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.

My concerns are this – we have seen so many times history repeat itself at Pitt so why do all of a sudden we feel like a player like Quentin Wirginis is going to breakout into some sort of stardom when he couldn’t sniff a starting job in his previous three years of eligibility?  Yes, Scott McKillop didn’t reach stardom until his JR year but he was playing more than Wirginis has been before that.  We, well some fans, are expecting stardom from Wirginis in his rsSR year.

Now before you jump out of your seat to disagree I will say this – I have always consider Wirginis an exemplary physical ball player; he’s strong and quick and fast – much more so than the LBs he has been stuck behind…so why was he stuck behind them?   Galambos was an excellent field general if you believe the praise Narduzzi heaped on him for his play in the middle, so you have to assume Wirginis was lacking that cerebral strength or he would have grabbed that starting job.

But now in his last year at Pitt he’s smart, level-headed and steady enough to be the field general out there calling our new Defensive Coordinator Randy Bates’ defenses? Did the light come on behind his eyes while watching from the sidelines last year?  Or is it a case of throwing him out there because his competition at that spot is so thin? Let’s really rub that rabbit’s foot and hope it has been the former and in a big way because Narduzzi has already publicly stated Wirginis is our starter there.

Here is the rub with all this.  Bates was, for 12 years, the LBs coach at Northwestern (yes, whose LBs helped beat us in the Pinstripe bowl, damn him) then was hired to Pitt in January so it wouldn’t be a grand leap of faith to assume that he really knows and can effectively coach LB play very well.

But he most probably won’t have any say on whether Wirginis should be the starter or not. Certainly not after PN already anointed Wirginis to the the position back in November of ’17.  Now I find that pretty interesting and wonder if that’s going to be a problem down the road.

Since MLB is the key position in our 4-3 defense it is going to be a very interesting situation to watch unfold. If I were a betting man I’d say Wirginis will do OK there, but I still have to wonder why the recruits Pitt fans were so hyped up about –  rsSO Chase Pine, rsSO Elias Reynolds and rsJR Anthony McKee – don’t seem to be even mentioned to be in the mix there at all.

At the other LB positions we’ll see stalwart Sean Idowu keeping his hold on the Star LB position.  Idowu led the team in tackles last season and his two LB mates filled out the Top four:

17 LBs

Idowu was the QB pressure guy in ’17  but Wirginis – again if he lives up to billing – will challenge that.  Back in 2016 when Wirginis got PT in scrub time he racked up five Sacks but most were against 2nd string offenses – but that is when he showed his athleticism.

Rounding out the Money LB position it will be either converted MLB Brightwell switching spots or we’ll fall back to rsSR Elijah Zeise, who played better toward the end of the season than the beginning.  Neither are standout performers but both have at least some experience.

Either way I can’t say that we are absolutly going to see dramatically better play at this position unit because of the questions surrounding Wirginis at MLB. I suppose you can say we won’t be any worse than last season as we have the three ’17 starters returning and I can buy that.  But that nagging feeling based on what I wrote above – that the supposedly prime LB recruits Narduzzi got haven’t been in the mix at all, not even a mention,  when we have four LBs and none have played so well he couldn’t be sat down for a better, younger player, persists. Not even Idowu who is good… but not great.

Makes me wonder about the overall talent level at that position big time.  I suppose that I take an early look at this 2018 season and see around a .500 won/loss record so I’m thinking why doesn’t Narduzzi roll the dice and take risks with some of his own players like Pine and Reynolds (and other underclassman at other positions) and see if they can’t make the Great Leap into stardom… but that isn’t how our head coach approaches things.

I hear fans saying “Wait until he has his own kids in there” when talking about Narduzzi’s coaching.  Well, that doesn’t mean he has to wait until all his inherited players either graduate or die off – he can form a starting lineup with his own HS recruits any time he wants to. and especially in this his 4th year at the helm.

I’ll give Wirginis the benefit of the doubt and say we’ll have an upgrade at the position with him in there on a starter’s basis… but I’m still wary because of his playing history (still can’t get over that he couldn’t usurp Galambos, sorry) along with his suspension history.   It would be wonderful if we looked at Pitt players and confidently said that ‘they made their mistakes and won’t do that again’ but it does seem like we have repeat offenders rather often. Wirginis, and our defense, can’t afford to have that happen in his case.

I gave the 2017 LBs a final C-  grade for their work last year.  Granted things tightened up over the last two matches when our LBs and overall defense played well – but we tend to forget (or overlook on purpose)  that just one week earlier we let a two-win North Carolina score 34 against us in that loss.  Last year our LBs contributed in a defense that was:

41st against the run with 142 ypg  (pretty good)

65th in Scoring Defense at 26.6 ppg (not so good)

82nd on 3rd down conversion defense at 41%… (bad) and 

105th in Passing Yards allowed at 254 with 24 TDs and almost 8 yard per attempt (terrible and more on that when we get to 2018’s DBs)

So looking at those stats  I do feel we’ll better those marks but the question is by how much and that, to me, means how effective is our LB corps going to be in getting pressure on the opposing QB.  If Wirginis can live up to the hype we fans have laid on him in that regard we’ll be able to hold the bad guys to lower scoring – and maybe win more than five or six games as I’m thinking we’ll do at this point before fall camp.

UPGRADE

166 thoughts on “POV’s Win, Lose or Draw for 2018’s LBs

  1. Reed – I agree with the upgrade, without looking at them in a vaccum. I think Weaver is going to have a monster year at DE and the secondary will be much improved so it will allow the LBs to perform better as a whole. Many folks stated Conklin ran HCPN defense so I’m really interested in seeing what Bates brings to the table, if anything.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think that it should be an upgrade as well, based on maturity and experience with the addition of Wirginis.
    Will it be Brightwell or Zeise, I guess Brightwell, but both will play. Also really good depth with Pine, Reynolds and possibly McKee who we hear is getting better. Plenty of guys to have fresh legs in there at all times.

