Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Go vote for PittBlather

Here is the link.

It is the great Pittsburgh sports blog......something or other. Anyway, I do read a few of those blogs, but Pittblather.com has been great for getting us some press and they always provide top notch Pitt coverage (for all sports).

I hope you all go to the site and vote for Chas and maybe.......just maybe, a non-Steelers blog will win.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

New OC Thoughts

So what DPJ and the overwhelming majority of Pitt fans hoped was going to happened did, Frank Cignetti Jr. was hired as the Offensive Coordinator. Everything about this hire seems progressive and inspired from the program. DPJ listed all the advantages of Cignetti in an earlier column and I definitely agree with everything he said. Cignetti is an up and comer in the college game and gives us a boost of enthusiasm on the offensive side of the ball. Another benefit to this hire is that Cignetti brings along a cache of offensive success and innovation to the program. 

As of right now the offense in a bit of a state of flux in terms of personnel and identity. Last year, the offense was one player and that player will be playing his ball on Sundays now. We have a returning starter at QB but Stull's death grip on the job seemingly goes out the window with a new set of eyes looking at him. Cignetti has plenty of QB's to choose from but he is going to need to work diligently with the new starter or Stull seeing as developing a QB was non-existent under Cavanaugh

If you look at the other skill positions raw talent is stockpiled everywhere. At running back we have plenty of bodies to compete with the presumed frontrunners Chris Burns and Shareef Harris. Tight End is locked down with Nate Byham who could be a star in the making in a new offense. Wide Receiver is loaded and I can only assume that Jonathan Baldwin will become an even bigger part. We even have unique talents that haven't found their niche yet in Dorin Dickerson and Greg Cross. If you look at the personnel it appears as though we can run any type of system Cignetti wants.

Spring football this year needs to be all about figuring out who will lead this offense onto the field against Youngstown State in the opener, is it Stull or is it somebody else. Cignetti's success as a QB coach can remedy the biggest the problem in program currently. After we figure out who will run the offense then we can see what changes the scheme will implement. It is a very exciting time to be a Panther fan.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Keeping my fingers crossed.

YES YES YES YES YES! Ok, it is no secret, I hated the idea of Mazzone as OC. I probably would have been off the Pitt football train had he been selected and approved as the new offensive coordinator.

Instead now we have a guy who meets some of the qualifications I, and most Pitt fans, have for our next coordinator.

1. Not an NFL retread - Check
2. Successful in the college game - Check
3. Innovative - Check
4. Wants control of the offense to run his game plan - Check
5. Runs a version of the spread - Check
6. Has Pitt ties - (well, not a requirement of mine but it will make some people happy s0) Check
7. Willing to use the spread - Check
8. Builds an offense around the talent he has instead of square peg/round hole - Check
9. Was recently promoted due to success - Check
10. Someone that will bring excitement back to Pitt football - CHECK CHECK CHECK!

Now here is the tricky part. He has to actually accept the job. I hope he isn't doing this only to get more money out of Cal. I think we do have a good shot of getting him though because at Cal he has to run Tedford's offense instead of his own. At Pitt, he would be playing under a defensive coach who apparently will give him full control of the offense. (Bostick as the qb perhaps?)

There is much to be excited about with this potential hire. He is really the shot of energy that Pitt needed if we want to take the next step and win the Big East. I think he is the guy to fully utilize our weapons like Nate, Dorin, and Baldwin.

By the way, did you know he's pretty good at developing quarterbacks?

If he is hired, I will become the flag carrier for promoting Pitt. I am still suprised that only a few days ago it looked like our stone aged offense was going to end up becoming a pre-stone age offense, but now we may have a modern college offense.

If this comes to fruition and we end up with Cignetti, this may be the biggest acquisition for Pitt football since JM1. Yes, that is a bold statement, but now our offense may just catch up and maybe even surpass our dominant defense as the better side of the ball.

This certainly is a great move in the right direction.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What 9 wins really means

I'm growing very frustrated reading how "we're all pessimistic" and "Wannstedt haters" because some of the people disagree that 9 regular season wins is not as big as some people make it out to be.

Is a 9 win season successful? Yes it is.

Is the 9 win season we had enough reason to not have some concerns heading into next season? No it is not.

Let's look at some history. People are claiming this is our first 9 win season in over 25 years and that is a very big deal. To me, I don't buy that line. In the last couple of years, schools are now forced to have 12 regular season games whereas in the past, teams only had 11 games. So now we have an extra non-conference game. Most schools (like Pitt) will scheduled a lower ranked D1 team or even a FCS school (D2) for that extra game. All that means is an extra home game for more revenue and an almost automatic win to puff up your win totals. If you look at Pitt in the 80's starting with Foge, there were a few seasons that we would have had 9 or even 10 regular season wins had they had the 12th regular season game. Even going back as recently as 2004, Pitt would have had 9 regular season wins had they been able to schedule that 12th game against an inferior team as would have been the case.

