POV’s Win, Lose or Draw for 2018’s DEs

POV’s Win, Lose or Draw for 2018’s DEs
Bernie and Fran with their POV Golf Trophy drinking cups

If you all remember I did a series of articles in June of 2017 that looked at the departing starters from the 2016 season and who I thought would be replacing them for 2017.  With that I assigned a grade of “Upgrade“, “Downgrade” or “Draw‘.

What I’ll do first is look at each position, or unit, along the offense as of today and write down who I think will be the starter and why it will be that guy.  Then I’ll assign a ranking of “Upgrade” if I see an upgrade in player quality, “Downgrade’ if I see a lessening of talent or “Draw” if I think we’ll match last year’s player(s) in the position or unit. 

This particular article is written by our fellow reader and commenter Ike…  I’ll throw in the POV’s point of view (funny that, huh?) in my comment.


This looks like another unit that may be hard to judge by a few of the commenters on the POV but not so much for me. The changes for 2018 are the departures of Allen Edwards and Reed’s favorite whipping boy our old Defensive Coordinator Josh Conklin. He, as you all know, has been replaced by DC Randy Bates, the longtime linebackers coach at NW.

We really don’t know what type of defense Bates will employ. What will be interesting to try to figure out is whether Narduzzi is the one running the defense (which means more of the same emphasis on strong and constant pressure on the opposing QBs by the defensive front seven) and remain in charge there or will Bates have some room to do his thing?

Above are the changes, so who is returning at the ends and who are the newbies?


Dewayne Hendrix
Rashad Weaver
James Folston Jr
Patrick Jones II


Habakkuk Baldonado
Kaymar Mimes
John Morgan
Noah Palmer

First thing I notice are the small numbers and I went back to check the best my brain allows me to find if I missed a bunch of players and I didn’t find any.

I’ll start with the “old guys” and with returnee rsSR Dewayne Hendrix; I’m not saying he played great last season but I did not see the failure that others saw. I thought he put pressure on the QB at times and I noticed his hustle. This is his last chance and because of limited talent back-ups, I expect him to play a lot and his production to go up pretty significantly.

rsSR James Folston Jr has been around for a while and has done some nice things but he really hasn’t separated himself, yet I feel he’s a valuable backup and a luxury to have.

rsSO Patrick Jones II is interesting. It looks like he will be Weaver’s wing-man this year and has shown some flashes. He’s got nice size and quickness with speed. He will bring a lot of energy when he comes in against a tired defense.  He could have a good year.

rsSO Rashad Weaver… I love this young man. He plays all over the D-Line and we watched him standing up last year. There is no doubting his athleticism but I think it was his brain that got him onto the field last year. This DE has a very bright future and PITT cannot afford to lose him this year.

Two players;  freshman David Green, who is only 6’0″ 260 lbs and Deslin Alexandre 6’4″ 270 lbs have been moved to the interior of the line but could be used at the DE position if the two-deep fails.

Alexandre was an early enrollee last January and still took a redshirt but I did hear some good things about him. Green impressed me the couple of times I watched him play on TV in high school  but he reminded me of Aaron Donald back  when he was in high school. Because of his smaller size I wouldn’t be surprised if PITT slid him outside to take advantage of his quickness and speed.

It looks like Alexandre put on some weight but I’m not sure why they moved him to the interior of the line because it looks like they have enough bodies at the DT spot. Which makes me think he’ll end up back on the edge

To be fair, I can’t talk much about the incoming freshmen players as I know very little about them and I don’t expect any of them to get much playing time although the new redshirt rule will allow them to play four games so maybe we will see them at different times. I’ll throw true freshman John Morgan’s name out there as the one who may get quality time if any of them do.  I believe he comes from a big-time high school program and his father is a coach.

So what’s all the rumpus? Well, some may say this group sucked last year so they will suck this year too. Not me. I’ve said in a hundred times, PITT recruits 3* players and it takes these type of players time to grow in maturity and physicality. I expect the whole PITT defense to put a smile on many PITT faces this coming season.




POV’s Win, Lose or Draw for 2018’s WRs

POV’s Win, Lose or Draw for 2018’s WRs

If you all remember I did a series of articles in June of 2017 that looked at the departing starters from the 2016 season and who I thought would be replacing them for 2017.  With that I assigned a grade of “Upgrade“, “Downgrade” or “Draw‘.

What I’ll do first is look at each position, or unit, along the offense as of today and write down who I think will be the starter and why it will be that guy.  Then I’ll assign a ranking of “Upgrade” if I see an upgrade in player quality, “Downgrade’ if I see a lessening of talent or “Draw” if I think we’ll match last year’s player(s) in the position or unit. 

Might as well get this one out-of-the-way but it hurts me to even think about it – the 2018 Wide Receiver corps we’ll field this season.  Let’s look at who has left the team first.

