a team has throwing the ball.
It has been since 2014 that we have had a star turn at this position. Tyler Boyd’s production that season was top end with 78 catches for 1,261 yards (16.2 ypc) and 8 TDs. One could make an argument that he did well in 2015 also but when a WR with speed only has a 10.1 ypc average that brings him down to the mortal level – even if he did have 91 catches.
I suppose one could also argue that Jester Weah’s 2016 season was star-quality also with 36 receptions for 870 yards (24.2! ypc) and 10 TDs… and at 39% of Boyd’s 2015 catch total Weah way out produced Boyd in both yards and TDs.
But still not total and real star-quality in my book.
Now we come to this new season. Weah has left after a rather disappointing season for him with 698 yards and only 4 TDs and his WR2, Quadree Henderson, also left early (ill-advised I believe) after doing almost nothing at the position with only 17 catches for 186 yards and 0 TDs.
Let’s start this pre-spring drills review off with what I think has to be a prime target this year for our new QB Kenny Pickett – the Tight End unit. I like it when the TE has been used as a major part of our offense over the years. If you look back at some of most successful seasons in Pitt’s modern history you’ll find a TE had a lot to do with it.
Just to name two in DW’s 2009 year Dorin Dickerson and Nate Byham combined for 59 catches and 11 TDs – plus Byham was a beast in his blocking. In Harris’ nine win 2002 season Kris Wilson had 18 catches for 389 yards at a 21.6 ypc clip… we’ve always relied on good TEs to get our best offensive results.
Let’s take the recent 2016 season for example. We had a record-setting offense that year and our starting TE SR Scott Orndoff had a big part in that. He was our 2nd leading receiver and in addition he had a solid and successful presence on the end of our Offensive Line that season. Where he truly excelled was in his downfield blocking which you really have to look for in the highlights to notice.
Look closely at that Yards Per Catch number of his – 16.5 for a TE is superb.
I’m not sure we’ll replicate that with any one of our TEs this season. That ’16 season was under Matt Canada and for some reason Watson has never really used his TEs in his previous offenses.
Here is who we had out there in our TE two-deep for 2017, you can see the difference between Orndoffs production and then last season’s TE production. We had two less catches, 297 less yards and four less TDs…that almost 300 less yards really jumps out at you in a bad way.
Hey, I just looked at a calendar and realized it was less than three weeks to the start of Pitt’s Spring Practices that (I figured) start on the 15th of March. At least I think so as I looked at when the drills started last year in relation to the ’17 Spring Game… and backdated from this year’s April 14th Spring Game.
So – with that we have a lot to discuss with all the new names, faces and members of the upcoming season’s two-deep lineup. This is the year we’ll really start to see the two-deep and special teams consisting of almost all Pat Narduzzi recruits so we’ll find out if “The Process” is going to start paying dividends.
And regardless of what Paul Zeise says about next year being the year we’ll shine – it is expected that in the 4th year of a HC’s tenure it better be starting to pay real dividends toward championship play. In other words this is the year all the ‘new hire’ excuses get flushed down the crapper.
Lets take a look at our Pitt Head Coaches’ and what they did in their 4th seasons; we’ll start in modern days with Johnny Majors’ first go-round:
Johnny Majors – 1976 – 12-0: This is indeed a nice way to start off any Pitt football list. This was his 12-0 national championship season with a win in the Sugar Bowl. He built up to that by going: 6-5-1 in his first year then: 7-4, 8-4 & 12-0.
JM’s 4TH YEAR STARS: RB Tony Dorsett (2150 yards @ 5.0 ypc and 22 TDs), QB Matt Cavanaugh (1046 yards w/ 9 TDs to 3 INTs and a 160.5 QB rating), Safety Bob Jury (10 INTs)
Jackie Sherrill – 1980 – 11-1: Sherrill was consistent as hell with a three-year lead-up of 9-8, 11-1, 11-1 to his 1983 4th year of an 11-1 record and win in the Gator Bowl.
JS’s 4TH YEAR STARS: QB Dan Marino (1609 yards w/ 15 TDs), RB Randy McMillan (692 yards and 10 TDs), WR Dwight Collins (827 yards @ 27.6 (!) ypc), LB Sal Sunseri (5 INTs) and CB Lynn Thomas (5 INTs)
Foge Fazio – 1985 – 5-5-1 Of all the recent Pitt HC’s I think Foge Fazio was one of the best beloved. He was old-time Pitt football and was a soldier who was on Sherrill’s staff as the Defensive Coordinator than fleeted up to HC. However, he kinda sucked as a HC and we saw the team slide backwards under him. Taking the reins in 1982 he started off 9-3, went 8-3 the next year then dropped to 3-7-1 and finished an even 5-5-1 before being fired.
