have talked a lot about what Head Coach Pat Narduzzi will do in his third year at the helm of Pitt’s football program. We have heavily debated whether it truly is “his team” in terms of players he either recruited or acquired by transfer (it is in my opinion).
We speculate on how well his own guys will do in terms of the previous head coaches’ players they are replacing. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we go around and around as to whether experience or talent wins out in the end when it comes to the quality of play he will get out of his roster.
First let’s take a look at what some previous Pitt head coaches have done in their third year. We’ll go back to the time period right after that great winning run Pitt had from 1974 to 1981.
I highlighted the 3rd years of the respective coaches and only showed their first three years.
So – here is the first Pitt HC to review in Foge Fazio:
I think we all remember what happened in Foge Fazio’s 3rd season in 1984 – it crashed and burned as the offensive and defensive wings fell off and hit at 3-7-1… and that was the end of his time here. We started that crappy year at 1-7-1 with a win over lowly East Carolina.
Last week I wrote a lengthy article titled “Here’s Hoping For the Best” where I listed the positions where we would have to be replacing departed starters and how well I though we’d do in that regard – which was on the negative side. This article will be about our returning starters who will almost assuredly do well.
If you remember for going into the 2017 season we have only six returning starters on offense and just four on defense. That is a hell of a lot of ground to make up to equal or better the quality of play we had last season. The real rub is that we are going to rely pretty heavily on youth (rsFR and SOs) if the fan’s belief that Narduzzi will play better talent over experience.
I wonder about that last point and have a feeling we’ll see some old familiar faces in places we really don’t want to meaning the defensive backfield. Narduzzi has talked numerous time in the off-season about Maddox SR) , Briggs (JR) and Phillipie Motley (JR) in addition to the one kid everyone wants to see in the lineup – Jordan Whitehead(JR).
So let’s talk about the ’17 players who we know are going to be returning starters and how well we think they will play.
Since we have already mentioned Whitehead let’s start with him. As far as any competition in his new position, Free Safety as opposed to the Strong Safety position he played his first two seasons, I don’t think there will be any worry with him as his talent is about as top end as it gets. Add to that his two solid years starting in our defensive backfield experience and he’s a lock.
(Sorry about the audio – I forgot to use my professional microphone so the audio is recorded through my laptop’s mic…)
Hello all, enjoy the above Podcast and here is some supporting text to mull over while you listen:
Recruiting vs Attracting
USC coach Clay Helton said Wednesday he had not been contacted by any coaches interested in Browne, but would do whatever he could to help him during the process.
Browne graduated from USC prior to this season and is two semesters short of an MBA. He said he plans to finish that program eventually.
Recruit Flipping – Here is an interesting article by Brian Batko of the P-G regarding recruits changing their minds after verbally committing to one school – note that in the class of 2017 we had six players who committed elsewhere sign LOIs with us:
The marquee college program in this town won its share of other schools’ losses. Of Pitt’s 22 committed or already-enrolled players in the 2017 recruiting class entering signing day, eight were originally pledged to another school, including three of its most highly regarded.
Two of those eight picked the Panthers in mid-December, then arrived on campus less than a month later. Defensive end Deslin Alexandre was a true “flip,” announcing that he was decommitting from North Carolina State and committing to Pitt at the same time. It wasn’t something he took lightly but felt it was better late than never to get it right.
Pitt placed 10 players on Athlon Magazine’s All-ACC four (!) deep listing.
Here is the article:
PITTSBURGH—The Pitt football team received 10 selections to the recently released Athlon Sports’ 2017 All-ACC Team as the widely recognized college sports magazine published its predictions for the first team through fourth team performers in the ACC this upcoming season. Returning consensus All-American Quadree Henderson led the way with three total selections. After Henderson joined Tony Dorsett in 2016 as the only players in Pitt football history to top 2,000 all-purpose yards in a season, Athlon touted the junior wide receiver as a preseason first team kick returner, second team offensive all-purpose player and second team punt returner for 2017. After Pitt had its most potent offense in school history in 2016, Athlon expects the Panthers to be talented and explosive again on the offensive side of the ball, naming six Panthers to its preseason All-ACC Team for 2017. Continue reading “POV: Sunday Podcast; July 2nd, 2017”→
4. Pittsburgh Sept. 9 at Penn State, Sept. 16 vs. Oklahoma State, Sept. 23 at Georgia Tech
There won’t be any easing into the 2017 schedule for Pat Narduzzi and the Panthers. In Week 2, they hit the road to face No. 5 Penn State. You think the Nittany Lions will be motivated after losing at Pitt a year ago? Then comes a home game against No. 6 Oklahoma State, which throws the ball all over the park with the returning combo of quarterback Mason Rudolph and receiver James Washington, and the Panthers open ACC play a week later by going on the road and having to deal with Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack.
Steel Valley safety Paris Ford will not start classes on Monday with the rest of the incoming freshmen, multiple sources told Panther-Lair.com. Details of the situation are unclear, although it appears Ford could have an opportunity to qualify this summer and enroll closer to training camp.
If he doesn’t qualify this summer, Ford could spend one semester or a full school year at a prep institution like Milford Academy in New Berlin (NY) before enrolling at Pitt.
The NCAA Eligibility Center was created to bring academic and amateurism certifications together under one roof. Its purpose is to ensure that college-bound student-athletes, as well as coaches and administrators, understand the requirements to participate in NCAA Divisions I and II athletics.
All incoming freshman who plan on attending any NCAA Division I or II university MUST register with the NCAA Eligibility Center, meet all academic and amateur requirements and be certified by the NCAA Eligibility Center.
What are the NCAA Eligibility Center standards I must meet?
The standards issued by the NCAA Eligibility Center are slightly different for Division I and Division II but are based on the same four principles:
You must graduate from high school.
