The Ever Elusive “Game Day Experience…”

The Ever Elusive “Game Day Experience…”

Here is a nice look back and discussion of Pitt’s game day experience from an older Pitt fan – longtime reader and seldom commenter Larry V.

Ever since I’ve been reading the POV and Blather I’ve seen many comments on the lack of a game day experience at Heinz Field. This has caused a certain amount of consternation with me since I have started attending games again in 2015. I will get to that but to put things in perspective a brief bio on my experience as a Pitt fan.

I grew up Butler and attended Pitt from the fall of ‘70 to the spring of ‘74, not the best era of Pitt Football (except the Major change in ‘73). So what was my game day experience?  I was in the VMB (G34 for those in the know) for the ‘70 season so I was at every game but two. So my game day experience that season was defined by being in the band (and post game fraternity bashes). After that season I became more involved in the fraternity and was no longer in the band. So those game day experiences involved a pre game tune up at the house or local watering holes then continuing the festivities at the game (security at that time could not inspect the women’s purses so they became the booze mules) and finally a post game party.

There weren’t many victories in the ‘71 & ‘72 seasons so game day was more about being with friends and hopefully seeing a good game. At least the home schedule was filled with quality opponents (Notre Dame, Oklahoma, USC, UCLA, Arizona State, Georgia, and Penn State, etc.) and maybe we would see a close game. Things changed in ‘73 and there was excitement around the new coaching staff and the skinny kid from Hopewell. We saw more wins and what seemed to be closer games against quality opponents. After I graduated I attended some games in ’74.  The USC game was hyped as AD east meet AD west (Tony Dorsett and Anthony Davis) and we froze our butts off at Three Rivers for the psu game (oh my, a home game not at Pitt Stadium).

I joined the Navy in ‘75 and spent the next 22 years in Florida, Virginia, and at sea (underway the only way).  (Editors Note: Hell, Yeah!!) When I retired from the Navy in ‘97 I stayed in Northern VA and spent the next 15.5 years with Lockheed Martin.  It was difficult in the pre-internet days to keep up with Pitt football. There would be the occasional game on TV but no real way to keep up with what was going on with recruiting and any hype for the upcoming seasons. That all changed when I discovered the Blather and then moved on the POV. It rekindled my interest in Pitt football and I eventually became a season ticket holder.

So what is my consternation with the game day experience?

In my undergrad days game day was being with friends and watching the game.  Now my game day experience is being with friends and watching the game.

However, what has changed is Oakland itself and the venue the games are played in. The Oakland of 2018 is far different from the early ‘70s; all the bars I would frequent are gone (except Chief’s), the fraternity house is gone, and it seems like UMPC has taken over every available square foot of property.  So other than not going to Pitt Stadium on game day, I’m not certain my game day experience has diminished. The ugly truth is Pitt Stadium was deteriorating, traffic certainly was a nightmare, and parking sucked.  Also attendance at Pitt Stadium was around the same as Heinz albeit without the yellow seats (hey, if  more commenters attended some games that would help with that.)

What do I see at the North Shore?  Plenty of places to meet up with friends, easy access, and many parking lots. As I walk to the stadium I see Pitt banners in the lots along with tailgate parties, I see the band, cheerleaders and Pitt paraphernalia for sale. I don’t think I saw any of this on the trek to Pitt Stadium. I still remember the first game I went to at Heinz and feeling reconnected with Pitt after a 30+ year absence just from the atmosphere around Heinz.

I know everyone has a different take on the game day experience, but in case you missed it, mine has always been about friends and seeing a good game. Would I prefer an on campus stadium? Yes but I have to say the ease of getting to the North Shore sure is appealing compared to the traffic nightmare in Oakland.  However I will support the program no matter where they play.  here are some questions I have for fellow Pitt fans:

-Why do people try to compare land grant colleges’ game day to Pitt’s? Totally different environments, the only option for 6-7 days a year compared to the smorgasbord of things to spend your money on in the Burg?
-Could I do with more band and less piped in music, sure, but that isn’t a deal breaker (and I think the younger folks like it)?
-People gushed over Navy’s stadium but don’t acknowledge that is is not on the academy grounds?
-Where would Fran’s tailgate be in Oakland? (on my to do list this year).
-Why the disdain for Heinz Field (the structure not location)?
-Why get spun up over Heather recognizing academic achievement and other sports during TV timeouts?

