Updating the Pittsburgh Panthers All-Time Football Team

Here is an article by reader John Baranowski, enjoy!

Back in 2011, after trying unsuccessfully to find a recent article regarding an All-Time Pitt Panthers football team, I wrote the following article that can be found here:  http://bleacherreport.com/articles/789636-announcing-the-pittsburgh-panthers-all-time-football-team.

The past six years has allowed us sufficient time to revisit the subject and to see what players may have earned their way on to Pitt’s all-time team.

Pitt’s all-time team would rank among the best that have ever played college football. Presenting the updated University of Pittsburgh’s All-Time team:

At quarterback, who else could it be but No. 13, Dan Marino? Marino will forever be the benchmark for future Pitt quarterbacks and what Sparky Anderson said about Johnny Bench can be applied to Dan Marino and to Pitt quarterbacks before and after Marino, “Don’t embarrass anyone by comparing them to Dan Marino.”

Continue reading “Updating the Pittsburgh Panthers All-Time Football Team”

Some National Recruiting Insights

Some National Recruiting Insights

First off I cannot stress enough how well this podcast I am linking describes the overall recruiting game. This podcast on SBNation is an interesting listen – they discuss “how the nuts and bolts of college football recruiting come together in the days, weeks, months, and really, years before National Signing Day.

I have written many times that star ratings are given tons of weight by everyone involved in college football recruiting – including the college coaching staffs – even when they say it doesn’t matter.  Now you’ll hear about how coaching salary contracts are starting to include recruiting class ratings (based of recruits’ stars awarded)  involved as bonus items… something that I knew had happened at Maryland.

This podcast is detailed and covers recruiting just the way I have come to understand it after talking with player’s and recruit’s parents over the last eight years.  Two years ago I sat with TE Scott Orndoff (class of 2013) and OL Brandon Ford’s (class of 2016) fathers at the hotel bar before the Pinstripe Bowl and talked for a couple of hours about their son’s recruiting experiences… it was eyeopening and very entertaining to say the least – two wonderful men and very open and honest.  Their thoughts as told to me are  mirrored in the podcast’s recruit’s father’s descriptions of his son’s experience before committing to USC.

Please listen to it folks- I found it to be 100% accurate and really very informative.

I have mentioned before on here my reasoning for the thought and practice of picking one college football recruiting website and sticking with it.  When we do that on the POV, and on here that is Rivals.com’s Pitt site, it adds consistency and a common baseline to our recruiting discussions.

So, with that I wondered if a little behind the scenes look at Rivals.com is in order.  I have written many times that I think Rivals’ Pitt beat writer Chris Peak is the best local media type around Pitt football.  My opinion of him is formed from many things; he’s a helpful guy for one.

When I started writing for The Pitt Blather way back in Dave Wannstedt’s tenure I used to data mine all four websites; Rivals, Scout, ESPN and then later 247 Sports (they started in 2010) for interesting Pitt info and then also began to notice which sites were the most accurate in their individual and class recruit ratings and Rivals constantly came out on top.

I’m not exactly sure what all the other sites do to get their content but Chris Peak just had an interesting Q&A article asking about the business side of Rivals.com and I find it interesting.  Basically Chris wrote this when asked how his employment works:

I’m an independent contractor, contracted by Rivals/Yahoo to operate this site. There are contractual obligations regarding what’s expected in terms of content, message boards, coverage, etc. But there is a lot of autonomy: if what I’m doing keeps the site moving forward in terms of subscriptions, then I’m free to operate the site as I see fit. It’s a pretty good setup and I think that Rivals understands that the individual site publishers often know their market best, so rather than force pubs to do this or do that, they let us do what our market needs, what our readership and audience need, in order to make the site as effective as it can be.

Huh, I wonder if he’s actually the guy who keeps the actual website up and running, does the graphics and all the behind the screen’s stuff that is the nuts and bolts of the website itself.  If so that is a hell of a lot of work.

Continue reading “Some National Recruiting Insights”

Ready for Another Dose of Realism?

Ready for Another Dose of Realism?

A reader sent me an email today and in it was a link to a very interesting article titled “How to Win in Recruiting” and the fascinating information found in it.

The simple upshot of the article is that many factors go into making a college’s ‘brand’ and the better the brand the better chance that school has of landing the better recruits.  That makes perfect sense.  Here is that phrased in a bit more detail:

College athletics provide a unique, albeit contentious, dynamic in which players base their college decisions on a radically different criteria than professional players, who often opt to play for whichever franchise will pay the most.  Stadium size, uniforms (read our article Fashion Wars on the influences of uniforms and apparel companies in recruiting), program prestige, coach prestige, coach persona, location, media exposure, fan sentiment, playing style, and academics are only a handful of the endless factors that play a role in an athlete’s decision.  The net sum of all these influences becomes the program’s brand, which is then evaluated by millions of high school athletes.