    Stronger more mature line play should help the linebackers be more aggressive.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good article Reed! I agree as well, except for one thing.

    “What is the definition of insanity again? Oh, right – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”

    That has never been the definition of insanity…. just a catchy saying from a document published in 1981 by Narcotics Anonymous that people hear and assume it must be true because they hear it so often.

    Insanity. n. mental illness of such a severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct her/his affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior… the state of being seriously mentally ill; madness.etc. etc.

    Anyway… H2P!

    Like

      1. Is this the equipment manager…who cares? I am sure if he was fired, he was fired for good reason.

        Sorry, but I will accept any change at Pitt, not like you are breaking up the dream team.

        Like

  4. I believe it will be an upgrade if wirginns plays to his potential. I felt he was our best lb in 2016. He was the only one that did not run like he had 12inch cinder blocks attached to his feet. After this season though looks like a big downgrade for 2019.

    Like

  5. No arguments here. Would have to believe the LB Corp will be at least a little better with the majority of the Corp having another year under their belt, the Defensive Coordinator being a Linebacker specialist, and with the return of Wirginis.The amount of improvement could spell the difference between a realistic and optimistic season.

    Like

  6. I think it is an upgrade based on experience and depth.

    It is correct that Narduzzi does not usually throw young players into the mix but as I stated before, that is his grand plan and he will sink or swim by it. He is trying to get depth by having a few players at each position from different classes. It is the ideal way to build a good program if you aren’t the Alabama’s of the world that recruit kids ready to play out of high school. PN is trying to develop kids in house and have them become starters as RSSOs, JRs or SRs. It is an old school mentality.

    The LB position is a perfect example. You can look at Pine and Reynolds in two ways.
    1. If they were good enough, they should have unseated Zeise, Brightwell, Idowu, Wirginis last year.
    OR
    2. Narduzzi is buidling depth. They have developed physically and mentally. They played last year in four or so games as RSFR. They will play more this year and may unseat a starter as RSSO. Next year will pay off for sure because those players will not miss a beat when they are the starters. Pitt now has back ups that can play at LB.

    Start the cycle all over again with Albert Tucker, Cam Bright, Kyle Nunn, etc. That is how you build experienced depth. This has failed at TE, but that is another discussion.

    Upgrade:

    I’m not confident about Wirginis. Whithead is a perfect example. It isn’t physical, it is mental. I hope he gets his stuff together and has a great year. If he doesn’t. Reynolds and Pine are there to step in.

    I think Zeise will have the type of jump this year that Idowu has last year. Again, if not, Pine or Reynolds will see more playing time.

    Brightwell was out of position last year. Just moving him outside will make him better.

    Like

  7. Certainly an upgrade, at the very least because we have everyone back with more experience and game time on the field. This unit showed improvement throughout the year (and especially at the end) so I don’t see how it could be a draw or worse. Plus we get back who many think may be the best of this unit in Wirginis.

    I think we’re going to see big things from this group this year. Hopefully Bates is the upgrade we need as well and that shows on the field. Narduzzi, for what it’s worth, made a comment recently about how the players have really bought into Bates and are showing a newfound toughness and really want to play for him.

    Like

  8. I’m not sure about this statement “Back in 2016 when Wirginis got PT in scrub time he racked up five Sacks but most were against 2nd string offenses” since it has been two years. However Wirginis recorded sacks against Penn State, Virginia Tech and North Carolina. The VT game was close throughout. Penn State and North Carolina were playing from behind. I therefore very much doubt the assertion that Wirginis faced scrubs or second string offenses in his production for those games.

    Wirginis also recorded sacks against Duke. That game was also his high tackle game with 3 solos and 3 assisted. That game was indeed a blowout. His second highest game for tackles was Penn State and Syracuse (crazy basketball game) with 4 solos each.

    I personally think Wirginis is an upgrade in the middle. He performed well in a backup role against P5 competition in 2016. That said, this group has to be an upgrade since Idowu, Zeise and Brightwell return. That is four experienced, athletic guys. Hopefully Pine, McKee and Reynolds also rise to the occasion.

    That said, there is certainly something unsettling in the fact that a player with no prior starting experience, a former walk-on, and a former wide receiver, are currently slated to start over 3rd and 4th year players that Narduzzi recruited specifically for the positions, and that those Narduzzi recruits have done little to distinguish themselves thus far. Well, it should be unsettling for anybody not named Ike. For him it is surely part of Pat’s plan and simply requires acceptance and patience.

    Like

  9. Upgrade due to experience. We’ve now got four guys with a lot of experience and two or three more with solid playing time. If a guy goes down, we are not in a panic this season.

    In addition, the overall LB crew appears to have slightly more speed than comparable LB groups in the recent past. Just my observation and opinion. I didn’t quantify it by looking at 40 yd dash times or anything.

    Last year Zeise improved the most of any LB from beginning of the season to the end. In the Miami game he made a couple of nice open field, solo tackles on the RB, defended the pass well with one or two pass breakups, and fought off a block nicely in one instance. An ending to be proud of and build on for sure.

    Idowu has developed a nose for the ball and has been a starter for two full seasons. His experience is crucial to the LB unit.

    Brightwell was steady, and it seemed like he was always on the field. He may not be a natural MLB, but he played the position reasonably well. This year, he will be able to play both the MBL and OLB. His experience will also be crucial to the success of the LB unit.

    Wirginis feels like a true MLB and will bring the wood. He’s bigger. He’s a hitter. We need someone (anyone) that can hit hard. He also has experience as a backup that got a reasonable number of plays over a couple of season. He may be a little rusty though. Hopefully he spent last season improving his film study and assisting with ‘coaching’ the younger LBs.