 

POV’s Win, Lose or Draw for 2018’s OLs

POV’s Win, Lose or Draw for 2018’s OLs

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 or defense 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 in player quality, “Downgrade’ if I see a lessening of talent or “Draw” if I think we’ll match last year’s player(s) in the position or unit. 

It isn’t any secret that I have been writing many times since the end of last season that I feel the Offensive Line is going to be a major problem for our 2018 team.  I have done so constantly and I sure do feel that way.

Last year at this time I also wrote that the 2017 version of our OL was going to be the Achilles Heel of the offense… battling the QB position for that honor. Well, as it turns out that was correct and our OL was about the worse I can remember in a long time.

Going back not all that far we had a very poor OL in Todd Graham’s 2011 year when we were 119th in Tackles For Loss Allowed with 110 on the season; 120th in Sacks Allowed with 64 and 93rd in Passing Efficiency at 118.1.  Add to that our 74th in Rushing Offense and you can see how ineffective we were – and those ranking are out of only 120 teams in Division 1 at the time.  You may say that the implementation of the Graham’s High Octane Spread Offense had a lot to do with that but the truth is we  just had poor offensive line talent.

Those four statistics are key indicators of how well the line is protecting the QB and helping (or hindering) the running backs.  Now, it is pretty obvious that our 2017 wasn’t a whole lot better than that 2011 unit. Here is how they stacked up against each other in those categories:2011 OLBut here’s the rub – that poor showing by our 2017 OL was done even when it was populated by linemen who had a pretty darn good amount of P5 game experience.  Experience is what you want in an Offensive Linemen and that is why when you see really good, productive lines they are made usually up of a lot of upperclassmen – mostly redshirt Juniors and redshirt Seniors.

For instance last year our starting lineup on the OL was, in left to right order; rsJR Brian O’Neill, rsSR Alex Officer, rsFR Jim Morrissey, rsJR Alex Bookser and rsSR Jared-Jones Smith.  Not only were four of five upperclassmen they also had a lot of starting experience to draw on.

That is the big difference between the 2017 OL and what our 2018 squad is going into this season.  Here is a table of experience I drafted to show the huge difference in the two season’s lineman’s starts against Power 5 schools.2017-2018 OL 3

Continue reading “POV’s Win, Lose or Draw for 2018’s OLs”

Should They Stay or Should They Go?

Should They Stay or Should They Go?

Here is a timely piece written by our own PittPT, Mark Kerestan. Thanks, Mark.

With the announcement of transfer WR Taysir Mack’s availability for the coming football, it’s nice for Pitt to get some good new before the start of a season for a change. While we await any morsel of news concerning our favorite college football team, nationally the biggest news in the NCAA has less to do with football Xs and Os and more about moral issues and obligations of head coaches. Of course I’m referring to the scandals at the Ohio State and Maryland football programs.

I’m sure we are all aware of the situations, but at Ohio State Urban Meyer is under fire after saying that he had no prior knowledge of having a serial spouse abuser on his coaching staff and then back peddling after evidence surfaced indicating that that he likely has been aware of the situation for a number of years. At the University of Maryland, HC DJ Durkin is under a leave of absence after a 19 year old player,  offensive lineman Jordan McNair, died days after collapsing at a team workout. Details surfaced regarding unsafe conditions during the practice including withholding of water during the practice sprints and ignoring warning signs that Mr. McNair was in physical danger.

At both schools decisions are expected this weekend regarding the careers of the head coaches involved in these scandals. So given what is known at this point, my questions are what do you think should and will happen to Urban Meyer and DJ Durkin moving forward; do you think whatever does happen will  be more a reflection of the coach involved or the severity of the situation?

Since I brought up the questions I’ll offer my thoughts first. I believe both coaches should be dismissed. If Jim Tressel was let go after minor recruiting violations I don’t see how Urban Meyer should keep the same position while basically condoning or attempting to cover-up spousal abuse by a staff member. In the case of OSU however, I believe Urban will retain his position after a four game to one season suspension, because he is  acknowledged as one of the greatest college head coaches s of all time.

