Quick Lane Bowl Preview

So I accidentally posted my “crootin’ capsule part 2” on top of my “How the hell did we get here?” (i.e. season in review) yesterday.  The recruiting piece seemed to get more of a rise out of folks though, so I guess it turned out alright. Anyway if you haven’t read the season in review you can read it here.

And now on to the Quick Lane Bowl.  Yippie.

I’m not sure if anybody at all is excited to be playing in this bowl.  Most fans feel like we either underachieved (we did) or we were snubbed (were we?).  Some folks are also quick to point out the Heather Lyke connection.  This may be the only bowl in history where both schools have an Athletic Director in common.  And it’s almost certainly the only bowl in history where both schools had the same Athletic Director within the last three years.  The only missing link would be that Heather sits on the board of Quick Lane.  (I’m kidding here folks…)

But the bottom line (as I pointed out in my year in review piece) is that rightly or wrongly (or more likely…completely out of her hands), Heather Lyke got Pat Narduzzi a winnable game.

Given that Pat is 0-3 in bowl games, this is not an insignificant fact.  Did we really want to face Temple in the Military Bowl?  Their defense is one of the best in the G5, and with the way we’ve played offense all year, that’s a recipe for embarrassment. Did we really want to play Michigan State in the Pinstripe?  Let me tell you there is nothing like watching twenty combined points in the freezing cold in Yankee stadium, with no guarantee that good-‘ol Pat could beat burnt-out-Dantonio.  What were our other options?  The Belk Bowl?  That is never going to go to a northern team, least of all one that played in Charlotte last year (and Mississippi State is no gimmie).  The Music City?  Well maybe if we’d gone 5-3 in conference like cough Louisville (who won all of two games the year before.).  The Sun?  The Birmingham?  C’mon.

And so the Quick Lane Bowl it is.  In sunny Detroit, Michigan.  Against the Eastern Michigan Eagles.

Fun fact:  Both Pitt and Eastern Michigan game up more points per game than they scored this year.  (Pitt 20.1 / 21.8.  EMU 29.1 / 30.3)

Fun fact 2:  Both teams rank near the bottom of the FBS in yards rushing.  (Pitt 120.7.  EMU 121.9)

The spread is Pitt +11.  ESPN says we have a 70% chance of victory.  Pitt hasn’t been favored this much since we played Delaware (and we all know how that turned out).

The Eagles have some players.  QB Mike Glass threw 22 TD’s against 10 INT’s, and was sacked only 12 times. If Kenny Pickett could have posted such numbers, Pitt might have won ten games.

Much like Pitt, I’d wager that EMU uses the pass to set up the run.  They just do it better.  Leading rusher Shaq Vann has 667 yards on just 136 carries, good for 4.9 yards per pop. He’s also rushed for eight touchdowns.   After this season, I’d just about give my left pinky finger for a running back that rushed for eight touchdowns.

The Eagles also have a well-rounded receiving corps that features four players who caught 483 yards or more.  Those four players also scored eighteen touchdowns.  I’m not sure Pitt has scored eighteen offensive touchdowns all season.

The good news is that their defense doesn’t sack the quarterback much (20 total on the year, just under two per game).  But then again, neither did Boston College and they ended up with four.

The bottom line is that this Pitt team can lose to any mediocre team at anytime, anywhere.  That’s what makes Pitt special.  And in light of that fact, Pitt has been set up with the most winnable bowl game possible (I’m pretty sure there is not a worse bowl-eligible team than EMU).  And Pitt damn well better win it (and they damn well better looking good while they are doing it), because if Pitt finds a way to lose the Quick Lane Bowl against Eastern Michigan, the fanbase will revolt, and Pat Narduzzi’s seat is going to get mighty hot, mighty fast.

Merry Christmas and Hail to Pitt

Michaelangelo Monteleone




Crootin’ Capsule Part 2 – the Youngsters

Welp NLI day has come and gone and Pitt has signed xx players, as expected.  And since I had so much fun delving into Narduzzi’s first two classes I figured I’d look through the next two and see what the future might hold.  In this case I’m not looking for “impact players” per se, but I’m looking for players that have flashed the potential to become impact players in the next year or two.  It’s highly subjective, of course, but hey, it’s officially the holidays and these are the kinds of things we should be talking about.

Side Note:  I mistakenly omitted Defensive End Deslin Alexandre from the 2017 class.  He totaled 32 tackles, nine TFL and 5.5 sacks as a redshirt sophomore.  Absolutely a breakout candidate if he continues to develop.  

Pat Narduzzi’s Pitt 2018 Class

  • Commits:  20
  • Rivals Rank:   36
  • Four stars:  1
  • Percent 5.7 or Higher:  55%

Mychale Salahuddin – 5.9 – RB – Flashed in limited duty as a freshman but then blew out his knee.  Pitt took their time bringing him back and he left the team before the season in 2019.  Recently signed with FCS North Carolina A&T and will be eligible to play in 2020.

Nick Patti – 5.7 – QB – Scrappy QB with an unorthodox delivery.  Contributed a couple of times in 2019.  Threw a touchdown pass against UCF, and delivered just enough offense versus Delaware to ensure a three point win.

Jake Kradel – 5.7 – OG – Kradel, a redshirt freshman saw his first extensive action against Duke and I believe he was listed on the Pro Football Focus ACC team of the week that week.  I believe he saw action every week after that.  His performance against Duke shows that he at least has the potential to perform, and so I’ve bolded him.

Judson Tallandier – 5.7 – DB – Did not record a stat in 2019.

John Morgan – 5.7 – DE – Saw action in eight games as a redshirt freshman.  Recorded two sacks and four TFL as a backup.  Possible impact player if he continues to develop.  