WR Jester Weah was the poster boy for high-end talent and inconsistent play.  He came to Pitt in the 2013 recruiting class as a middling 3* recruit with his only Power 5 offer being ours.  He did have good ‘measurables’ coming out of high school as a 6’3″ gangly 193 lb pass catcher but there was something off about him from the time he reported into ’13’s fall camp and when he blossomed into a solid player in 2016.

I remember watching him in Paul Chryst’s open practices that fall and through into spring of the next season and what was obvious to everyone there was that he just couldn’t catch passes on any consistent basis.  I mean he’d high-point a circus catch one series and have the ball clang off of his hands the next.

Weah’s 2016 to 2017 performance:

As you can see (if you can see it) Weah had a drop in production overall even with five more pass reception last season. The lower TDs really hurt by going from 10 – which is a nice number for a WR to only four in ’17.

Weah 16weah 17

Of course the main play of his that sticks in our minds is his being caught from behind and tackled one yard short of the goal line on a long pass play in our 20-14 loss to Virginia Tech.  Needless to say he’s moved on and I’d say just about no Pitt fans are too broken up about his graduating.

Our other WR loss was a player who didn’t really have all that much impact in the passing game.  Quadree Henderson made his mark at Pitt as a kick returner and as a running back on jet sweeps.  He totaled 17 catches for 186 yards and zero TDs.  We’ll talk more about his leaving in our Special Teams article.

Of course having two below average QBs throwing the ball to them didn’t help our WRs last year either and let’s hope that problem is rectified with QB Kenny Pickett behind Center.  But still a team has to have talented receivers for him to throw to.

So, what do we have for 2018 then?  Well, our most productive WR coming back is SR Rafael Araujo-Lopes and you can see that he was a steady ballplayer in that he caught almost 80% of the passes thrown his way.  That is pretty damn good considering that doesn’t take subtract QB misfires.  Not too shabby especially compared to Weah’s poor 53% last year:

Lopes 17

Another stat to look at for a WR is what his “Success Rate” is and here the explanation for that.

Success Rate

A common Football Outsiders tool used to measure efficiency by determining whether every play of a given game was successful or not. The terms of success in college football: 50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down.”

So with that it opens the eyes up even more when see that Lopes had a very good 57% rate in that category (Weah’s was 51% in his good 2016 year).  He’ll have to be even better as the WR1 this season.  The question though is who is going to be playing alongside Lopes in the two or three (maybe four sometimes) WR sets?

Continue reading “POV’s Win, Lose or Draw for 2018’s WRs”

All-Conference Players and Recruiting

All-Conference Players and Recruiting

This bit of info about Pitt having only four ACC Top 100 preseason players really bothers me and one reason is because it sounds entirely reasonable to me.

“Offensive lineman Alex Bookser leads the way and you don’t even find him until No. 31. Bookser is the only Panther in the top 50. Linebacker Oluwaseun Idowu jumps into the mix at No. 53. He’s followed by defensive end Rashad Weaver (No. 66) and Darrin Hall (No. 95). The four players Pitt had was tied for worst (with Syracuse and North Carolina) in the ACC.

Tack on top of that we had only three 1st or 2nd team All-ACC players on the 2017 postseason team; OL Brian O’Neill (1st team), Punter Ryan Winslow (1st team) and KR Quadree Henderson (2nd team) and none of them were players who committed to Pat Narduzzi to play ball at Pitt.

So after reading and digesting these bits of info – especially seeing that of the four Top 100 ACC Pre-season players only one is a Pat Narduzzi committed-recruit, I started researching past Pitt head coaches and looked to see how many recruits they landed who were selected to All-Conference teams in their first two or three years.

What I found pretty much supports my thoughts that Narduzzi is having a hard time so far in getting early impact players to commit to playing for him at Pitt. I mean it is obvious in that we haven’t seen it happen yet in three full seasons, but what about our past coaches?

Well, every other Pitt HC has had at least one but most had two players or more who committed to them make either All-ACC or All-Big East 1st string teams within their first three years.  Now – it must be said that we haven’t seen what some of what Pat Narduzzi’s commits will do in their third years but the trend as it stands is worrisome.

Here is a quick chart I made of the past Head Coaches and which All-Star players (1st or 2nd team only) they had who broke out in their first three years on roster.

First 3 years

This is an accurate as I could get without really delving into past old archives but it tells the story I believe. It is important to note that most of these player did it within their first two years on the roster. Again, I remind that we still have to see how Narduzzi’s kids will play this year and next but…so far…

I’ve written about this often but it is very disturbing that not only hasn’t this happened with PN but here we are going into his 4th full season and we are still starting players like Dintino, Herndon, Roy, Zeise, Wirginis, Hall, Ollison and Briggs who not only are Chryst holdovers but just haven’t been very good players – and some never started many games if at all.

I know Pitt fans were very excited about PN’s first two recruiting classes but we have seen virtually no play from any of them and the ones who have gotten PT haven’t been all that impressive like Damar Hamlin.  Not one of Narduzzi’s 4* recruits have been breakout players yet (again, so far) and that’s not happy making either.