    Reynolds made an impact and a few plays in his role as a backup.

    I don’t recall Pine much, but I know that he played some.

    Can’t recall seeing McKee.

    No real star power or freak athleticism in this unit, but plenty of experience and consistency. Upgrade (due to experience)

    Like

  10. The upgrade was listed for those reasons stated in comments and that is experience and maturity.

    Experience can be measured by games played and years on the roster.

    Maturity however cannot. Whitehead is a good example of this but so is Weah and Layfette Pitts. Just because a guy has a year or two under his belt doesn’t mean he’s better this year than last.

    Even though I gave them a slight upgrade (because I’ll believe Wirginis is a good LB when I actually see it) I still feel this is just a bunch of average ballplayers.

    Like

    1. We know what average is but sometimes one year later average becomes good. In college football there is an awful lot of truth to that because each year a player can learn so much and can develop physically quite significantly. Actually, I think it’s fair to say that a college player typically develops significantly each year. Therefore, we should expect this group of LBers to be significantly better this year.

      Like

    2. Pitts will be entering his fourth year in the NFL this season and should be a millionaire

      I have a feeling you were one of the people calling him “average” when he was at Pitt

      Same with Maddox

      If so, Good call 👍🏿🙄😂

      Also I’m not sure I’ve seen many players improve as much as Weah did. The man couldn’t catch a cold his first three years at Pitt and looked completely overwhelmed at the college level even as late as his redshirt sophomore season. I would suggest that catching passes from Browne and Dinucci has more to do with weahs drop in production than any internal factor.

      Like

      1. Who cares what the players do in the NFL. I care about what they do at Pitt and if you think that Lafayette Pitts was anything in his last 2 years other than average ball player then you have a different set of standards and I do. He had all the measurables for the NFL and he’s done well there and that’s good but when he played at Pitt if you look at this objectively he wasn’t that great as last 2 years here

        Like

        1. Seriously, even in his final season at Pitt people were still yelling at Pitts to look for the ball. My recollection is that he was generally in the play most of the time but was frequently not able to make the play due to poor ball skills. Pitts best season at Pitt was arguably his freshman season. Perhaps the NFL has corrected his collegiate deficiencies which seemed mostly technical.

          BTW, the same was also true of Maddox and whoever was the corner of the week on the other side in 2016. Guys being in fairly good position but not turning their head. The best example was the Virginia Tech game in 2016.

          Like

      2. I’m not ashamed I thought Pitts was awful. His success in the NFL is astonishing to me. And of course good for him. On the hand accept for one or two points in a Pitt drubbing by I can’t recall which team I have thought Maddox a real gamer (even as a freshman) though I fully admit that I nearly fell off my couch when I read what his Combine 40yd time was.

        Like

  11. Well Reed you certainly hit all the points here in the article. The interesting part is you keep us in suspension about your final grade and what it was going to be, cause there are a few sentences that sound like you’re ready to swing DRAW.

    Of course it seems to be an upgrade due to the fact that there was no attrition at all and the fact Wirginis rejoins the unit. Again, imo this is how recruiting 3* players is supposed to work. Let the young players that weren’t 4* highly thought of in high school and let them develop both mentally and physically through the years.

    About Wirginis though, he most certainly played at key times back in 2016 and I believe one of his sacks came against Clemson. In fact PITT didn’t have many games in 2016 where it was mop-up time. Well at least not many I can think of. I read somewhere Wirginis has always had a command of the defense in his thick head, so I’m agreeing here that Narduzzi does favor players who have done that before.

    This is another major UPGRADE imo This series should get a lot more interesting very soon as Reed is tough on Narduzzi and the team. Makes up for my over optimism I guess. . ..ike

    Like

  12. I liked to add. barvo I didn’t see or read your comment but we do agree on this and thanks for continuing your sick obsession with me. Actually, you make me laugh out loud. ike

    Like

  13. Definite upgrade with real numbers at the position for the first time since the same answer we tend to hear over and over: since the Gottfried era.

    What also is a positive is the linebacker unit will return numbers again in 2019, unlike defensive end, which due to the misses in 2017 becomes a question mark next season. After three full classes that had the benefit of redshirting, Narduzzi should have the end spot looking like a strength in terms of depth and it will not be. Shocked this class so far doesn’t have a JuCo end committed.

    Weaver and hopefully Jones are studs, but after that all redshirts.

    Like

  14. I don’t know about that Nate, PITT has 9 DE’s I could name right of the top of my head. Including 4 potential starters. I’ll wait for that article to come out though.

    Like

    1. Guys who’ll be redshirt freshmen or older in the 2019 season:

      Weaver
      Jones
      Habakkuk Baldonado
      Kaymar Mimes
      John Morgan
      Noah Palmer

      I’m not counting any true freshmen. This unit could be really good in 2020 though.

      Like

  15. It is a process that depends on growth, development, competition ect. Pitt is in much better shape this year that it has been in years. Maybe no studs, but nice players who bring athleticism, speed and experience.

    Like

  16. First, thanks Reed for all you do. Love the recent FB article content and subsequent discussions.

    I will chime in an add that, in addition to increased LB experience and maturity as was mentioned above, we got a sampling of some actual on-field improvement at the end of the year, and that against Miami and VT (same sampling we got from Pickett), so although this does not guarantee a trend, it is certainly a good sign and at least a reasonable basis for optimism.

    So, definitely at least a modest upgrade. I also agree with a few of the points above, that the increasing exposure and experience with guys like Pine, Reynolds and McKee toward the end of last year is not insignificant, and something to continue building on this year, you’d have to imagine that their roles should increase this year.