Even more so with coach DJ Durkin at Maryland, given the evidence of questionable training practices and with a player dying on his watch, I don’t see any way that he should retain his head coaching  position.  Additionally, since Durkin is not a proven commodity as a HC and Maryland is not a football power I fully expect that Durkin will indeed be terminated.

So what do you all think? The schools’ answers are expected to be announced within the next few days, but in the meantime, what would you do as AD or University President at OSU or UM?

Editor’s Note: I was discussing this with a long time Maryland football fan just last evening and he said something interesting… that this is one situation where it pays for Maryland to be a run of the mill average football program in that it makes it that much easier if the Maryland administration decides to cut ties with Durkin.  Pretty much the exact opposite situation from Ohio State’s basis of decision making.

This, unfortunately is what college football has become these days – a business where moral and ethical decisions are often overridden by the financial aspects of the sport.

Day 12

Link: Panthers Daily Camp Media Roundup

 

Pitt Football Camp: Media Recap, Day 12

Videos, Quotes and Photos from Pitt Training Camp

 

POST-PRACTICE VIDEOS

Head Coach Pat Narduzzi

Running Backs Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Andre Powell

Secondary Coach Archie Collins

Defensive Back Dennis Briggs

Defensive Back Phil Campbell III

Wide Receiver Maurice Ffrench

Running Back Qadree Ollison

 

PITTSBURGH—The Pitt football program held the 12th practice of its 2018 training camp on Thursday morning at the UPMCRooney Sports Complex on the South Side of Pittsburgh.

Head coach Pat Narduzzi met with reporters prior to the workout, while running backs coach and special teams coordinator Andre Powell, secondary coach Archie Collins, defensive back Dennis Briggs, defensive back Phil Campbell III, wide receiver Maurice Ffrench and running back QadreeOllison represented at the post-practice media availability.

Videos from each media session are available above, while a transcript of Coach Narduzzi’s Q&A from prior to practice is below.

 

Head Coach Pat Narduzzi

 

Opening statement:

“We’re on number 12 now. Our guys are working their tails off. I love the energy and focus and effort that our guys are giving. We have to slow them down at times. We’re going out in shells. We were supposed to be pads today, but slimmed it down to where they’re out in just shells. No pants today just to freshen them up. We have two days then a big scrimmage on Saturday, so trying to get them focused and get them as fresh as we can for Saturday’s scrimmage.”

 

On if this is one of the healthier camps he’s seen:

“I don’t really want to talk about it. We got our bumps and bruises, that’s for sure; but we’ve been really lucky. I know that the full moon is August 26th, I believe. I’m scared of the full moon. I think that we’re not practicing that day, so it’s a good deal. We’ll be careful with how we walk around the facility. But we’ve been fortunate right now, but it only takes one day.”

 

On specific injuries:

“You know I don’t talk about injuries. There’s no need. Coaches, we don’t talk about it. Hopefully the players don’t talk about it. If someone is out for the year, we’ll let you know. You know that’s our case and that’s where we leave it. I’m not talking about it.”

 

On if this week is similar to prepping for a game with Saturday’s scrimmage:

“It is. That’s how we try to go through preseason. Today, we’re going to have a four-minute and two-minute period at the end, the last period of practice. Everything is a game; every day is a game. But as we try to take care of our bodies, we can’t go live on Friday. That’s just not taking care of our kids. We’ll have nothing live today. We had one period yesterday that was live, so there was tackling. There were two or three the day before because we had the day off at the beginning, so we just try to taper away just like we would a game. The kids just can’t go out and do that day after day and think that you’re going to get a good, solid scrimmage on Saturday. So everything is a game. Today, we’ll do a four-minute and two-minute situation, where it’s really the one offense and defense against the twos. We’ll try to run that clock out and get into that victory formation that we like to get into. Whatever time is left on the clock, the one offense will have a chance to go down the field and make something happen in the two-minute. We’re constantly working game situations and opportunities to make us better.”

 

On the amount of sacks that the defensive line has this camp:

“What is a sack when you’re not hitting the quarterback? Anytime that there is a red jersey, I’m blowing the whistle. I know, as an old defensive coordinator, anytime that whistle didn’t get blown, they’re telling me, ‘coach, I had that, I had that.’ We give it to them. We give sacks away. I’d rather give sacks away in practice because back in the old days, the whistle didn’t blow and I got close to him, what am I doing? What are you going to do next? You get closer. And the closer you get, the closer you get to having a bad day. I don’t want to have any bad days. Stay off the quarterback. I blow the quick whistle and let it go. He still throws it, that’s the nice thing. He’s still going to throw it, but it keeps him away.”

