Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Unless major news breaks, this will most likely be the last post of 2007 from us here at The Cat Basket. So look for more thoughts, rants, and info coming in 2008. So until then, have a merry Christmas and happy holidays!

~ The Cat Basket ~

Thursday, December 20, 2007

New York Taketh, and New York Giveth

Panther faithful, don't feel too bad about losing Sales and Collier to New York's own Syracuse University.

Our Panther's have given us something to cherish with the amazing come from behind win against Duke tonight. We try to keep this football based, but when your school does something amazing, then it deserves full recognition.

Congrats Panthers, December has been a great month.

Orange Bound

Somehow they did it. Greg Robinson and is highly disappointing Syracuse team looks to be in great shape landing two 4-star recruits that were highly interested in Pitt. Today at 3 p.m. Marcus Sales will be announcing his college choice. Originally he was very high on Pitt, but after landing a few more Wr's in this class and given our already existing depth and Wr, it makes sense for Mr. Sales to go to a place where he could earn playing time much earlier.

The second player who is probably going to end up in Syracuse is Kevan Collier's younger brother Averin Collier. Collier was almost a Pitt lock from day one when his recruitment was opened. However, given last years recruiting class, a redshirt year for Kevan, and the emergence of Shady McCoy as the best running back in college, it really made Averin look else where. Clemson seemed to be high on his list but an offer never came putting the battle between Pitt and Cuse. Dave Wannstedt has been very open with Averin and told him that his future with the Panthers would be on the defensive side of the ball and not at running back. I'm not sure how much Kevan can do to sway his brother to Pitt, but if he wants to play running back and not defense, then I'm not sure how much convincing can be done.

While it looks like both of these talented players will be at Syracuse in the fall do not underestimate the power of Wannstedt when it comes to recruiting. If Collier, Sales, and even Alexander wanted to come to Pitt we would find room to bring those three in, as well as some other players we have our eyes on. So before we get all in a tizzy that we lost some players to Cuse (if it happens) just keep in mind that those players want to play in spots where we are extremely deep at. If in fact they do go to Cuse, do not hold it against them. They are 18 year old high school students that need to make the best choice to help further them in life. Whether it be in Syracuse or Pitt, I'm just glad they felt good enough about our University to consider it a place they would like to spend the next 4 or 5 years of their life.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Thats 2 for the good guys.

Robb Houser and Greg Cross both sent in their LOI's today. Coach Wannstedt said that both will enroll in January and be available for spring practices. Right now you can pencil Houser in as your 2008 starting center.

Cross is a very interesting signing. He has amazing speed and a decent arm. He will be a true threat when running the wildcat. Instead of just having Shady run it or hand it off to TJ Porter, we can actually throw the ball now. As far as running our regular offense, Cross will be battling with Billy Stull and Pat Bostick. Bostick has the most D1 experience, however Stull was the starter heading into the season last year. Cross overall has more game experience than both of them plus he played in a very competitive JuCo conference. I would love to make an accurate prediction here, but this thing is wide open and I have no clue which direction the staff will go on this one.

I'm glad I'm not a hoopie.

I wasn't sure how to approach this subject, but I think I have found the best way to phrase how I feel about the entire situation. For the most part, I hate almost everything related to WVU athletics. I hate the actions of their fans, I hate the arrogance of their teams, and I hate the attention they have received lately.

With that out of the way, I am very torn on how I feel about Rich Rodriguez leaving WVU. Don't get me wrong, Rodriguez is an arrogant fool who left a great situation to go to a place where he will never be able to do enough. The way he sold his team out was unfair to the players and to the administration. I always disliked Rodriguez and even though he is no longer a Mountaineer, I will always cheer against UM (except against UPS).

The fans at WVU are some of the most classless, ruthless, and immature people I have ever met in my entire life. Some people have said that it is karma that brought WVU fans down from their high horse and provided some humility following the 13-9 upset. Even with that humility now slightly recognizable, for now, in their fan base I still feel like they deserve this and do not deserve this all at the same time.

I have not been treated well every time that I have ventured to WVU for a game. I still remember the WVU fans coming to the Pitt message boards during the game and trash talking like we shouldn't even show up to play the game. I remember their fans rejoicing in the fact that UCLA stole Ben Howland from us following the 2003 season. Even in 2006 when Jamie Dixon was heavily rumored to Arizona State, the WVU fans came to our message boards gloating that we were simply a "stepping stone" university. For those reasons, I am glad that WVU fans are suffering the way they are.