    Like

  17. The main reason for a linebacker upgrade this season may be Coach Bates and a more aggressive philosophy in how the lb’s are used in his defensive schemes.

    Like

  18. I agree with the upgrade vote. Brightwell was not a middle linebacker. He will play much better on the outside as opposed to the Middle.

    Wirginis would have been an upgrade on the field in my opinion anytime over the last 3 years. I know I know there are other reasons (suspensions, grades, injury’s, coaching favorites, etc.).

    Teams like Pitt that don’t have the top to bottom talent as a Clemson or even PSU can’t afford to not play the best individual talents.

    Hall starting over Ollison makes me want to lose my mind.

    Like

  19. That’s pretty much the list Nate but remember Deslin Alexandre, he’s a returning early enrollie form last year that PITT likes a lot.

    Like

  20. All of a sudden I’m anonymous, ah oh, maybe I’ve been banned?? One time I don’t put ike at the end of a comment. Strange days indeed.. ike

    Like

  21. I agree that Narduzzi has been stockpiling D-ends which makes me happy. Hopefully some become very good sooner rather than later. He needs more D-Tackles though and O-linemen. Still time and room.

    Like

    1. Defensive tackle is well stocked for the future. Here are those who’ll be redshirt freshmen or older in 2019:

      Watts
      Camp
      Wheeler
      Alexandre
      Twyman
      Bentley
      Danielson
      Green

      Like

  22. Is there any chance that Pine or Reynolds pushes one of these guys out of the way?

    Probably not, and that has been a problem at many positions. Narduzzi just not recruiting well enough for freshman or redshirts to supplant very average guys.

    Really good guys play early.

    Like

    1. Pine and Reynolds will play, but not push anyone out of the starting lineup.

      Pine looked OK later in the season after escaping the doghouse due to his late hit on the QB at Syracuse Hendrix and Pine both had late hits on the QB, both on third down, to extend drives that led to Orange touchdowns.

      Like

  23. Only at Pitt would the majority be convinced that a fifth year senior who hasn’t made a difference so far will for sure have a great year.

    Name another time that has happened.

    Like

      1. When a team doesn’t and cannot get many 4* recruits this is how it works. It was good enough to beat the top teams in the country the past three years. Now, can we give Narduzzi this year before they are anointed busts?

        Like

        1. “When a team doesn’t and cannot get many 4* recruits this is how it works.”

          Exactly.

          And when a P5 university has a 35 year history of mediocrity it can’t get 4* recruits.

          So it does Exactly what PN is doing.

          Will it be good enough to break mediocrity? Only if PN knows what he is doing and the juries still out on that.

          Liked by 1 person

      2. We saw what happened with Soto as a 4th year senior so why can’t it happen with a 5th year senior who essentially doesn’t play in his 4th year? This doesn’t mean that I believe Wirginis will be effective. We’ve seen his athleticism that just jumps out on the tv screen. The simple fact of the matter is we don’t know enough to have confidence that he will even succeed as a starting MLB. On the other hand, if he is great this year I won’t be shocked at all.

        Like

  24. Pine, Reynolds and Wirginis are different skill sets than the others. They have size and are more physical play at the LOS guys. Pine looked good on pass rushes as has Wirginis. But Brightwell, Zeise and Idowu are better in coverage and space as they say.

    Like

  25. Upgrade no question about it. Experience is the main reason without having any losses from the previous season. The key question is whether or not we can have any of them play at an All Star level.

    Like

  26. Reynolds was the kid from upstate New York I believe. Usually not a lot of great talent comes out of there and I think he may have been a two star, expect maybe a service or 2 had him as a 3.

    McKee needs to go on the Bobby Deniro Raging Bull diet but include weight lifting with it. Kid is just too skinny to be a big time contributor in my opinion.

    Like

    1. McKee has put some weight on and looked good in the spring, but is behind too many others to make a contribution at linebacker. Nothing wrong if he is a contributor on special teams.

      Like

      1. Disagree. He’s been a big swing and a miss. Special teams in your 4th or 5th year isn’t good enough. Thats part of the problem with Narduzzi recruiting undersized guys and trying to turn them in LBers.

        Like

        1. If he has been bypassed by better players and he is productive on special teams it isn’t a big miss. Someone has to play special teams. If he stinks on special teams then it will be a miss.

          Like

  27. Thanks Pap, Reynold is from New York and possibly a two star but he did play last year as a RS freshman at linebacker. << Not mop up duty either. I don’t understand where all this Narduzzi’s recruits aren’t playing comes from? Can anyone produce the returning letter-mans list?

    Like

  28. I believe that a couple of LBs red-shirted last season including Albert Tucker and Cam Bright. Also, Kyle Nunn was praised by a coach in the Spring. We shall see if any of the three develop and see the field this season. All three have decent size. Don’t know much more than that.

    Like

  29. When you move safeties and wideouts to linebacker it takes time for them to adjust. Zeise is a good example. Wirginis, well, knucklehead’s take even longer! I am pleased with the LBs, but pray there are no injuries as I think we’re not as deep as some think. Backups lack experience and I doubt if anyone here really knows what we have there.
    UPGRADE, may be the second best upgrade behind QB.

    Like

  30. We’ve had a bunch of reasonably rated kids (Pugh, McKee, Hendrix, Clark, Reeves, etc) who never quite developed.
    Blame it on coaching or the inability to judge talent.
    In any event, must be the equipment managers fault.

    Hope the hotels next to the practice field are rented and ready to go. Wouldn’t want the players sleeping in dorms. Worked out so well last year.

    Like

    1. Narduzzi will find a way to blame it on Ox and others. When he starts feeling the heat, pay close attention to who he throws under the bus. It’s just self preservation. But we’ll get good insight into his character.