The chart below shows what and which schools’ were the winners in this issue and which were the schools dragging ass.  It is built to show:

We wanted to find out exactly how high school football players perceive the Power 5 schools, so we asked 224 recruits to grade their interest and desire in each program as if they were the number one recruit in the country (i.e. they had offers from every school).  This process gave us a peek into the minds of the most important demographic: teenage football players. 

Guess where Pitt falls in line? That’s right, 54th out of the 65 Power Five schools.  My lord look at the company we keep… Minnesota, Missouri, Baylor, Colorado and Wake Forest to name a few.

brand-rankings-2_1

Thirty years ago I think we’d be right up in at least the Top 20 or so – but that is what winning seasons do for you. The way we have played in the last decade – 10 wins being our best but averaging only 7.3 wins per season?  Averaging only less than seven over the last five years?  No wonder we are where we are on that list.

Now – we have seen this chart below before in different iterations but the article includes it to show, basically, how the rich get richer.  This is from schools’ 2015-2016 financial disclosures. (Private schools don’t have to do so).

Where is Pitt on this chart you may ask? Nowhere would be the answer as we didn’t have a revenue of at least $50M during that time period (or any other time period but it would sure be nice!) which was the lowest starting amount shown on there.

The article also addresses another interesting question…

How about the schools with financial resources and solid brand recognition, yet relatively poor recruiting results?  Wisconsin can barely land a single 4 star recruit yet appears in the top 16 of both our brand rankings and revenue rankings.  Darlow described an issue he frequently sees, stating: “Too many schools are leading with the same three or four recruiting pitches; things like playing time, head coach prowess, facilities…and every program is a “family” these days. As is the case in any industry, when you go blow for blow with your competition, you’ll eventually lose to the bigger, stronger opponent.”  

Which is basically what we seen happen with Pitt’s recruiting efforts in the past and recently. All the above is nothing new to Pitt fans.  We are well versed in the limitations Pitt has in its football program; no on-campus stadium, situated in a professional sports town, surrounded by bigger and more successful football schools, etc…

All is not lost though – in a lesson that Pitt and especially Heather Lyke need to take to heart the authors say this about branding…

Brand perception is not only one of the most important assets to an athletic department, but it is one of the easiest assets to change as well.  Darlow describes in his book that perception, recruiting, winning, and money make up the four phases of an Athletic Program Life Cycle, in that order.  

All four phases are interrelated, yet the ability to affect the different phases is not equal.  It is difficult for an athletic director to wake up and say, “I want to make 20% more money this year.”  It is more realistic for an athletic director to say, “I want to improve my brand perception.”  Perception in turn affects recruiting, which affects winning, which affects revenue.  Each phase is most greatly influenced by the preceding phase.

Look, I understand that all the above – the four phases of the cycle – and they are more easier talked about than done, but Pitt has to start somewhere.  And I’ll say this – even though the article linked above is about college football programs – our Administration and our AD better take a long and hard look at what Pitt’s train-wreck of a basketball program is doing to the overall athletic image of the University in its current state.  If they don’t believe that the extremely negative play on the court and the ensuing  negative local and national press we are getting on that front bleeds over and impacts the football program also… then I think they are fooling themselves.

They are part and parcel of one athletic department.

 

“Trust But Verify” – Pitt’s New Coaching Motto

“Trust But Verify” – Pitt’s New Coaching Motto

Here is a slight rebuttal piece from our reader and commenter Michaelangelo Monteleone aka The Atlanta Panther.

Welcome to Pittsburgh Coach Dave Borbely.  We are mildly pleased to make your acquaintance.  It’s not that we don’t want you here, it’s just that we’re skeptical that you’ll be an improvement. 

To wit the article that Reed posted on Monday did not exactly inspire confidence.  If we remember correctly, he labeled you “Grim Reaper of Maryland QBs”.  If only you coached our defensive line.  In fairness you were only “Special Assistant to the Head Coach” when all those QB injuries happened in 2017.  Still, your 2016 Sacks Allowed ranking of 127th is pretty bad. 

Granted you had a slow-footed quarterback from Pittsburgh Central Catholic behind that offensive line of yours, (and GOD DO WE KNOW WHAT THAT’S LIKE), but still…

That being said, like any good College of Arts and Sciences graduate would do, I’m keeping an open mind.  “Trust but verify” is an old Russian proverb.  “Curiosity killed the cat.” said another.  Three beers and the internet and we shall find the truth, so let’s try to do that now.

