Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Shady era is over

Those 5 words were probably 5 of the toughest I've had to write on this blog. Jason and I were there the day Shady took his official visit to Pitt. We waited around all day at the Pete as Gameday and other events took place at the Pete. That was probably one of the longest, yet most fun days in my life. We were able to host College Gameday, Pitt beat Georgetown, and the Oakland Zoo started a tradition of trying to get football recruits to come to Pitt.

While the checklist sign was one of the bigger stories of that day, I'm sure there were plenty of other great memories being made. I know one involves Jones running into Shady at Burger King before the game started. They shared a little conversation which I know will always be special to Jason. There are many other memories we will have of him that we will never forget.

When he got on the field he completely changed the game. I remember last year when he didn't play as much as we (Jones and I) thought he should in the first two games. When Jason wrote about it people jumped down his throat saying he didn't know what he was talking about and that LSH was much better than Shady. The first ever road trip Jones and I took to see Pitt football was driving to Michigan State where Shady really showed the world he was for real. His early 70 yard touchdown run proved that he was the big man on campus.

Now those are all just memories. As we wish we could have seen #1 hang around for another year or two we will wish the same of #25. We will be left with that sour taste in our mouth knowing that only two true sophomores have been able to leave early for the NFL and they were both Pitt Panthers.

It is time we move on. We can't get stuck in the past. Kevin Collier, Chris Burns, and Shariff Harris will need to step up and fill the large hole we have not only to replace Shady but to also replace LSH. We also need to make sure we don't over or under estimate our abilities this year. Shady was a very rare talent and it will probably be a very long time until we see someone as explosive as him in the backfield. That is not knocking the guys we have now, and I certainly hope I am wrong, but it would be unfair to expect any of the guys on the current roster to perform up to the same standards as Shady did.

One player does not make a team, but this loss certainly hurts. We just need to take a deep breath and move forward. There are other talented players on this team who will be expected to step up because they will be counted on to do so.

Despite all of the negativity that could surround Shady and his family for this choice, it is over and we need to accept it. So to Shady, I say thank you for a great 2 years at Pitt. You were a joy to watch every Saturday. During your time here you were a great ambassador to Pitt and I hope you continue to be one. I hope that you have a long and successful career in the NFL. No matter where you end up or where life takes you, just remember, you will always be a Pittsburgh Panther.


Michael said...

i can't speak for shady, but if i had to guess, i'd say from his point of view, he made the right choice. he made the right choice for shady. Wanny would continue to ride him (at improper times) and Shady would try to go for the home run every time. This could get him hurt. Since he suffered such a horrible injury once already, i'd venture to say he would like to avoid injury again.

And overall, this might be good for the program. Either it will expedite Wannstadt's departure, OR he will realize how inept he and his coaching staff are and will start modernizing his offense. I would like to believe in Wanny, if only because he is the head coach of a team I love dearly. He just keeps ruining Pitt football for me.

rkohberger said...

Micheal - I don't know how old you are, so I can't expect you to understand this - but nothing ever happens in a vacuum. For as much natural talent as McCoy has, success depends on a lot of circumstances, one of which is his coach.

Let's don't forget that almost every single school dropped their offers to McCoy after his injury - the only two left were PITT and PSU. Had he gone to PSU McCoy probably would not have played much if at all in the 2007 season.

Wannstedt got McCoy on this team and utilized him in a way that he could show off his talents AND help the team (which BTW is a RB's primary mission for playing football - to help the team). It was a partnership that worked out well for both McCoy and Wannstedt obviously. For you to imply that somehow his relationship with Wannstedt has a negative effect on the young man is ludicrous.

Finally - I think it's interesting that having just been through a year in which PITT wins more games in one regular season then we have done in 25 years, you feel that DW 'ruined' PITT football. Talk about short sighted in the extreme.

Please open the PITT history books and look at PITT's records since WWII ended. It's a masterpiece of mediocrity for the most part. We are coming off a very good season - have a great nucleus of players and are poised to keep winning, but you'd rather focus on anything that would make YOU feel better.

Michael said...

Of course, RKO, this was not a bad season. Shady was the only reason we had it, though. Mark my words, if we have a winning season this fall, I'll gladly eat my words and join the Wanny camp.

rkohberger said...

The "only" reason? Wow! Tell that to the rest of the PITT players.

I guess those four games we won where McCoy didn't do so well - under 100 yards rushing - were flukes.

Oh, he was very good for us, but the team didn't grind to a halt if he's didn't play well. Just as we didn't automatically win if he had a great game - (see Rutgers).

He was an integral part of the team, and certainly the most important part of the offense, but really, he's one of many kids that had to play well for PITT to come out with a win in most cases - most notably the OL and DL.

The fact that our lineman played well this season, across the board, shouldn't be discounted when looking for reasons that contributed to our success.

Things would be a lot easier in 2009 had McCoy stayed, no doubt. But I'll not assume it's an automatic losing season just because he's gone - that way of thinking doesn't hold water for me as I don't think any one player influences totally - if he did then our 2007 season should have been much better also.

DPJ said...

We really saw how important the OLine is to our success this season.

We were somewhat lost when Houser (who was a pleasant surprise) was injured.

Luckily CJ Davis was an above average, versatile lineman who picked up the center position nicely.

I don't think that Dom Williams was the answer to left guard, but Wanny liked him there. In the Sun Bowl the glaring weakness was the line. Joe Thomas, who had been making great strides throughout the season, went back to his 2007 form, Dom Williams played like Dom Williams, and Chase Clowser didn't really help us out too much.

I just wish Wanny would have stuck with his plan to play Lucas more. That is neither here nor there right now.

I'm interested to see if Wanny breaks his promise of starting Jacobsen and Nix next year. Right now we'd have 6 guys who could make a case to start.

1. Pinkston
2. Malecki
3. Houser
4. Thomas
5. Jacobsen
6. Nix

rkohberger said...

Wannstedt hasn't made any 'promises' to play anybody. What he said was that they will see a lot of action next year. Had he promised anything in terms of personnel actions I'd be shocked - and very wary as that isn't something any head coach should do before the practice camps have even started.

One thing we do know about DW and his staff - what these kids do in practice has a huge impact on who plays in the games - regardless of what the fans are clamoring for. DW has a proven track record in this.

As to how poorly the OL played in the Sun bowl - yes, it was below par for what we had seen out of them all season - but there were contributing factors in that. One of which were the two key injuries. That happens occasionally and our lack of depth showed.

However, IMO the main reason was that Oregon State had a pretty good DL (tied for 4th in the NCAA in Sacks) and they were hitting on all cylinders that day. Combine that with their good pass defense and our QB's freezing under the first hint of pressure and it added up to what looked like disaster for our OL. After all this OSU defense did a real number on the #1 team in the nation and shut down their strong rushing game when USC could only get 86 yards - and convert 20% on third downs.

When I looked at that prior to the game, I knew our OL and offense were going to be in for a long day.

I discount that bowl game anyway when looking to the future of our OL in 2009. The whole bowl game was one of those 'strange' games that defy description as it was so out of the ordinary (in a bad way) for both teams.

Bottom line - I'm really looking forward to seeing both Nix and Jacobson on the field next season, but won't hold my breath that it'll happen to be as starters on opening day. If it shakes out that way - great, but DW certainly didn't promise that it would.