      Tex

      Like

        1. There will be more to follow
          My impression of the Dog is that he’s an arrogant Arse and a Pain in the Arse to work for
          Ask yourself why cant he get good assistants
          He’s a coach that will not have a coaching tree

          Like

  31. Hey Gasman do you think any other P5 programs can name reasonably rated recruits that never quite developed? Maybe you forgot about the 5 stars Clark and Browne that ended up at Pitt.

    Like

    1. Plenty of four and five star players fail to develop.
      But we seem to have a preponderance of highly-rated players who don’t bloom.
      And, when u aren’t bringing in a boatload of highly regarded players period, that’s why u find yourself stuck in the doldrums of mediocrity.

      Like

  32. Gasman, that is having it both ways. Narduzzi brings in 4* players and when they don’t pan out the thought is he’s a poor judge of talent? I thought that was the plan to bring in 4* players? Yet he brought in a lousy 3* QB named Pickett. << Guess what, most PITT fans were pissed they didn’t bring in the other QB they were recruiting. ( I forget his name) He can’t win, go figure. ike

    Like

  33. OK,
    Here goes: UPGRADE.
    If you recall last article I stated “Upgrade” and that Ike, me and Reed would be an upgrade at QB :>)
    Now, our LBers weren’t nearly that bad last year (as our QBs) but also weren’t very good either! So, while me, Ike, and Reed may not make the two deep at LB, having a tall monster like Reed at ML and the savy Ike and Pittman4ever on the outside may just work!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Reed threw Conklin under the bus on a daily basis. Turns out…………. Reed was right again. Conklin sucked and Narduzzi is an idiot for hiring him but for throwing him under the bus only speaks to what many said? That comment was absolutely taken out of context btw. Pick Pick Pick and no this isn’t me being a Narduzzi lover, just pointing out the obvious disdain many have for that man and how obvious it is to me if not for anyone else.

    Again and again…. if Narduzzi doesn’t put a first rate quality PITT football team on the field this year I’ll be the first guy in line to own up to it and call it like it is. Not saying he has to win so many games but how they play with most of his boys. This year is the time he has to win the winnable games.. ike

    Like

  35. You really put yourself in a bind there Tx. I know you want PITT to have a good season but I’m gonna make you pay dearly for it from your comments about Narduzzi and PITT sucking.. On the other hand, if PITT sucks this year….. lay it on me. Either way… I don’t see how you win? 🙂

    Like

  36. ……….and Mark… Upitt, I agree with you, PITT has been inconsistent in Narduzzi’s first three years. For what ever reasons you and I can not agree on the progression that I believe that “could” be taking place in Oakland recently. This year will tell the tale. Someone in the know told me Narduzzi is on a shorter leash as of now. I don’t know if I want to believe that but just passing that along.

    but I do wonder??? If PITT is into spending money for new coaches now, maybe they are setting their sights even higher???

    Like

  37. Reed at middle linebacker would be like when “ Learch “ (Adams Family) played middle linebacker in “The Longest Yard” (as in ……“ he broke my ******* nose”)

    Like

  38. Look, when you have the same 3 guys (Idowu, Zeise, Brightwell) starting at LB for their 3rd year in a row and the first two years were average at best, you have a problem.

    Does adding Wirginis to the rotation improve the linebacking corps? I don’t know. Wirginis could not beat out a much slower Galambos. Galambos many would agree was slower but usually in the right place. Wirginis possesses more speed and quickness. It is unknown about if he gets it mentally. i hope that he has the physical ability to make a difference.

    If we have no new faces in the rotation, the unit gets a PUSH from me. Perhaps it changes if Pine and Reynolds or McKee can crack the lineup and make a difference. We’ll see.

    Like

  39. P.S. – I am still waiting to hear about a Pitt defender hitting an opponent and knocking them silly. Been so long since I remember a huge hit….

    Like

  40. The LB grade for me is a DRAW. This is basically the same group we’ve seen for the past 6 or 7 years and there has been no spectacular play on a consistent basis, week to week.

    Now, I think there is plenty of depth and competition for playing time at LB and I’ve heard first hand from one of the D assistant coaches that Wirginis “can be” something special this year. He is big, fast and can hit, (coaches words, not mine).

    I need to see it on the field during game time to call this an upgrade – therefore, you give me the same players for the past three years and I see it as a draw.

    Good article again Reed. I wish I had time to help with a small article, but with work, golf and the grandkids, I’m reserved to being a reader and a once or twice a day commenter.

    Bring on Albany…

    H2P!

    Like

  41. Huff III…me too. Last big hit I remember was Tyler Palko knocking that dude from BC on his ass. Although Aaron Donald tackling two dudes at once was pretty bad ass…

    Like

  42. LB is definitely an upgrade. Brightwell didn’t have the size for MLB and wasn’t able to use his speed – due to his inexperience, I suppose.

    Have enjoyed watching Wirginis be a force running down to cover kickoffs, and coming in on blitz packages. No question he has the physical talent – plus this season is like the last year of a contract for him, so he has big-time incentive to excel.

    I agree that Coach Duzz has brought in too many 200 pound LBs who have struggled to add weight.

    Good depth and experience this season = upgrade.

    Go Pitt.

    Like

  43. I wouldn’t call last season average for Idowu.

    Team leading 94 tackles, tackles for a loss (11.5) and sacks (five), second-team all-ACC

    Like

    1. Maybe not completely average but not a whole lot better than average.

      Here’s the sad truth about Pitt football today… if someone leads the team in tackles that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good ball players, that just means that they led the team in tackles because no one else is making more tackles.

      A good example is Wirginis unseating Brightwell. Is that because Wirginis is a good ball player compared to other college MLBs or just better than who he replaced?