FF’s 4TH YEAR STARS: RB Charles Gladman (1085 yards @ 5.6 ypc)
Mike Gottfried – 1989 8-3: Gottfried follow Fazio and finished his first year at the helm with an identical 5-5-1. He went up to 8-4 then 6-5 and finished back up again with a 8-3-1 record.
MG’s 4TH YEAR STARS: QB Alex Van Pelt (2527 yards for 15 TDs), RB Curvin Richards (1126 for 5.4 ypc), WR Henry Tuten (37 catches for 879 yards @ 23.8 ypc)
Johnny Majors – 1996 4-7: Pitt’s theme of “Back to the Future” never panned out with Majors II. He came aboard in 1993 and posted a 3-8 year. Following that we saw: 3-8, 2-9 and a final 4-7.
JM II’s STARS: None Really
Walt Harris – 2000 7-5: Harris took over a dumpster fire and did well with it in his first four years considering what he had to work with – which truly wasn’t a whole lot. In 1997 he went 6-6 for a decent start and a jump up from the previous 4-7 season under Majors II. Then he dived and went 2-9, then 5-6 before rising to his fourth year of 7-5. He lost the Insight Bowl that year.
WH’s 4TH YEAR STARS: QB John Turman (2135 yards for 18 TDs), RB Kevan Barlow (1053 @ 5.3 YPC), WR Antonio Bryant (1302 @ 19.1 ypc and 11 TDs)
Dave Wannstedt – 2008 9-4: In his initial year DW slid backwards in the win column posting a 5-6 record in 2005. He stayed around that level the next two years with a 6-6 then 5-7 successive records. However his sterling recruiting kicked in his 4th year when he got off the schnide and went 9-4 for the most wins Pitt had since Harris posted nine wins in his sixth year. That year he coached in one of the most disappointing games in memory when we took a decent 27.7 ppg scoring offense into a rainy and windy Sun Bowl and we were was shut out for a loss.
DW’s 4TH YEAR STARS: RB LeSean McCoy (1488 @ 4.8 ypc), LB Scott McKillop (137 tackles with 17.5 TFLs)
Those were it for modern Pitt coaches who made it into a 4th year at Pitt.
You can see their results were mixed. Back in the ’70s our two best HCs ever, Majors (12-0) and Sherrill (11-1), did wonderfully in their 4th years. Gottfried (8-3) and Wannstedt (9-4) jumped up in their 4th years also while Fazio (5-5-1) and Majors (4-7) II did also but just a bit.
Interestingly both Fazio and Gottfried had better seasons prior to their fourth years.
So this makes me wonder what we are going to see this season. Can Narduzzi drag that ‘games won’ number upwards out of the red? I always wait until the last week of fall camp to do formal predictions for the next season and we’ll do that again this season. But over the next two weeks I’ll take closer looks at the individual team units; QB, RB, TE, OL and WR on offense and then interspersed with those we’ll discuss the LB, DL, DEs, CB and Safeties. Then later right before the Spring Drills we’ll address the Special Teams.
I have to say that at this point in time, and it really is so very early, I’m more worried about this season than any other Narduzzi-coached year before… and that’s saying something even when I knew that QB Max Browne was going to be a bust before last season.
Four your info here is the Pitt two-deep for the last game against Miami – the way I see it at this early date we’ll have eight starters on offense; eight starters on defense and all our Special Teams members filled by Narduzzi recruits or transfers. It is all on him for 2018 – no more point at Paul Chryst for poor personnel out on the field (if that is what you though earlier).
Next up will be a look at the prospective RBs.
NOTES: As as I stated yesterday I am going to be more strict on policing the comments and the commenters than I have been in the past. I’m going to try to change my own spots as far as overall negativity goes and I’m hoping other people will look at each individual situation/issue and be positive or negative as it occurs.
I want honesty and enlightenment on here more than anything else but I also want civility and for The Pitt POV to be a pleasant thing for everybody to read and discuss, thanks.
We have a few things on tap as far as POV friends go. One will be a golf outing sometime in late spring or maybe early fall and I’m hoping we can try to do something special around that.
Another one will be a tailgate for the spring game that’s going to be well-attended I think…at least I hope so we as all want to watch Kenny Pickett play.