You must successfully complete all core courses.
You must have a minimum 2.000 GPA in core courses; and
You must have a minimum qualifying score on the ACT or SAT.
Military Bowl Presented By Northrup Grumman
Thursday, December 28th, 2017
Navy-Marine Corps. Stadium, Annapolis, MD
ESPN, 1:30 pm
Pitt vs. Navy
39. Pitt Panthers
Relative Strengths:Passing Game, Special Teams Relative Concerns:Pass Defense, Linebacker Why Are They Here?Will the Panthers ever stop a passing game? USC transfer Max Browne will keep the offense going, but against so many good ACC QBs, all that matters is the beleaguered secondary. 2016 Final Season Ranking:35 (8-5) 2016 CFN Preseason Ranking:32
This is the fifth of a longer POV series looking at the individual positions which need to be re-filled in 2017 and whether we will meet the PRODUCTION we had in those positions. We will not factor in true freshman at this point.
We have been blessed as a team to have had Ejuan Price at the defensive end position on our defense these last six years… that’s not a typo as two of those years were injury redshirts seasons. His constant and stalwart play masked some other problems we had on defense last season; mainly pressure on the QB from his fellow defenders.
Wait! you may say we had a ton of sacks and we sure did with 43 which was good for 6th nationally. But what is hidden there is that translates to only 8% of the times 592 times the opposing QBs dropped back to pass. As we know those same QBs ripped us apart on the other 92% of those pass plays.
So – as we know and are reminded all the time, stats can be deceiving. Here we see 43 sacks and think that is fantastic and it pretty much is, but is was the lack of constant pressure from the other DE position and the LBs that fell by the wayside… and helped to account for those 331 yards passing per game against us.
But that is the heart and soul of a Narduzzi defense. Stop the run and put strong pressure on the quarterback.
That worked out pretty well in 2015; 2016 was a completely different story however as the other team’s passer had more than enough time to throw those intermediate and deep route completions for a substantial 12.4 ypc rate and 28 TDs. You may think 12.4 ypc given up isn’t so bad but let’s remember that it happened 350 times to our defense.
That is a recap of what happened. Here are who helped it to come about from the DE position. First, as mentioned, we had Price who was just plain fantastic from that spot. 13 sacks for losses of 92 yards and 23 tackles for loss (TFL) for a total 123 yards… ‘Nuff said. He was great for us.
Here are two quotes from that article – one is rather funny and the second is very serious. Here is the first:
What was the craziest thing a coach said to you?
“I don’t know if this is crazy or not, but it’s coach Harbaugh. He said that I looked just like Frank Gore. I still don’t know how I feel about that [laughter]. He said I looked like Frank Gore and I didn’t know what to say after he said that. It’s just that my friends had told me previously that I look like Frank Gore and I run like Frank Gore. When he told me that, I instantly told my friends ‘Yo, you won’t believe what he just told me.’”
Well, Gore is 5’9″ and 217 – Sibley is 5′ 10″ and 211 so there is a similarity there. let’s hope this is the case because with him and A. J. Davis I think we have a bright future at RB.
And this next issue is one we talk about a lot on The POV. I have written before and maintain that what the recruits and their parents (and grandparents in some cases) weigh just as heavily, if not more in some cases, are the positives of a university external to the football program when deciding on a school…
What shocked you most in the process?
“I guess how serious it is. For a young kid, it’s something that you’re not really used to. You don’t really understand the value of the decision you’re going to make – I didn’t really understand the value of it. You know, this is where you’re going to spend the next three to four years at and possibly where you find your wife at and develop into a man and achieve your dream, so this is a really tough decision. Once it sets in for all of the kids, they’ll understand it too.”
Many times I have spoken to current and alumni players and their parents and have been impressed with how level-headed their decision to come to Pitt was – focusing on the off-field and external issues from football.
Players may dream about the NFL and some have a better shot at it going in, but the majority of them realize that Pitt is going to be the school where they grow from an 18-year-old into mature into a young man. That getting ready ‘for the rest of their lives‘ is paramount in a lot of cases.
I’ll have another article tomorrow then I’ll do a Sunday Podcast but will take a longer break afterward for a family vacation.
(This is the second of a longer series looking at our individual positions that need to be re-filled in 2017 and whether we will meet the PRODUCTION we had in those positions. We will not factor in true freshman at this point as we have no idea what they can and cannot do).
Much like in 2016 when we were faced with the prospect of having to put out a passing game without Tyler Boyd, we are revisiting that situation with this season’s loss of James Conner at running back.
At the risk of being unpopular (again) I’ll say this. As I wrote many times during last year’s offseason that we wouldn’t miss Boyd much at all – and I took major heat, some of it from the more mainstream media, for saying that I’ll repeat that thought for this year’s running backs.
We won’t miss James Conner’s 2016 production as much as fans think. I love Conner, have had great personal conversations with him and feel that as a human being he’s one of the finest men I have ever met – and that is saying a lot given my professional career. Pitt and his peer players will miss his wonderful human traits and his friendship no doubt. Those are the intangibles James Conner brought to the Pitt football program and will continue to bring to any organization he is affiliated with for the rest of his life.
Unlike Tyler Boyd’s leaving, Conner’s departure is going to cost us big time in the leadership and role model areas.
I truly wish he’d have stayed at Pitt for his 4th year of eligibility but understand completely why he declared – and what a grand decision that was given the relatively high round in which he was picked and by the Steelers to boot. Pittsburgh fans will have a lot more time to watch Conner play football I’m sure, just not in a Panther uniform.
But as a running back on our team last year, and the production he had out on the field, he’s replaceable and it will most likely be by committee. Again I’m speaking of what he did out on the field production wise.