      That has been the problem with narduzzi’s recruits. None of them have seem to be good enough to take over a starting spot in their first one two or three years because they are that good.

      They seem to have been getting playing time because of attrition only and not because they played so well.

      Then when one kid of his does actually win a starting job early on he gets bounced by a backup who never started before.

      All this portends problems to me especially in the depth department, not only LBs but across the units.

      We see it at QB with a backup who has never taken a snap at the D1 level. We see this at the tight end position where we didn’t recruit anybody for two straight years then when two guys leave the program now we’re stuck with no experience a depth at all there.

      And on and on…

      Like

      1. 2nd team All-ACC is not average or slightly above average. It indicates that a player had a fairly special season and that they should be proud of themselves.

        The media and Head Coaches vote.

        Like

      2. Reynolds and Pine played in 4 or so games as RSFR. They will play more this year and have experience now to provide depth.

        In a perfect world your starters are JR and SRs and you bring along the younger players slowly.

        This year will show us if any of PN’s recruits emerge. I agree, if they do not, Pitt is screwed.

        Like

  44. Huff – to your comment at 2:45 am..I’ve made that comment off and on for the last three years on here. When was the last time an opposing RB or wide receiver went backwards or got laid out. Not often and you could count them on your hand for the whole year. Maybe a new D coordinator helps that. Or perhaps recruiting 195 lb. linebackers is something a psychologist or mystic needs to talk to Narduzzi about!

    On the other hand, I am excited for the season to start (I always am) more than last year. Don’t know if that’s Kenny, Ford, a new D coordinator – can’t tell. But I need some football.

    H2P

    Like

  45. Who knows what happen with Reeves? I’m guessing that what the Major saw at the spring game had the few LB’s we had in house jump over him on the depth chart. Hence he goes home and resurfaces at YSU where he thinks he has a better chance to play.

    Like

    1. Looks like Reeves made the first move, the coaches tried to follow up but were unsuccessful in trying to reach him.

      It should be noted in spring ball Narduzzi was raving how well and the speed he had for a big man.

      Like

  46. Speaking of grades, I always wonder how they keep the vast majority of these guys in school.
    I am above average intelligence, with a decent work ethic and remember how difficult it was making grades while being on a sports team. Without a few classes like Rocks 80, I wouldn’t have made it. Carrying a full class load is tough. And back then the demands on an athlete were not nearly as demanding.

    I remember guys in high school that were D1 quality athletes, but were dumb as door knobs. No doubt they would have been highly recruited these days. How do they keep these kind of guys in school, when they are stupid with no academic work ethic. How do so many graduate with a year or two of eligibility left over.

    We hear all the time about kids graduating from high school who can’t read. When they asked Steve Adams about writing his autobiography, he said he could hardly read.

    It boggles the mind.

    Like

  47. You raise good questions gc. Now, I know some hate when I say this but I really do know a source who has a family member that is involved with the players and how they are doing and adjusting to college life in all aspects. PITT’s standard to get into the school is pretty much the same as other schools. I’m told that PITT is different in a way that the level of grades and standards are kept higher throughout the players careers. Take that for what it’s worth. That’s what I’m told.. . .ike

    Like

  48. The support system for athletes at Pitt is amazing.

    I asked EJ about academics and was told Pitt uses the minimum NCAA regulations and has no higher standard then that either for admission or to stay eligible once enrolled.

    In other words we are no different than 99% of the other D1 school’s.

    Like

    1. Good to know.

      I would imagine that Pitt doesn’t have as many ‘Park and Rec’ type courses as some of the larger State schools. Perhaps the course selection – selecting easier courses – makes a difference at some schools?

      Like

  49. All of the D has to be better this year without Conklin! I think Duzz should have thrown him under the bus after his first year. Listened to him talk about his D in pressers and he was like some football outsider that did not have a clue. Also looked at his bio—–. how does 4 yrs as a QC assistant with the NC Panthers turn you into a D coordinator. Absolutely an upgrade with team. Coordinator after Conklin has to be also. Look at the assistants that were in the assistant ranks at Pitt during the resurgence of the 70s and 80s It was a who is who of future top head coaches in D1 and the pros.. That is also part of building a program! H2P

    Like

  50. EE not old enough to have grand-kids? lol, he’s an old bird with the face of a younger man.

    Great point grizzly, Brightwell playing MLB last year will be an advantage when Bates substitutes players in and out. Dept is another reason this group is an upgrade over last year. ike

    Like

  51. Pitt runs a 4-3 D. I see mostly 4-3 and 5-2 in college with lots of minor modications. I wonder if Pitt would put a 3-4 package together given the experience at LB? I doubt that it would make sense to do so…

    Like

    1. Bates in the one year he was defensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech played mostly a 3-4 package as I understand. I wouldn’t be surprised if Pitt utilized the 3-4 quite often in 2018.

      Like

        1. Of course…the Great White Hope Shane Roy. Another crappy Chryst recruit since we all know how bad PC was at recruiting defense…

          Yet Roy, Wirginis,Idowu and Zeise will probably start… Add Briggs to that mix also as Narduzzi loves upperclassmen. Add Folston too.

          Oh, throw in defensive recruits Herndon and Dintino who will start on the OL.

          Sometimes I look at this team and just start laughing to keep from crying.

          Like

    1. I hear ya Ike.

      I expect (or maybe it’s “hope for”) a better defense than the last couple of years. I expect the defensive scheme to adjust to the situation, opponent and our personnel. I hope that we don’t stick our CBs on an “island” if they are not up to the task, or if the QB/WR combo is as good as OK State had last year…

      Like

    1. Oh Reed…

      “I would say [this team] for sure has more ingredients than it did a year ago,”

      “Randy’s got that type of whatever you wanna call it — moxie, he’s got that type of personality, he’s got the ‘it’ in my opinion when it comes to talking and communicating with players. He gets it. Some people don’t get it, he gets it.”