POV’s Win, Lose or Draw for 2018’s DLs

POV’s Win, Lose or Draw for 2018’s DLs

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 or defense 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 in player quality, “Downgrade’ if I see a lessening of talent or “Draw” if I think we’ll match last year’s player(s) in the position or unit. 

OK – we have looked at just about every position unit on the team except for the interior of the Defensive Line (Defensive Tackle and Nose Tackle) and the Special Teams.  Let’s concentrate on the defensive linemen first.

Here is what we fielded as our two-deep along the interior defensive line for the Miami game last season:

DL Interior '17

As you can see they will all return with the exception of Kam Carter who transferred (told to I believe) earlier this season. Good riddance to someone who shouldn’t ever have been taken on at Pitt in the first place.

Returning are starters rsSR Shane Roy at Nose Tackle and JR Amir Watts at Defensive Tackle.  I have no reason to doubt that those two will be the starters again this coming season but I hope it changes.  Now, rsSO Keyshon Camp started off playing the first eight games at Defensive Tackle, was surpassed by Watts then injured for the last two games against VT and Miami.

The reason I think Watts starts in place is because of the way he played against that good competition and really overall.  While none of our DL players had gaudy, or even good, individual numbers last year Watts produced well when he had the opportunity.  Here is an interesting bit of statistical info from SBNation regarding the effectiveness of our defensive linemen:

DL Stats 17

* Stuffs are rushes stopped at or behind the line. They are not necessarily tackles for loss (since they include zero-yard gains), so adding sacks and stuffs won’t necessarily equal TFLs. Also: the figure is based on how many stuffs a tackler has taken part in — solo tackles and assist tackles count for the same amount.

** For defenders, Success Rate is defined as the offense’s success rate on plays in which the defender made a tackle. The lower the number, the better for the defender. On average, due to proximity to the line of scrimmage, defensive linemen will produce lower success rates than linebackers, who producer lower rates than defensive backs.

That seven ‘run stuffs’ for Watts along with his five TFLs (with one sack) was pretty darn good considering he was 2nd string most of the year. He is an effective player and I think should get a lot more playing time.

So you can see the DEs accounted for more Tackles, Tackles For Loss and Sacks. That makes sense as they are the more active players and their job is to get into the backfield on every play.  The “success Rate” for our interior linemen is deceiving because of the low number of actual tackles they made – that stat is more for the other units on defense like LBs and DBs.

The interior linemen, especially in Narduzzi’s 4-3 alignment, are basically there to clog up the middle to allow the LBs to get forward and make rushing tackles – at least that has been the case under Narduzzi’s defenses. But here is a good description of what should be happening:

Nose tackle (also nose guard or middle guard) is a defensive alignment position for a defensive lineman. In the 3–4 defensive scheme the sole defensive tackle is referred to as the nose tackle.[2] The nose tackle aligns across the line of scrimmage from the offense’s center before the play begins in the “0-technique” position.[3] In this position, frequently taking on the center and at least one if not both of the guards, the nose tackle is considered to be the most physically demanding position in football.[4] In five-linemen situations, such as a goal-line formation, the nose guard is the innermost lineman, flanked on either side by a defensive tackle or defensive end.

According to Pat Kirwan, a traditional 3–4 defense demands “a massive man who can clog up the middle,” while a 4–3 defense is looking for “a nose tackle who relies on quickness to penetrate and move along the front.”[3]

Get that last bit?  “a nose tackle who relies on quickness to penetrate and move along the front.”?  Well, that ain’t Shane Roy my friends.  I know I have been singling him out a lot on here but I am truly astounded that Roy was the best we had to put out there last season. I’m sure he’s a great young man and probably a good leader of the younger players…but let’s all be honest here.  We’ll be much happier if we see Camp, or another youngster out there starting instead of Roy.

Perhaps rsFR Jaylen Tywman can fill in there or maybe my pick, local Central Catholic product rsSO Rashad Wheeler?  I think we need fresh blood in the DL and that is where I’d begin change – with Rashad Wheeler getting the start.  If it is indeed Roy starting again then either Narduzzi is dead set on experience or his recruiting of DL players isn’t as good as fans think it is.

