Here is a piece by our long time reader Ike on the Defensive Line going into Spring Practices.

First off, who will not be back this year? Well going all the way back to  PITT’s spring roster at this time last year there are a few names you probably have forgotten about it were expected to contribute.

1) Kam Carter… no, not him, you most likely remember him.
2) Allen Edwards… ditto for Edwards, he didn’t play up to expectations.
3) Rori Balir….. maybe you forgot about this guy who let the team down.
4) Devon Edwards…. yes, he was listed at DL last spring.
5) Kaezon Pugh…. 4* recuit – this is too bad..
6) Jeremiah Taleni.. last but not least. Taleni did help PITT go 5-7 last year by not playing for us.

I’d say those guys disappointed us last season. Nothing much to miss but their smiling faces and their love for PITT. Good luck young men.

Who’s in the middle of the DL for 2018?

1) 3* Shane Roy is back and I do expect to him help out a whole lot.
2) 3* Mike Herndon.. who know where he lines up but he did play some last year on the DL but could also be moved back to the OL.
3) 4* Amir Watts….. did not RS his first year. It’s time for him to start really contributing.
4) 2* Rashad Weaver… This young man looked good and lined up all over the front line.(Weaver started at DE last year but Ike wants him inside so that’s where he’ll be listed)
5) 3* Rashad Wheeler.. Played more as the season went on and as the defense played better.
6) 3* Keyshon Camp… Need him to step up after getting his feet wet last year.
7) 3* Jaylen Twyman.. The expectations are high with Twyman.

The all-important Defensive Ends;

This unit will be under pressure to really perform this year because last season Pitt was pretty bad in getting pressure on the opposing QBs with our 74th national ranking (11th in ACC) with only 23 sacks. What was worse is that our top two ‘sackers’ were a LB (Idowu) and a CB (Maddox).  They accounted for nine of those 23 sacks.  DE’s Hendrix and Weaver were the top two lineman in sacks with only three each.

This is one area that is critical to Narduzzi’s defensive philosophy – which revolves around getting pressure on the opposing QBs to force them to throw early.  Obviously that has failed miserably over the last three years…

Here are the roster DEs.

1) 4* Dewayne Hendrix… will this be the year he the play-maker?
2) 3* James Folston… Steady Eddy who makes big plays once in a while.
3) 2* Patrick Jones the II.. also played more later in the season.
4) 3* Deslin Alexandre.. Early enrollee last year and hopefully ahead of the curve.

Incoming… Narduzzi did try to address the D-Line unit with this current recruiting class..

1) 3* Tyler Bentley.. could help this year
2) 3* Devin Danielson.. Most think he could be the freshman that sees playing time in the interior.
3) 3* John Morgan.. A good player who may need to develop. Comes from a good high school to draw recruits from.
4) 3* Kaymar Mimes ..another young man from out of state.
5) 3* Habakkuk Baldonado… raw as can be with a big upside.

What does this mean?

This is a tough group to get a handle on but what’s obvious is this is a young group in general with a couple players who could be difference makers. Of course Weaver is hard to set at one position and a player like him should give Partridge more options along the line.

Throw in a brand new DC and the outlook really gets muddled. There’s the group and I hope I didn’t leave anyone out especially someone obvious, and truthfully it feels like I must have as I don’t know how strong this group will be.

Well, I do think there is plenty potential here and as always I’ll keep a positive thought. Lastly, this entire Defensive unit needs to play together this year. There are some good spots and some question marks in others. You know, like most defenses have…

Editors Note:  Here are some of 2017’s work this group has to build on.  We did pretty well against the run last year as we were 41st (5th in ACC) allowing only 142 ypg.  However, as we saw above this group did nothing to help out our pass defense which was ranked 105th (13th ACC) allowing 254 ypg in the air.

One stat that jumps out at me – and where we absolutely must improve on this year is the very poor Tackles For Loss category our defense had – and this is most the DLs work (or lack thereof).  We were 105th nationally (13th ACC) in tackling the other team behind the line of scrimmage with only 4.7 times per game – horrible.

If we can’t put pressure on the QB and make our opponents have negative yardage plays then we’ll repeat what we did last season.

NOTE: Here are The Pitt POV’s previous pre-Spring Drills unit reports:

Special Teams

Quarterbacks

Defensive Backs

Offensive Line

Linebackers

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

99 thoughts on “POV’s Take: Pre-Spring Practice – Defensive Line

  1. Lack of any substantial QB pressures from the front 4 last year is clearly the biggest concern I have with our defensive line. With little to no QB pressure our DB’s will be under the gun to have to cover for prolonged times. Not a recipe for a great defense IMO.