Chase Brown – 5.7 – OL – Juco offensive lineman that never saw action.

Blake Zubovic – 5.7 – OL – I do not believe he played in 2019.

Devin Danielson – 5.7 – DL – Played in 9 games as a backup.  Recorded 12 tackles and 1 TFL.

Marquis Williams – 5.7 – DB – Played in four games in 2019.  If I recall correctly he looked a little over-matched against Syracuse when he came in in relief of Jason Pinnock.

Ricky Town – 5.7 – QB – How he got a 5.7 rating is beyond me.

Shocky Jacques-Louis – 5.7 – WR – Flashed in a big way against North Carolina.  Should get a chance to shine in 2020.

Noah Palmer – 5.6 – DE – Did not play in 2019

V’lique Carter – 5.6 – RB – Pitt probably would have lost to Duke two years in a row if it wasn’t for Carter, and he had his moments in a couple of other games as well.  Needs to work on his vision, but has speed, moves and decent hands.  Should be interesting to see what Whipple can do with him in year two. 

Erick Hallett – 5.6 – S – Made it onto the two deep in 2019 as a redshirt freshman.  Totaled 14 tackles and 2 passes defended in eight games.  That’s not nearly enough for me to label him as a potential impact player.  Regardless of what he did in 2019 he’s going to need to step up big time in 2020 with Hamlin graduating and Ford possibly leaving early for the NFL.

Wendell Davis – 5.6 – LB – Registered nine tackles, one sack and one TFL in six games.  One of those guys the coaches rave about during spring interviews (but then again Jerry Drake was one of those guys as well, and what has he done?)  Davis will likely have the opportunity to seize the starting MLB job this off-season, or at the very least platoon with Chase Pine.

Cameron O’Neill – 5.5 – WR – Did not contribute in 2019.

David Green – 5.5 – DT – Did not contribute in 2019.

Tyler Bentley – 5.5. – DT – Played in four games.  Totaled six tackles and 1.5 TFL.

Kaymar Mimes – 5.5 – DE – Played in thee games.  Recorded three tackles.

Habakkuk Baldonado – 5.5 – DE – Saw extensive action at defensive end.  Totaled 29 tackles, four TFL, and 4.5 sacks as a redshirt freshman.  

Side note:  If you add Baldonaldo’s production to Alexandre’s you get 10 sacks out of the DE position that played opposite of Patrick Jones.  That’s first team / second team all-ACC level play.  

Pat Narduzzi’s Pitt 2019 Class

  • Commits:  19
  • Rivals Rank:   50
  • Four stars:  1
  • Percent 5.7 or Higher:  16%

I’m not going to go through the entire class, because so many of them redshirted, but here are the potential impact players that flashed a little in 2019.  Really there are only two:

Vincent Davis – 5.7 – RB – Dude needs to pack on 10-15 lbs of muscle, but he’s the best pure runner on the roster right now.  Only toted the ball 46 times, but averaged 5.3 YPC and scored 4 touchdowns.  Of course if you take out the long runs his rushing average probably diminishes significantly…

Jared Wayne – 5.5 – WR – Caught 15 balls in his last four games, for a total of 215 yards.  Over a full season that’s 60 catches for 860 yards.  

Okay so taking a step back and looking at both classes, a couple of things stand out here.  First, there are seven potential impact players out of a total of 39 recruits, so far.  That’s 18%.  By comparison, the 2016 – 2017 classes yielded 14 out of 48, which is good for 29%.  So you’d expect some more guys to emerge from the underclassmen.  And to be clear, at least six more guy are going to have to emerge just for Pitt to keep chugging along at its current rate of 7-8 wins.

Second, the distribution of impact players is skewed more heavily towards the offense in this bunch.  The ’16 and ’17 classes yielded just three offensive impact players (and one of them was a walk-on).  The ’18 and ’19 classes have yielded five potential impact players already, and it’s likely that a couple more will emerge in the next year or two (and all Pitt fans on earth are hoping that one of them is Davis Beville).  I’m not trying to be a kool-aid drinker here, but the numbers are the numbers, and things look a little better going forward then the do right now.  The key of course is that these guys HAVE to develop.  If their skill sets stay where they are then all of this speculation is completely moot.

The other thing that I will call out – which could put the kibosh on everything offensive – is that there is still an alarming lack of tangible depth across the offensive line.  Warren should be okay.  Hargrove is good.  Morrissey’s replacement is anyone’s guess.  Another year in the weight room will really help Kradel.  Right tackle is a complete question mark.  And what depth is behind them?  These are the questions that should keep even the most ardent of optimists up at night.

So those are my thoughts on these young ‘uns.  What’s yours?  Sound off and…

Hail to Pitt

Michaelangelo Monteleone

Quick Lane Bowl Coming (and how the hell did we get here?)

Quick Lane Bowl Coming (and how the hell did we get here?)

The Quick Lane bowl is right around the corner, and for the first time in a while Pitt has a legit chance to take home some December hardware.  Yes it’s Quick Lane Bowl  hardware, but damn it, it’s hardware nonetheless, and outside of that Coastal Division championship last season, the trophy case is looking a little bare.  Plus, all grumbling aside, a win in Detroit will feel better than a loss anywhere else, so kudos to Heather for getting us into a winnable game. (I suppose…)

Speaking of winnable games, I wanted to do a season recap, and so I took a look back at the pre-season preview and prediction thread that I wrote on August 23rd.  Now is as good a time as any to go back and see how we did.

August predictions are in italics.  I started with the offense.   Continue reading “Quick Lane Bowl Coming (and how the hell did we get here?)”