Saturday, January 31, 2009

Evans update

Straight from his mouth, he is 80-90% leaning Pitt. He had a great visit and was eating up the attention from the crowd. It also helps that he was able to witness a great basketball game.

Hopefully Jeff Hafley continues that Jersey to Pitt pipeline and the talent continues to come in.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Shane Gordon is # 20

Pitt has addressed a big area of concern today by landing linebacker Shane Gordon. With Gordon and Mason, Pitt now has 2 legitimate solid prospects to become linebackers of the future. I will say that I was surprised with the Gordon commitment as I thought some of the other schools may be a little more lucrative for him, but in the end he chose Pitt.

One thing you will see posted every where is that he is a "soft-verbal". Don't read too much into that folks. The only reason he is listed as that is due to his visit to Kansas this weekend. While Shane has said he is not sure if he is going to go or not, I fully expect him to make the trip. I, however, do not expect him to waver from his commitment. He has friends on the team and a teammate headed here in the summer with him.

I think that Shane could be a star of this class down the road. I, like many others, feel that Florida is one area we cannot allow to go untapped for the Panthers. We should, and hopefully will, remain a player with many of the prospects in Florida. We have had luck with the guys we have pulled from there not only because of our scouting abilities, but also because there is an abundance of talent in Florida.

Another impact of this signing is that we are now 5 scholarships ahead of where we thought we would be at the beginning of this season. Only a few months ago it looked as if we were only going to take around 14-16 guys, and with the list we had it did not look that impressive. Now we are up to 20 with some good players coming in for next year.

We are still heavily recruiting 3 others: Bush, Holmes, and Evans. If we are able to land at least 2 of those 3 guys, this class will have went from being a decent class to a very strong class. Landing all 3 would make this a great class.

We are still showing some interest in some other guys but no real noise is being made as the 3 above are our main targets and rounding out with those 3 would put a close on our 2009 recruits. If we do lose one or two of those guys then some others will eventually pop up as we have seen in the past. Hopefully Evans enjoys his visit this weekend and tells Wanny and staff that he is on board with us.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Pitt loses 2 more

One day after finding out that Kevan Smith would be joining the baseball team, the Post Gazette is reporting that Scott Corson and John Bachman will not be returning next year. I am surprised that the news of this broke as quickly as it did and surprised that it happened one day after the Kevan Smith news. In the world of Pitt sports, it makes sense to announce it now. As the Steelers gear up for the Super Bowl and Pitt and WVU take the backyard brawl to the hardwood in Morganhole, this story probably won't get much attention.

From the moment he got to Pitt, Scott Corson struggled in the classroom. I'm unaware of whether the problems were from him just not being able to handle the classes or if he didn't put in the effort like Mo Williams. One thing people over look is that college isn't the easiest thing to get through. If it were, there would be many more people around with college degrees. You never want to see any student fail, but with the tools that Pitt provides for their athletes, they are given every chance to succeed.

Hopefully Scott can pick up somewhere else where he can excel in and out of the classroom. I will always have a special place in my heart for Scott because the story of Dickrod stalking him outside of his high school made me laugh at how desperate the hoopies are.

John Bachman has had a difficult road at Pitt. He always seemed to try hard but whether it was the injuries he suffered or just limited ability, John never developed into the player we thought he might be able to become. He switched to many different positions throughout the offensive line and was given a decent amount of playing time during his career at Pitt.

Just like Scott, one of the things I will remember most about John is entering a restaurant in El Paso across from the team hotel. As we were walking in Mr. and Mrs. Bachman were leaving. They smiled at us and said Go Pitt.

I'm sure there will be some other players to go but I don't think that we will hear about it for a while.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

This is far from surprising

Kevan Smith was always considered a project for the Pitt Panthers. We knew he had the physical tools required to be a great quarterback, but what he didn't have was the other intangibles that it takes to make a successful quarterback. Kevan took over for Stull last year when he was hurt and really didn't impress anyone. After a few snaps this year against Notre Dame, it appeared his fate was sealed.

At the end of the season, Dave Wannstedt and company had considered moving Kevan to tight end, but Kevan and his family were less than thrilled with that idea.

So the choice has been made that Kevan will play for the Panther baseball team. This is a good move for Kevan as he was always considered a better baseball player than football player. I had thought that after last year Kevan would have made the switch but it never came.