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  2. Excellent job, ike.

    Perhaps my biggest disappointment with Coach Duzz’s recruiting has been not finding a true, bad-a$$ DE. We desperately need a Sheard or Romeus type player who can consistently be a pass-rushing threat.

    Coach Duzz obviously sees this too, bringing in 4 more potential DEs in this class.

    Hoping Hendrix and Weaver break out this season. Hoping, hoping, hoping…

    Go Pitt.

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    1. E Price flourished in 2015 as a DE you may remember … but that may be due to the fact that he finally stayed healthy. You may remember that he began at Pitt under Graham as a LB.

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  3. Jim Medure – have heard the coaches praise him as a pass-rusher. At 6-2 and 235#, I’ve wondered why he isn’t a linebacker…

    He is a cover-man on kickoffs, if I remember correctly.

    Go Pitt.

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    1. he is a walk-on from the same high school as Tyler Sear. His HS FB coach is a good friend of mine; known the family all of my life. Coach speaks highly of both (as you would expect)

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  4. I added the recruiting star rankings to twist Ike up. But Weaver is a good example of playing above stars awarded.

    I feel better about this group than I do about the other D units. If we can get constant pressure on the QB then maybe our pass defense can finally get out of the cellar in national rankings.

    To me the defense is going to have to carry the offense big-time this year, especially in the first half of the season.

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  5. MM, speaking of Romeus … he was a 2-star from FL who didn’t play FB until his senior year but was a pretty good BB player. Check out Alexandre’s bio.

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  6. This line was really young last year. Hopefully they are stronger and more mature this year. Obviously more experienced. They still seem rather light overall going up against 300lb + guys on every down. Quickness can only do so much. At least they had some moments last year, but they need a lot more TFL’s, sacks and hurries this year.

    The linebackers need to fill the gaps and hit guys at the line of scrimmage. Saw way to little of that last year.

    PSU will tell us a lot early and these guys need to be ready.

    Thanks Ike.

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  7. Reed, agreed regarding Weaver, but technically he’s an example of a case where “stars awarded” was wrong/inaccurate/irrelevant again.

    Roy was not close to starting quality DT last year, I hope he looks a lot better this year, or someone takes his place. I miss having a quality guy to clog the middle, like Jarrett. Would be nice to see Twyman become that guy.

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  8. Gc, Yup, my thoughts exactly on the LBs. Maybe this is the year they start playing like LBs instead of safeties, which most of them were. Takes awhile to learn how to attack thru traffic.
    The lack of bulk really does have me concerned. Hopefully some of these guys have added some muscle to their frame. Be nice to be able to stop the run without committing additional guys to the block.

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  9. I disagree with Reed in thinking our D will have to carry the offense big time this year. I see it the opposite and a return very close to the offensive production of our 2016 squad IF Watson opens up the play calling. Two runs and a 3rd down pass play will not end up with that result.

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  10. I should have listed Weaver at DE but when I look back at where Weaver actually lined up it really looked like he played a of a hybrid position. He played a stand up spot more towards the middle of the line.

    I just listed Danielson as an incoming recruit and didn’t assign them to any particular position.

    I’m just hoping this unit holds their own against the run while putting pressure on the QB on passing downs.

    Thanks for the nice words. Reed hit on a great idea with these position articles as it refreshed all our minds on who they players are that could take PITT to the ACC conference title game. 🙂 ike

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  11. Strong work Ike.

    The DL/DE group will be better than last year because of overall experience. But, I don’t see a guy in the group who, alone, is a difference maker. Juan Price in his last year had the ability to get a sack or create a fumble coming off the edge to change the game a little. I don’t see anyone who can do what Juan did in this group. But, they may work together better than last year, and it appears that we have a couple of tall guys that may be able to knock down a pass or three even if they don’t record a sack.

    Pitt will again have to rely on well-timed blitzes and that can leave you a man short elsewhere.

    UCF and PSU both have experienced QBs who can pass and run. These two early games will tell us a lot about our DL. With the UCF/PSU QBs there will be some emphasis on containment and staying in rushing lanes, and this doesn’t always lead to sacks, but does help slow down the QB runs.

    Should be another “interesting” year on defense.

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  12. If you don’t have brute strength you need great technique. Good to see AD there a while back sharing some wisdom. Of course Donald has both.

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  13. We’ll be better on defense as shown in the last two games but it will still be rocky I think.

    I’m not too excited about our LBs… As physically talented as Wirginis is there was a reason he didn’t start for three years behind Galambos and he’s going to be calling the plays this year so I’m wary of that.