      “He’s a passionate, energetic guy that right now I think the kids love playing for him,” Narduzzi said. “I think that’s half the battle. You gotta wanna play your tail off for the guy that’s coordinating your defense. I can’t be in there all day. That’s something I thought I had at Michigan State is the kids would play for me.”

      Like

      1. they may play their tail off but it doesnt make them good players. Its a very mediocre group Pitt has. You’ve seen what they’ve done the past 2 years. They are under-sized, not too quick and lack toughness and discipline. They will not be the strength of the D this year. Actually look to the line.

        Like

  52. Hope you guys remember, Northwestern smashed PITT in the mouth that bowl game. Changed the game completely. I expect PITT to be more physical and more diverse.

    Like

    1. Assuming you’re serious about the Pinstripe, the Georgia Tech loss last year was even worse with 436 rushing yards and 6.5 ypc. If GT hadn’t lost 4 fumbles, yikes!

      Benson, Marshall and 4 of GT’s offensive linemen return in 2018.

      Like

    2. Amazing how Pitt should have been up 10-0 in that game if it wasn’t for Aston slipping when he had a clear path to the end zone. I mean how often have you seen a kid slip and fall heading into the end zone with a defender not within two or three yards? Then the O-line was stone walled on 4th and NW then pounded Pitt with its big line.

      Still could have tied it if Orndoff makes that TD catch from a perfectly thrown pass late in the game.

      Like

  53. I am trying to be positive about this year’ team, but “moxie” only takes a team so far. For any level of success, this team will need to control the ball and eat up the clock, which means converting on 3rd/4th downs and short yardage. I don’t see the OL being strong or deep enough to sustain drives all game long. The defense my be somewhat better this year, but I don’t see the depth needed to withstand many long drives by the other team. Teams like GT will wear them down. I just don’t see where the offensive or defensive depth is going to come from.

    Like

  54. Sure I’m serious barvo. PITT was much more talented than NW in that game. Stupid mistakes, bad luck and injuries were too much for the team to overcome. I never said anything different. My argument is that I felt the team was ready to play and they were. Schitt didn’t go their way. A game PITT should have won for sure. People don’t listen to what I actually say instead want to ridicule me for things they think I say and said. ike

    Like

  55. VOR, right you are. Moxie alone won’t win you a game but would you rather have a player with moxie or a 4* stoner with little motivation and drive. Give me the 3* player with moxie and drive please. ike

    Like

  56. BTW, my point above about PITT getting smashed in the mouth was more of a reference to Bates than anything else. imo, PITT was the much better team and should have won. I can just feel barvo searching for a comment I posted that says otherwise. Good luck barvo.

    Like

    1. You’re awfully sensitive. Lighten up Francis.

      I was just surprised that you starkly allowed that Pitt’s defense played a flawed game against Northwestern without it being some veiled mockery of somebody with whom you disagreed.

      At least you didn’t disappoint by subsequently blaming mistakes and injuries for the loss. Not sure what the bad luck was though.

      For the record you also neglected to mention the ridiculous number of 3rd and longs and 4th and shorts that Pitt allowed Northwestern to convert in the Pinstripe. Those were also crushing.

      Like

  57. I’m with you there, ike. Just saying that the legs will get tired late in the game, and there better be competent back ups to spell the starters or they are in trouble. I just don’t see sufficient depth right now.

    Like

  58. There has been lots of talk about Pickett, but the running game will win or lose Pitt games this year. They must have a serious running game to win 7-8 games.

    Like

  59. PITT has loads of depth on defense. Offense, yes in places but not at QB and maybe O-Line. Watson doesn’t use TE’s in his offense, thus the 285 lbs Reeves and Carrigan. I expect the running game will make many eat their words. One of them may be me but I expect the diversity with Pickett will open up the rushing game. Yep, I said it. ike

    Like

    1. Where is is “loads of depth on defense” Ike?

      We have 2nd string LBs who have virtually no experience so no one knows how good they are. We have no DE depth hardly at all with journeyman Folston (all of 21 tackles) and Patrick Jones (7 tackles) who didn’t show much filling out the two-deep last season.

      Our DBs have a bunch of untested guys in the two-deep and or interior DL is still playing Shane Roy so whoever is behind him sucks.

      Why do Pitt fans think that just because Narduzzi recruited these kids they are automatically good or talented? Where have any of his recruits played well for a full year aside from one kid in Brightwell – who is about to be demoted?

      Dane Jackson I suppose but starting as a CB in the 105th ranked passing defense aint something to write home about. But watch – we’ll start Briggs again there.

      Sorry – I don’t see this quality depth you keep talking about.

      Like

  60. ike, if Pickett has to score in the red zone, either with the arm or legs, Pitt is in trouble. They must be able to punch it in and mix in a few end arounds.

    Like

  61. Coaches coming to Pitt stay at their last school until after the bowl game, while coaches leaving Pitt leave for their next school immediately . We will know Pitt is turning a corner when that trend changes.

    Like

  62. Ike I am expecting the improved QB will help the running game too. More options for the opposing Defense to consider.

    Like

  63. Plus, the return of Aston should help too (are we jumping the gun on the future Running Back prognostication thread?)

    Like

    1. I believe Ike didn’t think the Aston loss would be all that significant last year. However I will not go back to look for Ike’s comments as he seems to believe I have time to do. Plus Ike is too prodigious of a poster (big data).

      I also believe that Ike also had little concern for the loss of Wirginis last season when his suspension was announced. I may be wrong, but again not going to look through the archives. Good to see the 2018 Ikethusiasm for Quintin though.