On the other hand, they had to deal with John Beiline leaving once Patty graduated. I actually felt bad then because I, along with all of the other Pitt faithful understood how hard it is to lose a coach. Nothing is more disrespectful that someone saying this job, where I am making millions of dollars, and this university is not worthy of my services any more. Prior to Beiline leaving WVU, Rodriguez was heavily rumored to Alabama. Reports were that it was a done deal and that RichRod was leaving a potential national championship caliber team to rebuild what was once a great program. In the end Richrod was able to get more money from the university as well as promises to improve the football team in many different areas. I was glad to see RichRod stay because the "Big" school wasn't able to steal a coach from the Big East. Finally it looked like we were going to be able to stand on our own ground.

Fast forward to 2007. UM isn't able to get their man Les Miles after Kirk Herbstreit leaks information that he will be the next coach of UM. After that, UM goes after Rutgers coach Greg Schiano. Schiano (who is probably holding out for JoePa to die) tells them no thank you. Then it was left to RichRod. After a recruiting trip, Rodriguez goes to Toledo and hammers out a deal to be the next coach of Michigan. After losing a basketball coach to UM and their womens soccer coach to UM, RichRod follows suit.

I can't imagine what it would be like to have to go through "possibly" losing your coach after each season. The only ones close to knowing what this would be like is Louisville fans having to deal with Bobby Petrino applying for every single NFL coaching vacancy until he was hired by Atlanta.

So this is where we stand, WVU has lost another coach. Whomever is brought in will most likely not be able to win immediately because Rodriguez usually got the guys who fit his system, and is a good enough coach to adapt his offensive and defensive philosophy based upon who he had on the roster. In the end Pitt will benefit because I HIGHLY doubt WVU will be able to bring in a coach better than Rodriguez. This will also help Pitt recruit better in the area without having to deal with a strong WVU team threatening us each year. Despite all of this, I do feel bad that a Big East school, even if it is WVU has to go through this again. No matter who WVU decides to replace RichRod with, hopefully he stays put for a while but manages to lose to Pitt each and every year.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Putting the Pieces together

Well today was a big day for the Pitt Panthers. JuCo center Robb Houser made a wise choice and decided that the last two years of his college career would be best spent at Pitt. When it basically came down to Pitt and Syracuse you had to feel great about where we stood. Wannstedt really knows how to recruit and with some wins (like the WVU game) could really make a huge splash nationally in the recruiting scene.

Speaking of recruiting, Shayne Hale, Cameron Saddler, and Jonathan Baldwin were all in attendance at the Pitt/OSU bball game today. For a long time Hale did not even consider Pitt, however friend and teammate Cameron Saddler chose Pitt, and Hale then became interested. Many felt that Hale/Saddler were a package deal and if that is the case, then the sun is shining brightly on Pitt.

I didn't talk to Shayne at the game but I can tell you this about his visit. He came over to the Zoo with Cameron and watched the game for a few minutes with the Zoo. Not only that, but Shayne and Cameron were both wearing Oakland Zoo shirts. There were many signs and chants from the small Zoo crowd. At this point, I'm fairly confident that Wannstedt will be getting a silent verbal from Mr. Hale and we will continue to keep the Wannstache recruiting train rolling.

Stay tuned folks, this is just the beginning.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Even the WVU band has class

Today's PG has a nice article about how a few members of the WVU band are being "disciplined" for their actions at the Backyard Brawl. You can find the link here.

While we admit that our fans are not always the best, you can always expect to find WVU fans embarrassing themselves with every given opportunity. From the rock throwing incident this year, to Gray's a Fa***t at last year's Backyard Brawl Basketball game. I really didn't expect the WVU band to get involved. Fans at games do not have anyone looking over them to make sure they aren't starting a bad chant (unless you are a zoo leader), but the bands always have the director as well as other assistants who are in the presence of the band for the entire game.

C'mon guys, if you were going to pull crap like that you should have known that 1. You're in the band and should act with more class than the rest of your fans, 2. Doing things like that in a large rivalry game will put extra attention on you so calm down and drop the inappropriate stuff.

While I do not trust most Pitt students to always behave accordingly (see the youtube videos), I know for a fact that our band will never do anything that would warrant an article in the Post Gazette about it.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Another Commit

Tino Sunseri has committed to give us our 3rd QB of the class. Depth is no longer going to be an issue it seems.

12 down, ??? to go.

