The Goose is Dead


6/22/2022 4:00:00 PM

PITTSBURGH—Tony Siragusa, a standout Pitt defensive lineman from 1985-89 who went on to play 12 NFL seasons, has passed away at the age of 55.

Nicknamed “the Goose,” Siragusa arrived at Pitt as a freshman in 1985 following a decorated career at New Jersey’s David Brearley High School, where he was an all-state football player and state champion wrestler.

He burst into prominence as a sophomore in 1986, compiling 78 tackles and seven sacks. In a victory over Rutgers that season, he racked up 17 tackles, including four for losses. Hindered by injuries the next two years, Siragusa bounced back as a senior in 1989 with 60 stops, 13 TFLs and 5.5 sacks. His performance helped the Panthers to an 8-3-1 record, including a 31-28 win over Texas A&M in the Sun Bowl.

Known for his passionate play on the field and colorful quips off it, Siragusa remains one of the most popular Panthers of his era. Never one to shy away from a needle-moving quote, Siragusa once said, “If I wanted to learn a school song, I would’ve gone to Notre Dame or Penn State. I want to kill people on the football field. That’s why I came to Pitt.”

Siragusa is, perhaps, Pitt football’s greatest NFL free-agent success story. He wasn’t picked in the 12-round 1990 NFL Draft and ultimately signed with the Indianapolis Colts. Siragusa ended up playing 12 NFL seasons—seven with the Colts and his final five with the Baltimore Ravens—winning a Super Bowl in Baltimore in 2000.

Siragusa retired from the NFL following the 2001 season. He would then embark on a long and varied media career that included work as an analyst for FOX’s NFL coverage, a recurring role on HBO’s iconic series The Sopranos and hosting shows on the Discovery Channel and DIY Network.

Narduzzi on Siragusa

“Tony truly was bigger than life, on and off the field,” said Pitt head football coach Pat Narduzzi. “He played the game passionately and relentlessly. Despite not being drafted, he thrived in the NFL for 12 years. His post-football life took him so many places but he never forgot Pitt. We could always count on him to send the best recorded pep talks to our guys before our biggest games. ‘The Goose’ leaves a great legacy and he will be sorely missed. Our sympathies to his family, many loved ones and former teammates.”

A Friend, Confidant and a Damn Great Coach

A few years back I wrote a very detailed three article piece on high school football recruiting and how it works behind the scenes – things that casual fans never really saw or knew about. With those articles and other writings on recruiting I got some blow back along the lines of “How would you know those details if you weren’t in the business?

Well, the way I did know the backstory on the ins and outs of HS to college football recruiting was through my friendship, and many, many conversations, with Coach Roger Wrenn. We knew each other since 2009 and he was a pleasure to talk with – but mostly to just listen to and learn:

T. Roger Wrenn, a legendary football and baseball coach in Baltimore City at both Patterson High School and Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, who retired in 2011, passed away Monday at the age of 76 after a two year battle with cancer.

Wrenn spent the bulk of his career at Patterson High School, from 1974-2005 before moving to Poly for his final six seasons. During that time he posted a career record of 284-113-2 on the football field and won eight Baltimore City championships and three Maryland Scholastic Association (MSA) titles.

He also spent 29 years as the head coach of the Patterson baseball team where he posted an incredible record of 431-69-2. That was good for the second most wins in Maryland high school baseball history at the time of his retirement.

During his tenure he produced one of the most accomplished coaching trees in the Baltimore area. At one point as many as nine former assistants of Wrenn had coaching jobs in the Baltimore area at the same time.

In April, Wrenn was presented with the John Harvill Lifetime Achievement Award by the Maryland State Football Coaches Association (MSFCA), becoming only the eighth individual to be given the honor. He is also a member of the MSFCA Hall of Fame and the Maryland State Baseball Hall of Fame.

Current Fallston head coach Keith Robison, who began his coaching career under Wrenn at Patterson, before stints as head coach at Overlea and Perry Hall, said Wrenn was tough on young coaches for a reason.

We are all saddened by the loss of our coach, our mentor and the single greatest influence on our careers as teachers and coaches,” said Robinson. “I say we, because Roger’s coaching tree is vast, and it includes those who once played for him and those who were fortunate enough to teach and coach alongside him.