The second point I want to make is that while I believe Pitt ended up with a SOS around 25, we had a schedule full of good teams, but not great teams.

Arguably Cincinnati and Rutgers ended up being the best two teams we played during the regular season (I put Rutgers ahead of USF because of their amazing turn around and the collapse that USF had finishing 1-4 in the regular season). Every other team we played had a decent year, but not a great year. 3 of the teams we played did not make a bowl and we lost to one of those teams. When we played a middle of the group PAC-10 team, we were held scoreless.

9 wins is great, but this is not the gauntlet of schedule that we have seen even just a few years ago. The Big East regressed more than I could have imagined this year. As Louisville and WVU were expected to be the dominant teams based upon their recent success, coaching changes really ruined their programs. UConn is still gathering itself and trying to find an identity. USF goes through a midseason collapse after their annual Thursday night Big East beat down (luckily Pitt did it to them this year although a 5 point win is not a beat down). Rutgers turned it on at the end of the season but was awful early on. Now Cincinnati, our BCS representative, has lost a ton of players and will not be at the level they were at last year.

We won 9 games against teams that were not all that great last year. It is amazing that we didn't run the table and go 12-0 last year as that was probably the best chance we had in recent memory. We had a great leader at RB and an amazing talent at linebacker. Now they are gone and we have to prepare for life without them.

Unless there is some amazing change with this team, I do not see them winning more than 7 or 8 games, especially if the offense remains the same. Any SEC, Big 12, and most Big 10 teams would run through our schedule with ease. We simply just had an above average year.

I want to make something clear here. There is nothing wrong with pointing these things out. Looking at facts and being objective is what makes a good fan. If you blindly follow or blindly hate the coach without reason, that is where the problem lies. I'm not trying to be doom and gloom here, I am simply pointing out that 9 wins is a successful season, but it is not the season some are making it out to be nor is it the only predictor as to how we should expect to perform next year.

I look forward to some good discussion about this.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Junior Day is almost here

In the past few years junior day has been pretty uneventful for our Pitt Panthers. It was a day when almost every local kid would come to check out Pitt whether or not they had interest. This year might be a little bit different. This year some of the local kids who are heading to the nitters and one who is going to eventually end up a nitter decided to pass on coming to Pitt this weekend. I'm completely fine with that as if you're not going to be a Panther, don't waste our time and money.

Another big difference is that come Monday, Pitt will probably have at least one commitment. There are a few kids coming in this weekend who love Pitt and have us at the top of their radar. Hopefully if they are offered they accept so that we can get an early jump on recruiting for next season as we would be in trouble with back to back "down" recruiting years.

Also of note this weekend is that the new offensive coordinator might be in attendance. Before you think they'll name someone today or tomorrow, let me just say don't expect anything until late next week at the earliest. From what we are hearing, the staff is really starting to consider Angelichio for the job. Before this, I said that his chances were pretty slim. There have been some recent events (most notably Chan Gailey telling Pitt he is no longer interested) that have led the staff to start taking Angelichio more seriously. Now before we get too excited that we'd be hiring a young, up and coming coach with a bright future, just remember he does not fit the Wannstedt mold. He doesn't have much experience elsewhere. The thing that is helping him though is that he knows Wannstedt's system and could run it just like Dave wants it. Despite that, I still think we will go with some one with much more experience. With Gailey out of the picture, I really think it will be Noel Mazzone. He has NFL and NCAA experience which is what Wanny values. This would also be the "safe" pick and that is typical of Wannstedt. My prediction is 80% that it will be Mazzone.

I was discussing with Jason about the coaching philosophy at Pitt. I believe his description is a very accurate one. Not only are the Steelers and Pitt on the opposide sides of the building in South Side, they are also on the opposite sides of coaching philosophy. One side lets the coordinators do their jobs without too much interference and meddling. The other side demands to have full, hands on control over what happens and doesn't trust some of those around him to do their job. The reason I feel that Angelichio won't get the job is because I feel the lack of inexperience would not give Wannstedt the confidence he needs to trust someone around him.

EDIT: Paul Zeise is reporting Mazzone has moved, as expected, to the top of the OC list.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tuesday Sports Info

Here are some of your headlines for Tuesday, February 10.