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  14. Reed, you’ve always told us that Narduzzi plays the older players before the younger ones. Could be the answer as to why Wirginis didn’t start. Another thing is Wirginis played a lot two years ago and made as many impact plays as any other linebacker on that team

    Has there been a QW sighting at practice yet. BTW, I haven’t seen the spring roster yet.

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  15. Wow, Wirginis gained some weight but he had a very long off-season. Let’s hope the gain came from time in the weight-room and not from consumig a lot of beers and pretzels. That is a kid who should have something to prove. He can get to the QB.

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  16. Could this be the same Ike who is an excellent cook in the kitchen and now also a professional writer on the heralded POV? Same guy? Wow!!!! You are simply awesome my friend!!!!

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  17. Back a way long time ago, okay, last year, I joined a webcast and Reed caught me off guard and asked me for the biggest surprise going into the season.

    My response last year is going to be repeated now. If Shane Roy is your starter on the DL, you have a problem on the DL. If it was due to a late injury and he was the second stringer, that’s one thing. But it wasn’t. I just don’t see it from a raw talent perspective. That’s not his fault. I am sure he tries hard. If he is not getting passed up on the two or three deep, we need better recruits. He typically does not win at the line of scrimmage and does not penetrate. We can do better. Heck, maybe he had a great offseason, got some quickness and will be able to control the LOS.

    My second response was that you have a walk-on starting at LB and a WR/S position changer starting at LB. Add to that Wirginis and you have a problem with recruiting top notch linebackers. That is plain and simple. I give Idowu credit for tackles, but he makes a lot of them 5 and 6 yards down the field. See above paragraph. A great stat to see would be the number of tackles made and where were they made! We follow tackles for loss, but how many follow tackle for gains and what did they look like.

    My third response was that it has been years since I watched a Pitt game and one of our defensive players lit up an opponent (i.e. knocked the snot out of him) with a hit. We have the quietest tacklers in the ACC over the last 5 years, easily. I hope to see that change.

    Nice article iek.

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  18. Not surprised to see Bookser starting off the spring at LT. I’ll be surprised if he’s not one of our starting tackles in the opener… Tough to bring in two starting tackles from the outside.

    I think we’re very fortunate that Bookser didn’t leave early…

    On the DEs, they do have good size – they look the part – but do any of them have a quick enough first step to be a constant threat?

    Go Pitt.

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  19. in my opinion it seems that our defense will be better but not by a great margin. Seems like all of the same guys as last year (with some exceptions) so I fail to see how it is going to be that much better. The secondary has changed the most, which has to be a good thing. Other than that, I fail to see the reason for the increased expectations. experience? Next year the new DE’s will come off their redshirt and THAT is when the defense will improve.

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    1. Yes it looks like we have more depth the in the secondary but we also have to replace two starters that will be playing in the NFL come September. That’s one of the reasons why I still think our offense may have to carry the defense this season.

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  20. I can see both train of thoughts here. One would be expecting a returning player after another year of weight lifting along with a maturing body and mind to be much improved. One could also say that he just wasn’t that dominating last year and more time won’t solve the problem. Also why hasn’t anyone overtaken him for that spot? << Reeds philosophy, which I again believe depends on the individual player in question.

    I guess my biggest problem is that I just can’t comprehend a head coach not playing a player that gives the team the best chance. I just don’t get that. It goes back to the question as to why Wirginis didn’t play more.

    All in all I do have spring football fever. Would love Reed to post up an article about how great Ricky Town is and he will be pushing for a starting job and if not, be the perfect back-up. iek not holding his breath in Latrobe this morning for news like that. ike

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  21. FWIW, I’m in agreement with Reed that our defensive unit is the better of the 2 units this coming year. . We have more experience, speed and depth on defense than we have had i a long time … and we even have some talent there in a handful of areas.

    I’m a big proponent of a good OL, and believe it can make up for some ills in other areas. And even though we appear to have the best playmaking QB we’ve had in a while as well as a sprinkling of talent elsewhere, I can’t see right now where the offense is better than the defense. (Hope I’m wrong like I was last year when I thought our OL would be pretty decent)

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    1. Great Idea and we have an area we write each others for them. Haha.

      Mark, Sometimes Manic towards Pitt athletics stands at 5’11, 180lbs. It is said, Mark can be Bi-Polar and Negative but is fun to have a cigar with and a great steak. Mark is a adopted Texan who enjoys Funyons, Hunting and looking at woman in Bikinis. Haha

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  22. Just heard on the radio that some guard just signed a contract making him the highest paid guard in the NFL.

