Well, I was surprised as anyone to see that this morning, a Michigan State Spartan fan named Steve had some questions about the Cat Basket and about the upcoming game on saturday. So, while I responded to Steve, I figured I would share the same information with our readers. This isn't really a preview, but more of a what Pitt is and what Pitt needs to be for saturday.
I'll use some of Steve's questions and i'll throw in some tidbits of my own.
How are you today?
Well, I can't speak for Jason Jones, but DPJ is fine and dandy thank you for asking.
What do you believe Pitt's biggest strength's and weaknesses are at this point?
I think this answer is best suited looking at the offense and defense. Offensively, Pitt's new found rushing game is by far our biggest strength. Pitt has a full compliment of running backs that can be very effective on saturday. Everyone is finally realizing that Shady is all we expected him to be and then some. Hot-Rod, LSH, is a quick back who is dangerous on sweeps and screen passes, he is a great side to side runner and plays very well in the open field. Conredge Collins and Shane Brooks are the fullbacks who are both above average blockers (at least I believe so) and they both can run the ball very well. Pitt has needed this type of rushing attack, and it is hard to fathom that in one year, we have turned a weakness into our biggest
Our biggest offensive weakness is Qb experience. Billy Stull was the opening day starter but was forced out against Eastern Michigan with a hand injury and will be out 4-6 weeks. Kevan Smith right now is the starter, but he only has a total of 13 career starts at the high school and college level combined. He played well enough to move the offense against EMU and had a very nice 50 yard touchdown pass to Pitt's big tight end Nate Byham. Behind Smith is true freshman Pat Bostick who many fans criticized for throwing an interception on his very first pass. Dan Marino did the same thing in his first game at Pitt, but I don't expect to see Bostick much this week just because he is a true freshman.
On the defensive side, our secondary is our biggest strength. Kennard Cox, Mike Phillips, Eric Thatcher, Aaron Berry, and Ricky Gary make up one of the Big East's finest secondary's. Cox and Gary have seen the majority of time at CB this season due to a leg injury suffered in camp by Aaron Berry. Thatcher is a ranger over the middle who will always make the big hit. Phillips is a solid player who is technically sound and plays the position very well. Most people remember him from a very bad injury a couple seasons ago.
Our weakness is the linebackers. Most of the linebackers were converted from other positions (WR and Safety). To this point they have played well, but have not really been tested. They have allowed very few rushing plays to break into the secondary, but then again, it was only GSU and EMU.
Do you expect many Pitt fans to make the trip to East Lansing?
I don't expect many Pitt fans to be there. We do not travel well, and even our home attendance is poor. I personally know many people going to the game, but that is only because they are die hard fans. The Cat Basket will also be there. We'll have our standard Cat Basket sign over in section 27.
What is your opinion of Dave Wannstedt?
I think Dave Wannstedt thus far has been average. Now don't get me wrong, I think he is a good coach and I do believe he will have Pitt atop the big east very shortly, but he did have some trouble early on. When he came in, he brought a completely new mentality to this team. Instead of relying on the pass and a crazy offense, Dave wanted to adapt a run first offense. When he arrived, our offensive line was in terrible shape. Dave has recruited some great OLinemen and it takes a few years for them to develop. This season we are starting to see the team become what Coach Wannstedt wanted them to be since he arrived. Adding Shady to the mix only helped us reach this goal faster than planned.
Any predictions for this weeks game?
Well I do have a prediction, but i'm going to save that for a later post. I don't want to show my hand too early and my opinion could change between now and saturday. I do hope one thing happens. I hope that neither team has any injuries. We have been plagued by injuries since the beginning of camp. Pitt can not afford to lose another player at this point. Another important factor is that these kids are more than just football players, they are also students. It isn't easy balancing life and school, but adding football into the mix makes it even more difficult.
I hope you enjoy the game and if you do come up, make sure you enjoy the pregame atmosphere.
I'm guessing you mean tailgating. I'm sure we will hook up with some friends of Pitt's program and hang out some where, but plans aren't set in stone yet. I do look forward to seeing how your pre-game festivities compare to the Pitt's lack of tailgating. Jason Jones and I aren't really into it that much, but then again we're usually waiting for our seats 2 hours before kick off so I'll use that as our excuse.
Thanks to Steve for the email. Hopefully everything will be alright this weekend. When MSU played at Pitt last year I met some of the nicest people. Hopefully those who I have met from MSU are just as cordial as the rest of the 70 some thousand that should be at the game on saturday. This is my first big ten road game and we will be bringing you pictures and updates lives from the road, so keep checking back.
~ The One and Only ~