The good news is that this will open up an extra scholarship which will allow us to fall into the 20-22 (possibly 23) range for this years class. The bad news is that Kevan won't be on the football team next year. I never root against any player and I always hope that they can prove the doubters wrong and have a great deal of success at Pitt and beyond. Hopefully in Kevan's case this switch helps him get to the MLB.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Dominoes are falling into place

Well something happened today that many of us felt would happen back in September. Dan Mason is officially verbal #19 of the class of 2009. Mason is a very talented linebacker. We will need him very shortly as he will be capable to make big plays in the defense. Also, the staff feels that the linebacker position is one where we may need to make some changes due to the current group not performing up to the expected level. Hopefully with the return of Greg Williams, he can provide some stability to a group facing a high level of uncertainty. Shane Murray is still a question mark because we don't know how he will perform after coming off a season ending injury.

Hopefully this spring and summer we see some good, hard fought, fun battles at linebacker and that the best players separate themselves to become starters.

Anyway, welcome aboard Dan. I'm glad that instead of seeing you beat my Blue and Gold Butler Tornado, you will be joining our blue and gold Panthers. You have the talent, natural ability, and drive to be a very special player at Pitt. Hopefully everything works out for the best and this is just the beginning of what could be a special career.

Something Worth Owning

I usually never try to plug merchandise unless it is Cat Basket stuff (shirts currently unavailable), but this time Pitt is producing something I believe everyone should own. I first came across this piece while visiting Panther employee and friend to the Cat Basket, Mrs. Nora Duncan. I thought that they would be selling it in the team store and Heinz Field starting next year around football season, but luckily the item is avaialbe now.
I've seen several other schools sell items like this but I have never seen one done for Pitt at Heinz Field. I will admit that I do have a picture of Pitt Stadium hanging up in my room, but that is only for nostalgic reasons. This is something that I would get and hang up for everyone to see.
I never thought about it, but that certainly was the perfect time to take the picture. We are in the process of defeating WVU 19-15, the stadium is sold out, and while the Pitt logo doesn't look all that great, at least it is on the 50 yardline.
If you're interested in purchasing the item, you can do so here. I am not sure whether or not I will get a frame for it. Just like with the diploma frames, I'm sure I can find one cheaper else where, but I don't know of too many places off hand that would make decently priced panoramic style picture frames.
Anyway, I thought that this was a nice little Pitt item worth mentioning on here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Nunez is #18

After his official visit to Pitt was in the lead for Bernardo Nunez. Well, it is official that Mr. Nunez has decided Pitt would be the place for him to play his college ball.

The verbal by Nunez now puts us up to 18 guys for the class of 2009. It will be interesting to see how things play out as the staff is looking to take 18-20 guys this year, but are still actively recruiting many more players than that (Holmes, Bush, Mason, etc.).

I have a feeling Pitt will end up having a class in the 22-24 range. Taking extra guys usually isn't a problem since some of the recruits may not earn eligibility and some of the current roster may not be back next season.

We're just a few weeks away from LOI day so this all will be coming to a close shortly.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I got my wish

I can't believe it!

In the last couple weeks, Pitt was ranked #1!

And the Steelers are going to the superbowl!!!

It all comes down to tonight

* edit * - The Pens win and the Eagles loss has me feeling a little bit better right now. Although I must say I do feel bad for my fellow Panther fans who are Eagles fans because right now they are probably feeling much worse than me.

If the Steelers don't win tonight I will consider this one of the worst weeks ever for Pittsburgh sports.

I am very hopeful that the Steelers win and some how the Eagles lose so that campus isn't unbearable for 2 weeks.

Many people get mad at Pitt fans for being so negative, but just being honest and open about it, we lost our best offensive player this week. We lost our number 1 ranking.

I love all of the Pittsburgh sports teams, so I can only hope tonight after the Penguins have won, the Steelers have us looking forward to playing Arizona.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Additions and Subtractions

It's beginning to enter the time of year where we see the final pieces added in terms of recruiting. Sure there might be a couple of LOI day surprises, but usually that involves adding a guy or two who we really had no idea the staff was recruiting. Also, I don't expect us to get "morelli-ed" this year as all of the guys seem to be pretty solid in their verbals to Pitt.

I was hoping that by now we would have some more solid news on Nunez, Holmes, Gordon, and Mason, but all 4 are right where they were when they visited. Nunez would probably be the first of the four to verbal if we are fortunate enough to land any of them. Holmes and Gordon have been pretty quiet, so it is hard to say which way they are leaning.