Overall our defensive line play was better last season then it was in the two years before under Narduzzi and that is a bright sign.   We already covered the Defensive Ends in a separate article but the fact is that we were a good solid 41st in rushing defense at 142.4 ypg ast season.  We still were very poor at Tackles for Loss (99th) and Sacks (74th with only 23) and some of that is on the interior DL, but the DEs should have been much better than they were at getting quickly to the RBs and putting pressure on the QB.

So, what do I expect this year’s interior DL unit to be as compared to last season’s?  I’ll say that with an extra year of experience for Camp and Watts; Rashad Wheeler having played in all 12 games as a Nose Tackle (and ready to make a move to start) along with getting rid of Carter to make room for another younger player… I’ll label this an:

UPGRADE

POV Sunday Podcast; August 12th, 2018

POV Sunday Podcast; August 12th, 2018

Here are some news links:

Chris Peak’s Latest 3-2-1 column

Peak’s Who are team leaders?

PSN’s Scrimmage Piece

Trib’s Jacques-Louis

Trib’s RB Big Season

P-G’s Narduzzi’s Best Defense 

P-G’s Punter’s Mustache

Here is what passes for news this fall camp:  “So yeah, Christodoulou’s go-to move now is imitating the double-knee slap, hiss and hand motion of the Purple Cobras, the team led by White Goodman played by a mustachioed Ben Stiller in the 2004 comedy “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.”

 

POV’s Win, Lose or Draw for 2018’s RBs

POV’s Win, Lose or Draw for 2018’s RBs

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 or defense 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 in player quality, “Downgrade’ if I see a lessening of talent or “Draw” if I think we’ll match last year’s player(s) in the position or unit. 

Here we go Pitt fans… this unit, along with the QBs, is always the most dissected and discussed over the offseason.  Maybe that is because it is featured on the majority of offensive plays (460 runs to 362 pass attempts in ’17) or maybe it is because Pitt has had a great history of turning out superb running backs over the last four decades.

When you can boast of alumni players like Tony Dorsett, Ironhead Heyward, Randy McMillen, Curtis Martin, LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Ray Graham and James Conner… to name just a few, then that’s something to hang your helmet on.

Dragging us back to the present now and I hope I didn’t raise your hopes up too much.  I doubt we are going to see a star performance out of any Pitt RBs this season.  For one reason the two RBs who will start off as the primary carriers this season are fair to middling players at best.  rs Senior Qadree Ollison and Senior Darrin Hall have been around for years and have both started games and held starting positions so they hold trump in the experience column.

Last season Pitt’s run game was…well, poor as we were 85th nationally (in the lower third of D1 schools) and had a yards per carry average of only 3.87.  In college football a good rushing average for a RB is the 5.0 ypc benchmark.  5.0 ypc is the same  benchmark as for a team’s rushing on the season.  To put that in recent historical perspective here are the last fous year of Pitt’s run game:

Rushing

Granted having Conner carrying the ball was a different animal all together but you can see how we dipped last season.

This poor rushing offense didn’t take place in a vacuum however.  Our offensive line was bad last season; 99th in the country in Tackles For Loss allowed with 79 on the season.  Some of those TFLs were the 31 sacks the OL allowed also but that still left 48 times the ball carrier was dropped in the backfield.  Not good.  Hell, if you total up the TFLs and Sacks that is 79 negative plays.  Given that our total carries were 460 that means 18% of the time we ran the ball we lost yardage (more on that below).

Combine that with the  poor passing game we fielded in 2017 which was a minimal threat to complete intermediate and deep passes and all of a sudden we saw seven or even eight defenders in the box slobbering to shut down the run.  Those two issues, a terrible OL and a bad passing game combined to make it hard for anyone.

But the bold truth is that both of our main ball carriers are just not that good at running the ball. Hall and Ollison have both had highlights in their Pitt careers but on the whole they are not the type of running back Pitt has had and depended on for our offensive firepower in other seasons.