    Why it may be noteworthy is that he was an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State. Tough to judge OLinemen in HS, but you’d think it would be easier the higher up you go…

    Go Pitt.

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  23. wbb – interesting, I have mixed emotions. A few days ago I read on a board (don’t remember where) that we had ruled out Matta due to health concerns, this may or may not be true, but I remember being relieved. I think he’s a good risk if you’re comfortable with the health situation, but I never saw anything to suggest that this risk was mitigated. I may be in the minority, but I’m glad that he’s off the board (then again, right now I’d be happy with Olli Maata over Stallings).

    I’d like to see Hurley or Grant, or someone with a profile similar to Grant’s…

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  24. Selfishly, I will be rooting for Auburn, but I like CoC and also like them against Clemson. Besides, he’s no longer a secret.
    Ms. Lyke, if you read this and want Grant(which you should) , tie in local church and civic leaders when he comes for an interview. Unlike Coach Graham, these items are actually important to him and would be seen as a positive. Remember, we must sell the position now,unlike before.
    Hey Upitt, spend some time checking out Grant, but if you follow college hoops I’m sure you know who he is and that we’d be lucky to get him.

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  25. The way it usually works at Pitt…..after all the other colleges have signed their new HC’s…….then Pitt will have this big announcement.

    ‘That after a long (no kidding) and exhaustive (no kidding) national (ur kidding) search (except for the last time), we have hired….Joe Schmoe who will have much confidence in guiding Pitt to ACC championships’
    (let the laughter begin) (or crying if u don’t have a dark sense of humor).

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  26. according to PG, Pitt has hired Eddie Fogler as a search consultant. He was a former HC at So Carolina and ties in the Southeast. He also had a very good record at Wich St and Vandy (yes Vandy) before SC. He left Vandy in 93, well before you know who.

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    1. Fogler has a long list of clients including Mich, Ohio St (last year), Arkansas, GT and indiana ….. get this, Vandy used him in 2016 (and they certainly did better than we did)

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          1. and Reed will scoop everyone else

            I can see the scroll on ESPN … Breaking news: Pitt hires Danny Nee first reported by PittPOV.com

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      1. An AD should always have a an up-to-date list of (pick a number) candidates to succeed incumbent coaches for each of its programs.

        I’m not going to lie – its disconcerting to read today that they are going the recruiter route. Unless they got a headstart with this prior to Stallings departure, the optics are bad. It looks like Pitt is plodding it’s way through this. Stodgy and sluggish.

        I’m going to try and cheer myself up for a moment by hoping that Lyke gave Fogler her shortlist several days ago and this is just leaking now.

        I’d like Pitt to get Hurley, because it will create a much needed injection of excitement into the program. Proven winner, fiery guy, good lineage.

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  27. Upitt, I generally agree with sentiment regarding search firms, but it depends on why and how you use them/him. The impression with Barnes use of a firm was that it was a setup between those shady individuals, but if you’re hiring a guy for connections or consult, but you’re running the show, then I think that’s smart. I suspect that’s how Michigan and ohio st used him

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    1. I agree…. I was in the business for 10 years. Needed in some cases. A well connected AD should always have a hot list you know.

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  28. Great article, ike! Once again you demonstrate your depth of knowledge in assessing player potential. And now I find out you can cook as well, Maybe you could help me with my wine list.. 🙂

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  29. Hurley will be here being courted by Pitt. I am sure Rhode Island is pleased. As to Weaver, keep in mind he was a Michigan recruit until recruited over. Michigan made a mistake IMHO. He will be a very good player this year. 6-5 260. Pitt will be deep and talented this year on the DL. Second year with Partridge will start to pay nice dividends.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. DL and DE are positions where depth is absolutely necessary. There should be no drop off between the 1s and 2s, so that fresh bodies can be rotated out there when long drives occur and constant pressure on the QB and to stop the run are needed. Perhaps this year’s DL/DE line recruits will start building the depth that is needed for these positions.

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  31. So….how were the pre-spring drills articles?

    What a great show of chipping in on the writing!!

    Any other Pitt blog come anywhere close to writing/reading/commenting participants like we do on here? I don’t think so…you guys and gals are the best!

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  32. With thanks to Rivals.com (I think this is a free article):

    With Coach Borbely, is there anything that technically you’re going to do differently on the offensive line?

    Narduzzi: There’s a lot of things that we’re going to do technically different on the offensive line. It comes down to development. If you asked our players, they’d be able to tell you what the difference is more than I could, because I think it matters what they think. But I think, fundamentally, we’re going to be a little sounder. There will be some things that I won’t get into but there are some things that we’ll do different, for sure. There will be differences up front.

