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.
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.
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.
A day for celebration and remembrance of what hard work and sacrifices both our Citizens and Citizen-Soldiers have made to make and keep the United States of America a free and vibrant democracy. I appreciate what has taken place before us and before today and with my circle of family, friends and acquaintances – including each and every one of you readers – I know we’ll keep the USA on an even keel for centuries to come.
So… If we are remembering stuff, then take a break from the scrambled eggs, grilled bratwurst and mashed potatoes I know every red-blooded American is eating for their 4th of July meal (at least that’s what we did at our German Grandma’s house when I was a kid) and take a minute to review some of the past and glorious Big Game victories Pitt has had in the last 19 years…
Let’s time travel back to Walt Harris’s tenure at Pitt and see what he, and our following HCs, have done when faced with Big Games on a national stage. Here are the matches as determined by me to have the label “Big Games ” which were mostly when our opponents had Top 25 rankings either on the day of the game or at the end of the season (as in lats year’s PSU win).
For a holiday treat and because you are great Pitt fans I linked a ton of info in the chart below. The actual scores of the games are linked to the box score and the “Opponent’s Gameday Rank” column has either articles about the game or some videos I thought were fun to watch… Grab a beer and Enjoy!!
(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”→
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 recruitingrating (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…