Know The Enemy – Penn State

Byline: Chris Logue and it is a good one…

It’s go time for another week, another opponent and worst of all, a whole new slew of athletic receivers, running backs, most of which I am sure can run the wheel-route, and a quarterback that can beat you in a myriad of ways. This could just as easily be time-stamped in 2016 heading into Death Valley and Clemson, but this year’s edition of that is in Happy Valley to take on the Nittany Lions.

While I would love to be the sole interpreter of Penn State this week, I also felt that it would be doing our readers an injustice. This edition of “Know Your Enemy” comes with a guest, Centre Daily Times Penn State beat writer, John McGonigal. John pulls no punches and lets it all fly which is why he fits the bill to be our guest this week.

John provided incredible feedback and you’ll notice it throughout our inside look at what our Panthers face this week in Centre County.

Last week, Penn State drubbed Akron 52-0 and did it in a multitude of ways. Whether it was breaking a long, very strong, streak of not having a return for a touchdown, intercepting Akron quarterback, Thomas Woodson or if it was quarterback Trace McSorley and his trusted back, Saquon Barkley, Penn State looked good. Very, very good at that. It’s no mystery that McSorley and Barkley will be the key drivers for PSU on offense, it goes back to the basics, deep in the trenches who kick-starts this offense.

“Outside of Barkley and McSorley, I think an underrated guy on this offense is center Connor McGovern. I could’ve gone with flashier picks like breakout wide receiver Juwan Johnson or tight end Mike Gesicki — who I think will lead the Nittany Lions in all receiving categories this year — but McGovern is a guy who guides the offense,” says McGonigal.

Like Pitt who has shifted and mixed the offensive line over the past two seasons, McGovern is amid transition himself, “The Penn State staff moved him to center in the offseason after the departure of senior Brian Gaia — the Nittany Lions’ lone loss from the o-line — and McGovern has lived up to all expectations so far, being more vocal and impressing against Akron.”

Reed and I exchanged emails and we both had the same feel that a lot of what Penn State wants to do and should succeed in doing is planting roots in the trenches and making it their own, and it seems as though McGovern is sturdy in that task where “[McGovern] had a lot to do with that, and the lineman will play a key role in the Pitt game.”

How big of a task do the Panthers have this week on the defense? Look for yourself at PSU’s last game’s offensive stats:

PSU Game 1

Continue reading “Know The Enemy – Penn State”

One For The Money, Two For The Show…

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.

3rd revised.png

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.

Continue reading “One For The Money, Two For The Show…”

Where There Are No Question Marks

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 lineupJordan 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.

Continue reading “Where There Are No Question Marks”

Here’s Hoping for the Best…

Here’s Hoping for the Best…

This is the season which we all believe will start to show Narduzzi’s worth as a recruiter but there is something other than that being overlooked there – this is also the year we are going to see just how well Narduzzi’s position coaches and coordinators have done at teaching our young players they inherited to become full-time starters.

We fans tend to look back at recruit rankings and forget that they don’t mean squat unless there is a staff in place to take that raw talent and make it really work at the D1 & Power Five level.  This is especially true at the OL positions. 

Pitt’s history (and every other D1 program’s) is lettered with recruits that came onboard with high potential and great expectations only to become backups, bench warmers or kids that didn’t make it a full four year’s in the program. Some just didn’t have what it takes, some didn’t care to work hard and some may not have had good enough position coaches to teach them how to play at this level.

As far as Pitt 2017 playing time experience goes when you look at the two-deep on the chart below you’ll see that 15 of the starting 22 positions are still manned by Paul Chryst recruits, and I don’t care what this list says Wirginis will start the YSU game at MLB – how long he stays there is another question.  So we will see some of Narduzzi’s new recruits get playing time – mostly on defense where we need the most help.

HCPN’s position coaches have now had three years to work with those PC recruits to fit smoothly into his offensive and defensive philosophies and it will be interesting to see how well they will fair as full-time starters this season. Those now-starters would be MLB Wirginis, C Dintino, RT Jared Jones-Smith, DE Allen Edwards,  Money LB Ziese, S Briggs and CB Motley.

Pittsburgh Sports Now reported that Pitt has released the pre-Fall Camp depth chart. Hmmm, more like “These are the only viable players who can play this position” chart.  When you have only 10 of 22 starting positions returning there has to be a heavy dose of wishful think on fan’s (and the staff’s) parts to get back up to the level of play of the year before. We’ll see that writ large in trying to match the record breaking offense we had in 2016.

Continue reading “Here’s Hoping for the Best…”

POV Sunday Podcast; July 9th, 2017

POV Sunday Podcast; July 9th, 2017

Here are Max Browne’s USC stats again, followed by Savage, Peterman and Stull’s also.  Take a look at their years as a regular player at Pitt. For comparison in NP’s case that would be 2015 and Bill Stull’s 2009.

MBstats

TS'13

NP'15

Stull1.png Continue reading “POV Sunday Podcast; July 9th, 2017”

2017’s WRs; Upgrade, Downgrade or Draw

This is the seventh 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 in ’16. We will not factor in true freshman at this point.

Wide Receiver will be a position of strength for us in this coming season almost surely.  I say that because as we wrote about the QB position early in this series I think we’ll have a downgrade there – so the ripple effect may impact the overall production of our WR corps for ’17.

To start let’s look at who departed Pitt over the off-season.  rsSR Dontez Ford and rsJR Zach Challingsworth.  Well, that was pretty simple wasn’t it? 

Of course our main WR coming back is the exciting and inconsistent – which is part of the excitement because we hold our breath hoping he’ll come down with the ball – rsSR Jester Weah.

Weah is a great example of kids who are just average in their recruiting rating (3*, 5.5) and don’t burst right out of the gate in college… but learn the new game and flourish in their upperclassmen years.  And yes, that is what a good player will do. 

Great players usually do make an impact earlier and Weah may have also if he hadn’t been stuck behind Tyler Boyd and Dontez Ford for his first few years.  But for now he’s pretty darn good and may just be great this season.

Weah has had the catching yips and was publicly open and refreshingly honest about that which I like him even more for.  He has great downfield speed and good moves – but his hands used to let him down when it came to gameday.  More on that later…

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2017’s DEs; Upgrade, Downgrade or Draw

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.

DE 17.pngWe 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.

Continue reading “2017’s DEs; Upgrade, Downgrade or Draw”