Another WVU player (Jock "i'm going to be the next Larry" Sanders) was arrested. This time drunk driving. Sure it's not as bad as the Penn State brawl (that somehow went unpunished for the starters), but it is still breaking the law. This is his second offense after he was charged with assault last year. My prediction?........Pain...... Just kidding. I'm sure he'll get some little community service job and be on the field when the Panthers make it 3 in a row over the hoopies.

Like RKO said in the comments in the post below, the Cav hiring is finally official. Say goodbye to the only coach we have on the roster that took responsibility for his poor planning. Anyone else want to step up and accept some blame?

WaHa was at the game with Steve Pederson last night. I made sure SP saw my "We Want WaHa" sign. He smiled when he saw it and wouldn't give us any info on whether it would happen or not.

PSI is reporting the Pens are interested in Nik Antropov. I don't know much about the guy other than the fact he is from Kazakhstan and I don't know about you, but I'd love to see a Borat appearance at Mellon Arena.

Pitt's junior day will be against Cincy this year. Over 100 juniors will get to see the #4 team in the country dismantle the Bearcats. After the lackluster game they beat us with in football, I hope we win by 50.

Breaking news. Alex Rodriguez was busted for steroids. Shocked? Neither am I. Almost everyone in baseball was/is on steroids (Ryan Howard I'm looking at you). Just admit it. It's becoming cooler to have been busted for it than to not have. Why not just come out say you did it, write a book, sell out some teammates and make a few extra bucks on the side. That is the baseball I want to see.

I'm being told Wanny is meeting with Gailey during his vacation to Florida. Makes sense I guess. At least Gailey had some significant college experience.

I can't believe how tight lipped everyone is about the OC job. You would think we're trying to protect the Pope's travel routes. C'mon Pitt, we just want to know who is going to be forced to call a conservative game plan next year.

We'll have more on Junior day coming up later in the week and hopefully we can talk about people that commit this weekend (fingers crossed).

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Saturday night update

It's Saturday night and we really still don't know much more than we did when the news from Mark Madden broke about the potential departure of Matt Cavanaugh.

So far no official word has been released and probably won't be released until Dave Wannstedt returns home from his 4 day Florida vacation.

It is always a fun time when something like this happens because rumors are flying all over the place. In the past day I've heard that Walt Harris has been to the Southside complex twice, Chan Gailey has agreed in principle to the job, and that Alex Van Pelt is number 1 on Pitt's wish list.

The only truth I can tell you is that the coaches are being very tight lipped on what is going on. Despite them not giving any names, there are several guys who keep being mentioned by several reliable sources (Zeise, Gorman, etc.)

First off I highly doubt Walt Harris will be back. I was shocked when we brought back Steve P., but this move would be more surprising than anything else. Dave Wannstedt plays a conservative WCO that is not what Walt likes to use.

Chan Gailey is a guy that if it happened I wouldn't be all that surprised. The thing that may be holding him back is the $$$. He tried getting the Chiefs job and I'm sure we all know there is a big difference between the pay scale of an NFL HC vs an NCAA OC.

Alex Van Pelt. This name was more confusing than anyone else's. He doesn't have the experience that Wannstedt seems to like from his top assistants. This is over shadowed by the fact that, yes he is a Pitt guy. As we have seen, almost anything can be over looked as long as you have pitt connections.

Noel Mazzone is (or maybe was) the Jets wide receivers coach. He does have experience coaching in the college game but doesn't really have much that looks like it could separate himself from the field.

Bill Callahan is an NFL guy who is friends with Steve Pederson. His offense in Oakland wasn't that great and he brought a prostyle to Nebraska. I don't think he will be the guy, but if there is someone for the Wannstedt mold, it is Callahan.

So since I don't think it will be any of these guys what does that mean? Well to me it means we will find someone just like Phil Bennett. A guy with some experience but someone who is flying under the radar.

I'd love to grab an OC from a smaller college that has proven to have great offensive success but let's be honest here. We will find someone who plays a conservative, prostyle offense. I also would bet that he either has ties to Wanny or Pitt.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bossard and Cav

Mark Madden stirred up Panther nation by saying sources have told him that Matt Cavanaugh will be taking the Jet's quarterback coaching job later this week.

I checked with some people and as always they are being tight lipped. It is the usual do not confirm and do not deny responses that are common in sports.

Before we all get excited let's just think back for a moment when we heard from inside sources that Ron Rivera was the guy for the Steelers job, or the inside sources who led everyone to believe Russ Grimm was going to become the head coach, the same insiders who led us to believe Jamie Dixon was already on a plane for Arizona State.