Ollision had a fine rsFR year in 2015 when he went in for James Conner during Conner’s illness. That season he ran for 1,121 yards on a 5.3 ypc (there is that 5.0 benchmark) and scored 11 TDs.  Then he was sat down.  This is one of the biggest mysteries in Pitt football for me. The staff can say what they want about him being overweight, etc…but when he is the only back on the roster to 1) have a 1,000 yard season and 2) average over 5.0 ypc I think you have to get him the ball more often.

Hall started seven games last season and had the best showing of his time since he’s been here.  He rushed for 628 yards on 4.6 ypc with 9 TDs. But he was on/off in a big way.  In the first five games he played he averaged 22 yards per game on a 3.4 ypc clip. Then had a great three game stretch where he averaged 162 ypg… then dropped back down to 17 ypg on 25 carries for a 1.36 ypc in the last two matches.  Down then up then down.

Still, both of the backs, along with true Freshman A. J. Davis (nine games with 16 carries for 40 yards and one TD on a 2.5 ypc rate) failed to make a strong impression for the future season.  One of the problems all the young men had was one of consistency.  Hall broke of two great runs in the Duke game, both for TDs to seal the win.  But on the other 98.4% of his carries he had a low 3.6 ypc average. That is a glaring problem in my opinion.

This is what is meant when we say there was way too much inconsistency in the rushing game. That along with being stopped at the line of scrimmage or behind it way too much.  Not only were we terrible in the numbers of tackles for loss we had allowed to happen but our “Stuff Rate”( the measure of percentage of runs where the runner is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage) was a very poor 21.5 % and put us 98th in the nation in that category.

Get that Pitt fans? On over 1/5th of our carries we were stuffed at the LOS or dropped for a loss.  Pass the Bromo Seltzer please.  Again, a combination of factors led to all this but as stated above, our RBs just weren’t that good.

And usually that means the door is open for new blood to get into the games and shine and that may be the case this season.  But what also usually happens is that either those average backs from the year before graduate or are sat down for the better players. Therein lies the rub.

Hall and Ollison are not gone but obviously back for another year.  Given the way we have seen this coaching staff under Pat Narduzzi use their personnel you can be almost sure that it will be Hall and Ollison (and George Aston at FB) to start the season and, depending if any of the young bucks break out or not, play the lion’s share of the games.

George Aston isn’t all that much of a ball carrier with 75 yards on 22 career carries but when he does he’s super effective with five TDs (!). But he’s a very good lead blocker and that will help Hall and whoever else is back there with him. Now I just read that Aston dropped 20 lbs over the offseason and kept his prodigious strength.  I wonder if that will up his speed to the point that we’ll see him carry the ball more.

So we fans are keeping our eye on the young running backs: Sophomore Davis, rs Freshman Todd Sibley and true freshman Mychale Salahuddin.  Davis and Salahuddin are 4* recruits and Sibley is a 3* one-time Ohio State recruit who refused a gray shirt offer there and so switched to Pitt.  all but Davis are untested at the college level and all have good potential. The new NCAA redshirt rules that allow a player to partake in up to four games before he burns that year of eligibility may serve as a testing ground for Sibley and Salahuddin to get out there and contribute.

It takes a lot of the pressure off the coaching staff to be able to do this and takes a lot of the guesswork out of the decision-making on whether to play a kid or not.

And that is about all we have at this point. It is very hard to gauge anything about any players who haven’t seen playing time yet because of the media shutdown of practices. So what we fans know about these guys is really nothing more than coachspeak on whether or not these kids will produce – and that’s worth the bytes it is written in.

Because these articles are based on the talent levels of returning players as compared to those from last season this is a tricky unit to grade.  If we remember last year at this time Pitt fans were excited about seeing how A. J. Davis was going to do and if Sibley was going to get carries and if Chawntez Moss could produce.  Well, we saw how that went.

This season is pretty much more of the same…we all are waiting and keeping our fingers crossed that one of the three underclassmen really put it together and have a star breakout season and thus force Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson to sit Hall or Ollison down.  Until that happens though how the youngsters  will do is all speculation.  Which is fun to do, but again, these comparisons are based on returning players’ talents we have seen, not what could happen.

I feel I have to say this also.  Our OL was poor last season and that impacted the running backs’ production.  I honestly believe that this season’s OL is going to be worse than last season’s edition and maybe by a lot.  That will also strongly impact the run game and whoever is carrying the football.

But looking strictly at the returning talent we have on hand in the running back unit I call this a:

DRAW