While some people saw it coming, and I certainly did not, Pitt got a commitment from 6'5 WR Mike Shanahan. Now don't get me wrong, I'm just as upset as you are. I hate Shanahan and his entire system that he will bring from Denver. Alright, sorry, that was a poor attempt at humor, i'll let the guys at Panther Rants make all the jokes. Shanahan adds a nice set of height and speed to our lineup. It is amazing how deep our offense is becoming. With all of the commits that gives us 5 Qb's on scholarship who will have the opportunity to hand the ball off to our amazing core of running backs and a great set of receivers. The only thing that could make Shanahan more explosive is if he had a very tall, very athletic tight end to go with him.


There is more news!!

Jonathan Baldwin announced today that he is going to be a Panther. Now this is no surprise given that it was leaked he called Wanny after the brawl. He has family connections to Pitt and continues that great Alliquippa pipeline to Pitt. Baldwin is the #3 ranked tight end in the country and is almost as a sure shot for the NFL as any other recruit prospect this year. His height and speed will make matchups a nightmare for everyone else in the Big East.

While we, and others, have questioned Wanny's coaching ability, there is no doubt he is by far the best recruiter in the country. Look at what he has been able to do with 3 non-winning seasons. Next year is the bench mark year and with the talent we have, a 9-3 or 10-2 season could make Wanny UNSTOPPABLE on the recruiting front.

We also have to see if any 5th year seniors will be asked to leave. We have a great momentum going right now, and if it means asking someone not to comeback that really won't contribute to this team, well, at least that person is close to or maybe even has graduated by the end of this year. It will also be interesting to see what happens to recruits who aren't getting much interest from other teams. Taglienetti and Gardiner come to mind with this. Right now other than a Grayshirt opportunity at OSU, we are Gardiner's best choice. Tag's doesn't have many other offers and we are probably the biggest school he will get an offer from. It would be wise to take that offer while it is still on the table.

Lastly, for all of you Zoo members out there. Shayne Hale will be at the basketball game on saturday and we need to make sure we seal the deal with him. He is cousin's with Cameron Saddler, and less than a week ago we were eliminated from his list. Cameron commits and we are back in the mix. A checklist sign will probably make an appearance. So lets get creative and get Shayne to say Pitt is it!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Cross Commits

As expected, Greg Cross gave his verbal to coach Dave Wannstedt and the Panthers today. Cross should be considered the top threat to Billy Stull in camp this year for the starting job. It will be interesting to see if this commit impacts any of our other players and commits. Usually players are loyal to Wanny and we do not typically see them back out or transfer on him, but every year is different.

More quarterback controversy

Some early reports this weekend had Tino Sunseri backing out of his Louisville commitment and verballing to the Panthers. Now I've checked with my sources and they aren't confirming or denying this situation which basically means my sources do not know at this point.

Some of the more popular recruiting websites have kept this information quiet which also makes me think that only a few people know the truth. Usually when someone commits the info is easily found across the internet. Right now all we have are a few people who claim to have the inside info as well as PSR saying the same.

If all goes as planned and Sunseri and Cross commit to Pitt we will have an interesting situation brewing. We will have a 6 man battle for the quarterback spot next year.

Billy Stull, Pat Bostick, Kevan Smith, Greg Cross, Tino Sunseri, and Zach Stoudt would all be in the race. Stull should be considered the front runner as the staff feels Bostick really needs to redshirt and work on some mechanics. Kevan Smith played poorly enough early in the season that it will take something amazing from him to win the job. Greg Cross is a dual threat qb with great speed. I would say he would be the logical #2 in this race based upon natural ability and the added dimension he could add to the offense. I also believe that Stoudt and Sunseri, if both become Panthers would redshirt. This situation is much like the Getsy/Palko situation we saw when they were freshmen. Palko saw some time while Getsy redshirted. The next season, the reverse happened. In the end Getsy was upset that he was not named the starter and had a great career with JD Brookhart in Akron. I really can't expect all 6 qb's to stay on the roster. Stull is old enough that he really shouldn't transfer because he would only have one year of eligibility left. Smith may leave, and as a poster said earlier on my previous post, an OSU offer could pull Stoudt away from us.

We will see what shall happen. This definitely will make for an interesting spring and fall battle in camp.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The good news just keeps coming in.

Unless you live in a cave, you probably have heard by now that by some divine intervention, we were able to grab Cameron Saddler out of the firm grip of UVa's hands. Maybe I was trying to prepare myself for the worst just like I was doing for the WVU game, but I never expected us to land him. According to some people close to the program, his attitude towards Pitt really changed after the WVU game. He was at WVU on his official visit and after the game had ended he wanted to go into the Pitt locker room but wasn't able to. I have also heard rumblings that Wanny and Dickrod went to his house around the same time and that Dickrod was not pleased to see the old Wannmobile in the driveway.