Let's just take this for what it is, simply a rumor. Before anything becomes official, don't get too all worried or worked up over it. Don't go out and buy BringBackWlat.com, just let things happen.

I do think that there might be some coincidence of this story not only being released today, but also coming to light after all of the recruits have signed their LOI's. While Pitt, WVU, and PSU all have some decent players coming in, no one has a really over the top, standout class. With this rumor about Cav coming to light, it means more Pitt people will be getting interviewed about this situation. That then turns into a nice way to hype up our class and shine the light a little brighter on Pitt.

Despite these rumblings, if a job such as this was offered to Cavanaugh, I believe he would accept this as this is the best way for him to get back as an offensive coordinator in the NFL. It all depends on if the offer from Rex Ryan exists or not.

There are some higher ups at Pitt who are demanding change for the way the Sun Bowl ended. It was all but apparent that Bryan Bossard was the man who was going to be the fall guy this season. He was unable to recruit well and we saw our receivers regress throughout the season. This was a problem he had in Maryland and looks like it is becoming a trend instead of an anomaly.

Coaching changes usually happen after LOI day to preserve committed recruits which is why I believe we will see a change made here in the next few weeks. I do believe that Wanny will allow him to look elsewhere first (like he did with Charlie Partridge) so that 1. he doesn't have to fire him and 2. To help him avoid the perception he was fired in back to back seasons.

Many people blamed his recruiting, but I feel it was the performance of a veteran core of WR's is what led to the opinions here. Many people are upset at Jeff Hafley at not landing the big 3 from New Jersey, but the important thing is that we made inroads to New Jersey and now have established a presence. Hopefully Jeff can undo the Ball school of secondary and get the players on the field to perform well while also landing top talent from the Garden State.

Nunez was first, Clarke and Bush still MIA

This has been a pretty quiet signing day for Pitt. No losses (yet), no surprises, and just a regular day all around.

Josh Evans ended up at Florida like everyone thought he would do.

Malcolm Bush still hasn't picked anywhere. I truly think he's debating on Rutgers/UNC. His high school coach is a good friend of Greg Schiano and is probably pushing him hard to end up with his friend.

Will Clarke is an interesting one. He may not sign today and may not sign in the next couple of days. It appears that it is between Pitt and Akron right now. Will wants to play and if he comes to Pitt, he would have to wait a while as the staff sees him as a big project.

I asked some coaches if we should expect any surprises today and they all responded that everything is what are expecting to get. I thought maybe since Coach Wannstedt got a phone call last night and had to leave the women's game early that maybe something big was brewing.

The only difference in opinion is how many guys we are going to sign. I was told we were targeting 22-24 in this class. If we don't end up with Clarke that will leave us with 20 total for this year which will be the first time we are under the projected amount of scholarships offered under Dave Wannstedt.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Striking out

Holmes to Rutgers
Evans to Florida
Bush to North Carolina.

Right now that looks like it is the way it will play out. Ike Holmes has committed to Rutgers which is surprising to me because I felt that he only took that visit out of respect for Schiano since Rutgers is the only program in Jersey. The staff felt very good about their chances with him and thought a commitment could have came after his visit. It now appears instead of having the next Mick Williams, we have a guy who will be battling against the Panthers for the next 4 or 5 years.

Josh Evans looks like he is going to end up at Florida. He and his coach both said that Florida is the leader for him right now, but he is still open. When you hear something like that, it's pretty much saying he's going to Florida. He probably just wants to wait until tomorrow and get a little more attention on LOI day by announcing he will be joining the National Champions.

Lastly, Malcolm Bush is taking us through a very strange journey. It appears as if he is considering Pitt as a last resort. I don't understand why a player of his caliber has an offer from Pitt yet feels the need to visit Syracuse. The word I'm hearing is that he's being told by the coaches at UNC to not expect everyone in their class to qualify so that a 'ship will open for him.

Losing out on some of these guys has left the staff to start going after other options.

Ryan Schlieper was originally committed to Maryland but was always waiting for that Pitt offer. After it was apparent that we were going to finish 3/3 with our top targets, the offer was extended to Schlieper and he switched to the Panthers.

So with 2 or 3 more scholarships to give and our top targets not being known at this time, we are setting ourselves up for my favorite thing........... LOI day surprises. This is where you find a guy you had no idea we were recruiting and he joins us out of no where. I don't think any of us saw Wayne Jones getting an offer a couple of years ago.

Who knows, maybe for once we can luck out and a top guy will switch. You just never know. I mean, I saw Corey Brown at Wendy's in Oakland Saturday afternoon. Will it happen? I'm going to say know. I bet we get 1 or 2 more guys that will come as a surprise to us.