    Well coach, actual blocking would be a great start.

    https://pittsburgh.rivals.com/news/narduzzi-on-the-wrs-the-ol-and-more

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    1. That was a phenomenal, inspiring and thought-provoking diatribe by HCPN regarding, well, I’m not quite sure.
      Glad you explained why the OL regressed last year and what, precisely, you plan to do to correct that trend.

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  33. Interesting that Paris Ford was one guys speaking to the media yesterday. Even more interesting his coach said he had 2 or three INTs in practice yesterday. I hope that means he is really good. Also, that it wasn’t Pickett who threw them.

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  34. Part of the problem last year was the lack of a true DT on the D-Line. I don’t care how many playmakers you have, if you can’t control the A and B gaps, then you are looking at more 3rd and shorts. We need 3rd and long, that’s when a DE can really contribute. Last year it was very noticeable that we had guys the size of MLB playing DT or NG. That’s a huge difference that if addressed change a defense overnight. I think Herndon should stay with Roy and maybe Ryman (rotating.) Unless the need is to great on the other side of the ball.

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  35. Great article. Pitt’s D will carry this team finally this year
    I dont see things jelling for 9 wins and a division title until next year
    what first year QB can really carry a team but Kenny might be different…several QB’s in college have proven that

    No need to pay $25k to vett candidates and their wives.
    Heather – talk to people personally and pull the standard background checks on the following:
    Hurley
    Grant guy
    Nate guy from Buffalo

    Those are young guys with high energy and will come relatively inexpensive

    There might be three others on the B list
    Matta looks like he’s going to Georgia #BadFit

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  36. Because Thad interviewed at UGA does Not mean he didn’t interview with Pitt.

    And, I see another consultant is involved. Great! Worked out so well last time.

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  37. Yes Reed, I got my cue… Thanks for the great presentation.. Reading a message board and I just can’t find this kind of PITT stuff anywhere else. Reed has made a house a home… ike

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  38. A consultant can do things that a university employee cannot do. There are background checks, for example, that can avoid some of the problems we have seen in the past, and they can also help with expanding the interview group and determining initial interest. There are ways to present an offer without an AD employee actually presenting the offer, so there is deniability of there are turn downs. No one wants to find out that they were the third choice. This also protects the school’s brand and image.

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  39. I am going out on a limb and saying the most important thing for this defense is to avoid players getting kicked off the team or suspended. Pitt will never have enough talent to withstand multiple starters being lost.

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    1. Yes, that process has hurt us last year and Chyrst’s first year. Hopefully the trouble makers are gone.
      Already lost a couple guys that might have helped, hope that is it for this year.

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  40. Very good points VOR. Question… is there a consultant firm that’s available for hire that finds a school like PITT, a good consultant firm for hiring a coach?

    Here’s a partial quote from a famous person on consultant firms. No politics here

    “I come from an environment where, if you see a snake, you kill it. At ??, if you see a snake, the first thing you do is go hire a consultant on snakes. Then you get a committee on snakes, and then you discuss it for a couple of years. The most likely course of action is — nothing. You figure, the snake hasn’t bitten anybody yet, so you just let him crawl around on the factory floor.” Ross Perot

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  41. OT: I see where Chris Peak thinks Michael Smith might be the fastest wide receiver on the team. I think with Pickett in charge we have the potential to get the ball down field to make some big plays. Hopefully Smith(my surprise sleeper player) can show enough to our coaches to be able to get the chance to hookup with Pickett when the games count.

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  42. Definition of a consultant “ someone who knows 101 ways to make love but doesn’t know any women.” Translate that in the old ways of living.

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  43. ike and BigB, you are right concerning the reputation of consultants as wanting to drag things out and never be responsible for the decision. And then not being there later to watch the ship sink below the waves. But good businesses including universities don’t let that happen. The role of the consultant should be narrowly and precisely defined. In the case of assisting the school with the coach hiring process, tasks can be precisely laid out. Barnes may have poorly managed the Stallings selection process, or there might have been some questionable motives as have been previously discussed on this blog.

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  44. Ike – well done 👍

    DE Folston comes from an NFL dad.
    DE Hendrix needs to decide if he wants to play in the NFL or play the guitar.
    DT Camp and Watts will show they are 4* talents.
    NT Twyman and Wheeler will step up, take the kids gloves off and stuff the run.

    DE’s Weaver, Alexander and Jones will provide strong depth with young, fresh legs.

    H2P!

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  45. Reed,
    The link to POV’s take on WRs is not a working link. I surfed through the site but didn’t see it. Am I missing it or is it still a todo?

    Like

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