This commitment is huge not because he is a 4 star return specialist from what has been a PSU pipeline high school, it is important because Saddler is the type of player you want in your program. He is very well spoken, highly intelligent, and appears to be passionate about everything he engages in. The second biggest thing about this commitment will be the domino effect we see. Saddler has been open in admitting that he and Shayne Hale would like to go to the same college. Hale originally had crossed Pitt off his list, but all of a sudden in a recent interview Hale said that Pitt is back in the fold. Again, it will be hard to beat UVa, but if there is one thing Wanny has shown he can do better than anyone else in the Big East, it is recruit.

Speaking of linebackers, we just landed quarterback Zach Stoudt. I know you are wondering where this is going, but let me explain. Stoudt is a highly rated Qb from Dublin Oh (motherland of Adam Graessle). Not only is he the son of the man who replace Terry Bradshaw at quarterback in 1983, but he is also good friends with a linebacker from the Buckeye State. That linebacker would be Steve Gardiner. If we can land Gardiner (which is about 97%) and Hale, we would be in very good shape at linebacker with this year and last years class.

Still no work on Jonathan Baldwin. He will be a Panther, but the question is when will he announce? My best guess is that he will wait until late in the recruiting process to make an announcement. If you notice he also has Florida and Miami on his interest list. Pitt, Miami, and UF. It sounds like someone is going to have a couple of nice vacationing weekends in Florida before becoming a Panther.

Lastly, if you are worried about the number of scholarships this year, don't let it bug ya too much. Pestano will not be back on the team next year. On field performance as well as reported attitude issues have cost him his scholarship. Wanny has remained strong in his belief that he will hold up his end of the deal and if you do not hold up your end he will pull your scholarship. He has done this each and every season. I wouldn't be surprised to see a couple of more guys (think DL and DB) to be gone in the next few weeks.

As more news happens we will continue to let you know about it.


Monday, December 3, 2007

In games like this, legends are made.

That was the quote tonight from Dave Wannstedt on PanthersWeekly. Just think about it. All of us who watched this game will always remember the night we held WVU out of the national championship. We will remember Shady McCoy breaking the all time Big East rushing record. We will remember the game where Scott McKillop showed the world that he is the new premier linebacker in college football. We will remember this game as everyone trashing Pitt saying our players couldn't match up, our coaches couldn't match up, and that this game was only a formality until WVU finally had a real shot for a national championship.

Despite all of our weaknesses and handicaps, we found a way. We showed the world how the spread could be defeated. We showed the world that anything can happen. We showed the world that our Panthers are not as far behind as people thought they were. This game should propel Pitt to a top 25 ranking next season. This game should give us reason to believe that the "benchmark" year that next season is, really can shape up to be a special one. Hardly any of the teams in the Big East will improve skill wise as we will. We get our 3 big games (wvu, louisville, and rutgers) at home. We have a chance to get redemption against Notre Dame for our embarrassing loss 2 years ago.

Our players did not quit. All season long there was reason to give up and pack it in, but we fought in each and every game. We saw the highs of upsetting Cincy. We were dejected after the rutgers and louisville games. Today, none of that matters. We are Backyard Brawl champions. While we do not have another game until opening night 2008, there are very few other ways that we as Panther fans can go into the offseason and feel great about where we are.

Thank you seniors, thank you coaches, thank you everyone else involved with this Panther team. Every year we could go 1-11 as long as we beat WVU. You have us on a great path and I can't wait to continue this ride.

Disjointed Thoughts About 13-9

I don't know what to say other than its finally great to have something positive to write about. We are 5-7 but we have the marquee win of a generation to build on. Saturday in Morgantown feels like the start of something great. Standing on the steps of the Cathedral singing the fight song is the Pitt-centric sporting moment in my four and a half years here at Pitt, two weeks before I graduate.

All the credit in the world needs to go to Coach Wannstedt and Coach Rhoads. In one night Paul Rhoads may have destroyed the WVU Spread for good. His gameplan was perfect and played to every strength of our defense. For night we had the best defense in the entire country, WVU had no chance with the speed and physicality our guys brought to Morgantown. Coach Wannstedt exploded with enthusiasm and energy he looked like he wanted to jump on the field and make the tackles himself, I couldn't believe how ready our team came out looking.

Scott McKillop and Shady may have earned their place in the Panther Hall of Fame in one game. Shady has done everything he could possibly do in his first season as a Panther. On and off the field he is the perfect college player and we are in for two more years of greatness. He was a one man offense and it worked to perfection. Meanwhile, Scott McKillop has replaced an NFL player HB Blades and looks to be twice the player he was. I have never seen a college linebacker with his tackling ability, our defense was engineered to force WVU to go near McKillop because he would put them into the ground. I know everybody has crowned Dan Connor the Next Great Linebacker but McKillop needs to be considered for every post-season award.