Damar Hamlin DB
Kaezon Pugh LB
George Hill ATH
Ruben Flowers WR
Amir Watts DT
Anthony Davis RB
Charles Reeves TE
Paris Ford DB

Of his eight 4* recruits landed four are no longer on the team, three have gotten spot playing time with only Watts and Hamlin having started any games (none for a full season) and Ford was redshirted his FR year last season.

I really am worried about this because not only does it impact the play on the field this year but if Narduzzi gets canned in the next couple of years (which certainly could happen with subsequent losing seasons) then the roster cupboard is really bare for whoever takes over.

That said we are all looking forward to two players who were recruited bu Narduzzi in his first two full classes and they are QB Kenny Pickett who impressed with two good games at the tail end  of last season.  Not seen yet but a player everyone is excited about is 4* Paris Ford who will be in the two-deep at least at a cornerback spot.  If he plays to hype – and he really impressed in the spring game – he could be one of the breakout players we’ve been missing.

I think two other players could do also.  If Hall and Ollison continue to play the way they have which in my opinion has been underwhelming for a variety of reasons, then 4* RBs A. J. Davis (16 carries for 40 yds and a TD) and Mychale Salahuddin may see starting roles come their way sooner rather than later.

Davis had only spot duty last season and was not all that impressive but RBs need the ball early and often to really show what they have.  I wouldn’t mind one bit if either of these two kids were in the backfield on opening day – that are talented and want to make a mark.

Let’s hope anyway – our offense can’t live or die on only one good player (Pickett to date) but needs star play from other as well.


POV’s Win, Lose or Draw for 2018’s LBs

POV’s Win, Lose or Draw for 2018’s LBs

If you all remember I did a series of articles in June of 2017 that looked at the departing starters from the 2016 season and who I thought would be replacing them for 2017.  With that I assigned a grade of “Upgrade“, “Downgrade” or “Draw‘.

What I’ll do first is look at each position, or unit, along the offense as of today and write down who I think will be the starter and why it will be that guy.  Then I’ll assign a ranking of “Upgrade” if I see an upgrade, “Downgrade’ if I see a downgrade or “Draw” if I think we’ll match last year’s player(s) in the position or unit. 

Last season Pitt fans had great hopes for our linebackers mainly because we were doing away with the “old” (Mike Caprara and Matt Galambos”) and ushering in “new” LBs, some of whom Narduzzi recruited.  How did that turn out for us? Pretty much with a resounding thud.  That thud started rumbling in the preseason when the heir apparent to the Middle Linebacker spot, SR Quentin Wirginis, was suspended for three games.

Then, pretty conveniently, Wirginis had a phantom ‘non-football’ (water skiing) accident which kept him out of the whole 2017 season.  Funny how that works, huh? His family owns the Gateway Clipper Fleet and he might not have been situationally aware enough to stay out-of-the-way of that big freakin’ paddle wheel when competing in the Greater Mon Slalom Course on his skis.

Either that or he was shrinking his nuts on a regular basis, but that would be covered by student privacy acts so who really knows?  Too bad the NCAA is looking at teams having to disclose injuries next season – I’d love to hear what actually went down.

Anyway, he was grounded all season so along with returner JR Sean Idowu and new starter JR Elijah Ziese we saw SO Saleem Brightwell fleet up to take Wirginis’ assumed place.

In essence we went from a LB corps who had followed the Narduzzi mandate of getting pressure on the QB in 2016 when our LBs were effective at doing just that. Galambos had 10.0 TFLs (-53 yds) and 5.0 Sacks (-42 yds)  and Caprara had 10.5. TFLs (-40 yds) and 5.0 sacks (-29 yds).  That was some of the best pressure play we have seen from out LBs in some time.

Our ’17 guys who replaced them fell off of that pace very dramatically with Brightwell having only 5.0 TFLs and 1.0 Sack and Ziese having 5.0 TFLs and zero Sacks.  The lone bright spot was Idowu getting 11.5 TFLs and 5.0 sacks to make up the deficit. So on the face of it you’d think that we’d just have to field a better LB corps for 2018, wouldn’t you?

Maybe we will but three out of our Top Four LBs (Wirginis, Idowu, Ziese and Brightwell) are still Chryst’s recruits with an average-playing Brightwell representing Narduzzi’s contribution.  Where was/is all the LB talent Pitt fans were so excited about when they were being recruited?  We’ve seen underclassmen play LB at Pitt in their first two years and do a great job but to date only Brightwell has cracked Pitt’s starting lineup.

What is the definition of insanity again?  Oh, right – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  I’ve always wondered why, since Narduzzi has been so transfer happy, he didn’t try to get a stud upperclassman or two to plug into our LBs but he seems to have been, and still is, satisfied with the talent on hand. I dislike his transfer policy anyway but hell, if he’s going to do it…

Well, the talent on hand is rather …how do you say this in English? -“Average” all around with the exception of Idowu who has gotten better in each his years of play.  He’ll again be the best of the existing and returning bunch I think.

Continue reading “POV’s Win, Lose or Draw for 2018’s LBs”