We will start in 2010.  That’s when you signed on to coach Louisville Offensive line.  It was, in many respects your best year.  RB Bilal Powell (currently of the New York Football Jets) ran for 1900 yards and scored 11 touchdowns.  The quarterbacks, veteran and savvy as they were, stayed upright in the pocket.  They passed for 2500 yards and 22 TD’s.  Of course this had to be behind an inherited O-Line, and I’m guessing most of them were upperclassmen, because your next year was atrocious.

Continue reading ““Trust But Verify” – Pitt’s New Coaching Motto”

New OL Coach for Pitt; Bad News for Pickett

dave-borbely-2015In an area of what I believe is desperate in need – Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi has hired one Dave Borbely as the new Offensive Line coach.  I almost had a heart attack when I saw who it was though… Dave Borbely – the Grim Reaper of Maryland QBs.

Here is Pitt’s press release on the hire:

Dave Borbely Named Pitt Offensive Line Coach
LINK: Borbely Hired at Pitt

 PITTSBURGH—Dave Borbely, who owns a long and productive history of developing impact offensive linemen, has been named Pitt’s new offensive line coach by head coach Pat Narduzzi.

 Borbely (BOAR-bah-lee) has more than three decades of experience coaching offensive line play at the collegiate level. He owns 37 years of experience overall, including tenures at Notre Dame, Colorado, Virginia, Louisville, Stanford and, most recently, Maryland.

 “After a long and detailed search, I’m really thrilled to welcome Dave Borbely as our new offensive line coach,” Narduzzi said. “We could not have hired a more experienced or qualified coach to continue our growth on the offensive front. Dave is an outstanding teacher who knows how to develop players. He owns a long relationship with our offensive coordinator, Shawn Watson, which will be a major strength for our coaches and players alike. Dave has a great football mind and will be a huge asset in our game planning throughout the season.”

 (Borbely responds:)

I want to thank Coach Narduzzi and the Pitt staff for this opportunity,” Borbely said. “To have the chance to coach at an institution with such rich history like Pitt is a huge honor for me. Also, to have the opportunity to coach where Joe Moore started his great legacy as the best in the business is very humbling. I’m greatly looking forward to getting started.”

Borbely spent the past two seasons at Maryland. In 2016, his offensive front helped the Terps produce 2,594 rushing yards, only the seventh time in program history—and first since 2003—the Terps surpassed 2,500 yards on the ground. Maryland also rushed for 26 touchdowns in 2016, its most since the 2007 campaign.

Stop the presses!!

Hey, I’m going to interrupt this right here.  Talk about selective writing on Pitt’s part.

I live down here in Maryland Terrapin Country and the running joke down here was…. drum roll please… how bad the the OL was because every QB Maryland had to throw out onto the field of play crawled  back hurt.  Seriously, four different kids had to play because they kept getting the crap knocked out of them and were seriously injured. Here’s what I mean:

Maryland true freshman quarterback Kasim Hill is out for the season with a torn ACL. Hill went down in the team’s third game of the season, just two weeks after starter Tyrrell Pigrome also tore his ACL in a win at Texas.

Four-star North Carolina transfer Caleb Henderson, the oft-presumed starter during the offseason, has been injured since then and is yet to appear this season.

That means Maryland’s relying on its de-facto fourth-stringer, true sophomore Max Bortenschlager. He’ll be the guy who leads Maryland into Columbus to face No. 10 Ohio State on Saturday (4 p.m. ET, Fox).

Why?  Because Maryland’s OL has been truly horrid in pass protection over the last two seasons.  They truly sucked.  A key indicator if an OL is doing their job is two-fold.  First it is how well the running game went.  Secondly., and I think this is even more important given Pitt’s situation with a first year starting QB, is how well does the OL protect the QB.

Well, not a whole lot of good things to say about point #2 there.  Maryland has been at the bottom of the D1 ranks in the last two years in both “Sacks Allowed” and “Tackles for Loss Allowed”

Here are Maryland’s actual Sacks and TFLs Allowed stats from the NCAA for the 2016 and 2017 seasons (remember there are only 129 D1 teams):

sacks md

Add to all that the fact that we’ll be playing with an inexperienced OL two-deep in 2018 and fear creeps in…I’m thinking of taking an insurance policy out on Pickett’s life tonight.

Not much more to say about this fellow. He did follow his verbal prompt to drop old Pitt OL coach Joe Moore’s name as soon as he could for the fan’s sake so that’s a good thing.

Color me unimpressed.