Every member of our much-maligned Senior class played great and truly earned their spot. Jameel Brady and Mike Phillips made key players that I never thought either could make. Strong made the biggest catch of his entire life to save a drive. Mike McGlynn opened holes for Shady. I really don't know where these performances came from but if they were saving them up they picked the right time to unleash them.

I don't want to say anything about the officiating other than I hope those officials all lose their jobs. It was a disgrace to the conference the way they called the highest profile Big East game in years. Steve Pederson better have got on the horn to lodge an official complaint.

I don't know what else to say other than savor the moment Pitt fans. Our three years of mediocrity may finally be over and a new day has come. This one game I think has earned Wannstedt his contract extension and solidified Paul Rhoads' job. I still can't believe that it happened and the ramifications of this game will be felt for years.

I've never been more happy to be wrong about a game and a coaching staff. I already got what I want for Christmas!!!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Pitt vs the Hoopies Live blog

Well this should be pretty interesting. We got myself, Jones, Scudzy, and the hoopie lady in attendance tonight at the DPJ household for the game.

7:55 - Turner didn't turn around for the ball and it led to a bad INT. WVU gets the ball and of course we can't stop them on 3rd down. Hopefully this doesn't turn into 7.

8:00 - McAfee misses the FG. Good for us. The hoopie is pissed.

8:12 - A lot of punts going on. Jason and the hoopie are getting into some good debates. I feel another 3 and out is in order, but we will see.

8:21 - Nice to see Thatcher listened to my advice and hit the shit out of White. And McAFEE WITH A MISS! Time to score here Pitt. Hoopie anger level reaching new highs.

8:48 - Bostick with another pick. That was a hell of an interception though. No worries though, Bostick will get his chance. Is it too early to say wildcat with Mo Williams?

8:58 - White hurt with a thumb injury. I'm not too excited. Last big game I saw a qb get injured, Drew Bledsoe beat the Steelers in the AFC championship. I hope this doesn't happen again.

9:03 - Looked like a flop to me. Thats a bull shit call and then a TD. Fucking bullshit.

9:16 - Well this should be 3-3 at worst, but a crap call here and a crap call there and we are down by 4. I can live with that. I hope we can make the required adjustments and win this game.

9:46 - OH NOOOO!!!!!!!! PITT IN THE LEAD!!!! CAT BASKET HIMSELF!! Way to go Bostick. We are up 3. If we win, the hoopie may never talk to me again, but that's something that I'm ready to take. We need this. Lets keep going.

9:51 - Oh boy, 3 and out but a sideline warning. Oh my. Hoopie and Jones are getting in a fight. Interesting stuff at the 305 MIA. C'mon!!

10:04 - Bullshit holding call. This game should be 17-7 but the big east officials fuck it all up. I'll say this. The Big East officials have fucked more than any coach ever. And connor lee misses the field goal. This is bullshit. It is obvious who the refs want to win. BULLSHIT!

10:15 - Berry with a dumb penalty. It is ok though because this drive can take time off the clock. Lets see what we can do.

10:18 - Strong with the play of the game. Way to keep this drive alive. In case you want a hoopie update. Well this might be the end of the relationship despite me giving her free steeler sideline passes for tomorrow. Let's see what happens.

10:26 - First down McCoy following the crazy fumble. I think the hoopie may never talk to me again. I hope she realizes it is just football, but if Pitt can win this would be great C'mon Pitt! Time out Pitt. This is a good time out. Get that time out in and calm this team down. This could be the change in the Pitt program we have all wanted. The Defense has been great. Keep it up Rhoads. Like we said earlier in the week, your job is safe. Lets win this damn game!!

10:32 - Pitt up 13 to 7. I wish it were 20-7 but we do what we have to do. I just hope we can win this game.

10:36 - Mr. White back after a big Noel "Not your christmas" Devine return.


10:44 - MORE FUCKING HORSE SHIT!!! THAT IS A BULL SHIT FUCKING CALL! We have been critical against Turner, but he has been ripped off twice this game. This is fucking bullshit. C'mon refs. The refs didn't even call holding against the DB which was completely obvious.

10:51 - WE WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THIS IS THE GREATEST THING EVER!!!!!!! LIFE TIME CONTRACT FOR WANNSTEDT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Paul Rhoads may have just got himself a head coaching position somewhere with that amazing performance.