As you can see Roger was like a football god here in Maryland (an over 70% win rate and 11 championships will do that) and his players had many visits from college head coaches and recruiters over the years. He told me some interesting stories about Pitt’s trying to recruit his players from the early 1970s on to the end of the Wannstedt regime.

Most of his players went to Maryland and other ACC schools, some to WVU with others going to universities across the country. He was a real pleasure to know and I respected his humble approach to his describing, really downplaying, his influence on both HS and college athletics. I will miss him.

But, boy, some of those stories…

Pitt Volleyball Production Loss – 2021

Here is a great piece written by John Demko (John in South Carolina). He is following Rich and his football production losses by our opponents pieces. Thank you John…and I have to ask our readers ‘Where else can you find Pitt athletics articles with this amount of research and detailed writing from non-professional scribes?’ I’ll answer for you. Nowhere!

Pitt-cocks Fan has been running a series on the production lost from 2021 of the ACC teams along with Pit’s 2022 opponents.  This got me thinking about how much Pitt’s women’s volleyball team lost from the 2021 NCAA semifinalist team.  I knew it would be considerable.  At first glance it appears not only considerable but devastating.

Pitt lost seven players from last year: Kayla Lund, Leketor Member-Meneh, Chinaza Ndee, Kylee Levers, Jordan Lockwood, Anastasia Russ, and Makayla Jackson.  By position we lost four outside hitters, two middle blockers, and one setter.  Two of the outside hitters were six-rotation players.

Kayla Lund was an outstanding four-year starter who was twice named the ACC player of the year.  Last year she was injured on and off all season and had a down year for her.  Leketor Member-Meneh was Pitt’s best player last year and was named MVP of the NCAA Regionals held in Pittsburgh.  Both Kayla and Leketor were the six-rotation players.  Chinaza Ndee was one of our main stays on the front line for the last several years.  Kylee Levers was one of our two main setters for two of the last three years although Rachel Fairbanks displaced her in that role at the end of last season and the playoffs.  All of these players graduated and ran out of eligibility.

Jordan Lockwood played on occasion.  As the year wore on, her playing time decreased.  Jordan entered the transfer portal and in now on the University of Denver roster.  Anastasia Russ, who at 6’-5” tall should have been able to break into the lineup last year but did not, also left via the transfer portal.  She would have been our fourth option at middle blocker this year.  She is now on the Maryland roster where she should see a lot of playing time.  Russ never lived up to her potential here at Pitt.  Makayla Jackson, a third team All American in high school from Plum, did not have any playing time at all last year.  She is not listed on the 2022 roster and is not on any other university’s roster.  She is also a middle blocker who would have mostly sat this year.

Below is a table showing percentage the departing players contributed last year.  Remember Kayla had a down year for her so her loss is not adequately represented by just last year’s numbers.

Ndee, Chinaza380503616794
Levers, Kylee259119204200
Russ, Anastasia15002016
Lockwood, Jordan8360183225
Member-Meneh, Leketor3642230262732549
Jackson, Makayla0000000
Lund, Kayla3375031258477227
Overall Team Total179216711841671224555488
% Lost65.9%40.3%43.5%46.7%54.8%30.9%41.2%

On the offensive side almost two thirds of all kills were lost from last year.  Chinaza was Pitt’s leader in kills followed by Leketor and Kayla.  Of the three players, opponents feared Leketor the most and would place two blockers.  This helps explain why Chinaza was the kill leader.  If only Leketor had been a Panther for four years (heavy sigh)!  Chinaza was our leading outside blocker last year and our second leading blocker overall behind Serena Gray who is a middle blocker.  Another major loss, which surprised a bit, was the loss of serve aces.  Both Leketor and Kayla had about 1/6th of our aces apiece.  Along with Kylee the three of them had over 43% of our aces.

One the defensive side more than half of all the receptions were lost as well.  A reception is the first contact on a serve receive.  Leketor was the main target of the other teams’ servers last year due to their belief she was the weakest link in the back row.  She made great progress on her receiving during her short time with Pitt so by tournament time this was no longer the case.  Kayla also was targeted with the same belief.  Kylee was a backrow setter so it is no surprise for the high number of receptions in her stats.  These three players also had a very large portion of the digs, slightly under 50%.