      Like

  64. Reed, is it possible that I can get a POV PFA against barvo? This mofo is one sicko that either loves me too much or hates me too much. Either way he makes me shutter with the hee bee gee bees. Just for your information barvo, I’m a happily married man and I like woman.

    Like

  65. I believe in barvo latest comment he mentions my name 5 times. I’m telling you again nicely barvo, back the faak off. You do know you are an internet coward? punk

    Like

  66. After the 2018 we will replace the statue of Starzl with a boba God’s PITT man.. George “the Animal” Aston. BTW I ate breakfast in Stephens City, Virginia, hometown of “ the Animal”

    We will have some leaders on this year’s edition something totally AWOL in 17. I figured we were in deep doo doo when transfer Max Brown sported the “C” He was no QB yet alone a leader.

    Like

    1. BigB — you may have stumbled onto something here. Call Heather. Ha-ha.

      How does one become a “Boba God’s Pitt Man?” How many of them are there? 😊

      Go Pitt!

      Like

  67. Regarding the Pinstripe and and the injuries and mistakes. Not sure why….

    Conner was the guy who couldn’t punch the 4th and less than a yard in for the TD in the first quarter. Pitt was down 7-3 when Conner was hurt. On their change of possession Northwestern drove for a TD to go up 14-3. Conner finished with 8 carries for 32 yards. 21 of those 32 yards came on one carry. So Conner was 7 for 11 on the others. Pitt played the entire 2015 season without Conner and somehow still won 8 games.

    Peterman was the guy who surrendered points by throwing an interception at the Northwestern 3 with Pitt down 7-3. Peterman played late into the 3rd quarter. Pitt was down 21-17 when Peterman was injured. DiNucci then guided Pitt to a 24-21 lead on their next possession.

    Pitt’s defense subsequently allowed a 78 yard, 14 play touchdown drive for a 28-24 Northwestern lead. The drive consumed nearly 5 minutes. Northwestern converted a 3rd and 9, a 3rd and 10, a 4th and 3, and a 4th and 1 on the drive. Northwestern never relinquished the lead.

    DiNucci then guided Pitt on a 50 yard drive attempting to tie the game. Orndoff dropped a TD pass heading into the end zone. DiNucci was picked off on the next play.

    It’s a bit of a stretch to believe that Conner and Peterman would have made a significant difference in this game if they had played throughout. I believe Johnson was also injured in the third quarter. Was there something that happened afterward that clearly showed his absence hurt? Pitt had experienced OL replacements available.

    Incidentally, injuries and mistakes happen to every team. Good teams are prepared for that and rise above it. For example Northwestern lost a fumble and threw a pick in the Pinstripe. The pick was thrown from the Pitt 19. The fumble was at the Pitt 39. I noted in an earlier comment that Georgia Tech lost 4 fumbles to Pitt last season and still won by 19.

    Like

    1. so it’s a stretch to think that losing Peterman and Dorian Johnson for the last quarter and James Conner for a half would not have an effect on the games? You’re actually insinuating that Pitt was better off with Dinucci?

      What if NW lost their top RB for the 2nd half, and their starting QB and best OL for the final quarter?

      Heck, even the Chicago papers in their game write-ups mentioned the key injuries that Pitt had incurred. Barvo, you’re coming off as pretty silly here

      Like

  68. Here’s my email address barvo, if you have a problem with me let’s discuss it men aside form the blog. Your disdain is obvious. Try and act like a man about it. ike210@comcast.net Looking forward to the converse.

    Like

  69. So now I read a comment-er that dead pans his thought that PITT was somehow better off with Peterman and Conner getting hurt in the NW game? I guess PITT got lucky that DJ, Hall and Ollison got hurt in that game as well. I guess those guys leaving the game is why PITT kept the game close to the end. If PITT could have only had a few more injuries they may been able to pull that game out. ike

    Like

  70. Face it, Pitt’s defense lost that Northwestern game. Giving up 31 points to NW, including the 78 yard drive previously described, was on the defense. Pitt shouldn’t need 32 points to beat that team.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. While I agree the defense was awful, we were an offensive team that year and only won when the offense performed. The NW defense wouldn’t have put up 31, if Pitt would have sustained some drives and scored more often.

      Like

  71. Reed, I could give you a long list of names but you would only poo poo the players as not having any experience. Players like Garner, Reynolds, Brightwell and Pine who do have experience. Pinnock, Stocker, Coleman, Briggs, Mathis and so on, so no use listing their names. I mean like Campbell, Mckee, Folston, Jones, Camp, Watts and so on, no use listing their names. Then their are some RS freshman I wouldn’t dare list here like Twyman and so on.. just no use listing them…

    Like

  72. Capel loses another big recruit, Greg Gantt. I thought a coaches first full class was where the biggest splash was made? Just wondering because the narrative was he was going to land studs left and right by snapping his fingers.

    Like

  73. I think it will be OL just hope it’s not a one star from podunk NY.

    Ike, I hope that list isn’t of personnel that were impactful last year, because I didn’t see that. If it is a list of players that you think will be impactful this year, that would be great. That means they passed the older guys.

    Like

  74. Well Huff the third, it’s just a list of players that receive a bit of playing time last year as youngsters, well except for a few, that received a bit of quality playing time last year. I keep hearing where are Narduzzi’s recruits. This is the year we will find out if they are present or absent from class. I really don’t see an upper class man being unseated but I do expect lots of substitutions on defense. Ford is the exception here. He will play early, often and many positions. ike

    Like

  75. Said it from day one–Chase Pine is a star in the making and should have been starting last year. Played sparingly, made one mistake and got benched. I don’t think PN knows what he’s doing. He’s senior and transfer happy-sloppy and the young players don’t stand a chance.

    Like

Leave a Comment Please and Keep It Civil...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s