Based on these stats Pitt’s women’s volleyball team should not be considered the ninth best team in the nation in the early season polls by knowledgeable people.  So why the optimism?

The players that are replacing our departing players are the following based on importance for this coming year:  Courtney Buzzerio, Julianna Dalton, Cam Ennis, Dillyn Griffin, and Rachel Jepsen.  Courtney and Cam only will be with us one year as that is all the eligibility they have left.  Julianna has three years of eligibility.  Dillyn and Rachel are recruits out of high school.  Courtney, Julianna, and Rachel have all joined the team earlier this year and went with them on the European tour.  Cam was a late portal addition so she will be joining the team along with Dillyn when the new school year allows.

By position we gained two outside hitters, one outside hitter/setter, one middle blocker, and one defensive specialist.

Courtney and Cam played last year for Iowa and Texas A&M respectively.  Julianna played for Washington State two years ago as a freshman but sat out last year.  Courtney was first team All-Big Ten two years ago and second team All-Big Ten last year on an awful Iowa team.  Julianna was on the All PAC-12 Freshman team her freshman year.  The stats for these three players’ last year of playing are below.

Buzzerio, Courtney4361930141 042
Iowa Total132324260
Dalton, Julianna1515133109639
Ennis, Cam35361122430016
Incoming Totals6226042398409787
% Replaced52.7%8.9%52.5%51.0%33.3%41.2%43.3%

As can be seen we are replacing about half of our kill losses from last year.  Most of this is coming from Courtney.  Julianna’s numbers should increase dramatically to take up an even greater part of the losses.  The rest will have to come from other players now on the Pitt roster.

Courtney, a 6’-5” outside hitter, had one third of all Iowa’s kills last year.  She was a six-position player who was also a very good server that will help replace the aces lost.  She will probably play six-positions at Pitt this year as well.  Iowa did not publish their reception stats so that is why there is no number for that category.

Julianna, also a 6’-5” outside hitter, is the other reason people are high on Pitt volleyball this year.  She has great potential and has three years of eligibility remaining.

Cam, while listed as an outside hitter/setter, will probably not see much playing time as an outside hitter.  Pitt has better internal options such as Valeria Vazquez Gomez and Cat Flood.  Pitt may also be using one of their middle blockers, Sabrina Starks or Chiamaka Nwokolo on the outside as well this year.  Cam’s main function will be as a reserve setter and a backrow defensive specialist.  Coach Fisher does not want to be in the position he was several years ago having to use Lexis Akeo on the front line as a setter.

So why the optimism for Pitt’s women’s volleyball team this year given all the lost production.  The reasons are as follows.

First the additions of Courtney Buzzerio and Julianna Dalton are seen as excellent replacements for two of the three outside hitters lost.  Pitt’s internal candidates for the third outside position should be adequate.  This is especially important for the second six-position player replacement.

Second, Pitt did not lose any middle blockers of note and are really loaded at this position this year.  We also did not lose any defensive specialists/liberos.

Third, with the development of Rachel Fairbanks, the setter position has actually improved even with the loss of Kylee Levers.

Last and probably most importantly, Coach Fisher and his staff has earned the respect of the volleyball community.  They believe with the additions and the carry over players from last year, Pitt will remain a force to be reckoned with not only in the ACC but on the national level as well.

I will follow-up on this article with one in several week on a more detailed review of this year’s roster, the potential starting line-up, and the 2022 schedule.

Pitt QB Kenny Pickett’s a Steeler!!

Chosen in the 1st round of the NFL draft Pickett will train and practice in the same building where the did the same as a Pitt Panther.  From ESPN:

“PITTSBURGH — For months, the Pittsburgh Steelers searched across the country for Ben Roethlisberger’s successor. It turns out he was right in front of them all along.

With the No. 20 pick in the NFL draft, the Steelers selected Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett on Thursday night, making him Roethlisberger’s heir apparent and the only quarterback selected in the first round.

“We circled the globe — or at least the United States — here the last several months, man, just exploring and researching,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “And it’s funny, we ended up with a guy from next door.”