Dan Mason is also a pretty interesting guy. I would have bet back in September that he was going to commit to Pitt before 2008 ended. The way it looks now is that he is going to wait even longer now. The problem with this is that unless he gives a "silent commitment" (only the player and coach know), it will force Wanny and staff to start looking in other areas for another linebacker. This won't only impact Pitt, but it also will happen with the other schools that are actively recruiting him. Unless you are a Pryor type where a scholarship will either be held or "made available" to you, waiting can be a very risky move. Hopefully we hear something soon from Mason so that we'll have a better idea of where to move forward to.

As the loyal readers here know, I've said from the beginning of the season that we will be taking more players than we have scholarships to give. At first the numbers I was told was anywhere from 15 - 18. Now it looks like the number has been bumped up to anywhere between 18 - 22.

Every year we see players leave for different reasons whether it is personal, academic, or simply a 5th year senior not having his scholarship renewed. There is some heavy speculation that Kevan Smith will decline the proposal by Wanny to move to tight end and may end up joining the baseball team. Last year I suspected that Smith would not be on the roster this year, but I was wrong. I think that we will see Smith on the team next year, however the position is to be determined.

Another interesting item is that it looks like Tommie Duhart and TJ Porter are back on the short leash with Wannstedt. Duhart had problems earlier in the season that were down played by Wannstedt. It appears that these issues are arising again. Tommie is an extremely talented player who I would love to see be a major part of this team, but unless he gets his act together off the field and becomes more devoted to this team, then he might be one of the casualties of this off season.

TJ Porter is in Wannstedt's doghouse. It appears that Wannstedt will be taking a "zero-tolerance" approach with TJ. I hope it works out for Mr. Porter because he is an extremely talented individual. As we have seen with his play over the last few years, he can have a big impact. One benefit he has received is that he was always supported by the coaches and fans. When he left camp a couple of years ago because he was homesick, people gave him the benefit of the doubt and defended him as just being an 18 year old who needed some time to adjust (which was the opposite of what people did with Pat Bostick). He was given a big opportunity to come back and prove himself which he was on his way to doing. So hopefully these off the field issues are resolved and we get to see #9 back on the Panthers again next year.

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.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The results of the Bowl Challenge

Well folks, three of us took part in a challenge to see who could correctly predict the most bowl games. We decided to use the total amount of points in the Pitt game as a tie breaker if need be. So here are the results.

3rd Place: DPJ. Well what can I say. Picking 16 of 34 bowl games correctly isn't exactly something to be proud of. I'll just use the excuse that it's often the most unlikely person that wins your office pool during the basketball tournament so that I don't feel too bad coming in 3rd place.

2nd Place: Jason Jones. Well technically Jason and Johnny were tied in points at 18 picking over 50% of the bowl games correctly, but it came down to the total points tie breaker. Jason was close to the total points in his prediction. He said there would be a combined 51 while there in fact, was only 3 total points scored.

1st Place: Johnny. He took the title home because he was only about 40 points off in his Pitt/OSU prediction. Early on it looked like he was going to sweep the competition as his early picks were hitting early and often, but in the end he cooled down and Jason's picks started coming through.

Anyway I hope we can do this next year and I hope we have more participants, but congrats to Johnny for winning this years bowl challenge.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

3 recruits give Pitt a check

In case you missed it, it looks like the Oakland Zoo is starting a new football tradition. That tradition: having recruits announce where they will be attending school by checking off their name on a sign.

2 years ago it started with my "checklist" sign that listed the names of: Hynoski, Bostick, Jacobsen, and DeCicco while the box next to Shady's name remained unchecked until he came to the Zoo and checked off his name. Last year it was Shayne Hale. This year we have 3 new guys who have joined the tradition.

Before the basketball game today against St. Johns, word had spread that 3 star quarterback (and the guy I'm calling the savior of Pitt football) Kolby Gray decided that Pitt was it. There were also some rumors that Jason Hendricks had committed as well.

So during the game my friends (Josh and Brandon) and I held up different signs for the recruits at the game. The first being Kolby as we wanted him to make it official to the world. So to the cheers of 1,500 Zoo members, Kolby came over and placed a check next to his name letting us know in person that he would be joining the Panthers.

The next sign included several other "uncommitted" players in attendance on one sign, while the other white board read "Come over and commit now". Eventually that sign changed to "Who's next?".

As we held the signs up, Cam Saddler ran over to get Jason Hendricks. Jason came over and to cheers of the Zoo, checked his name off letting us know that he was the 2nd person to commit to the Panthers today.

Lastly, with some encouragement of Cam and the Zoo, Bernardo Nunez placed a check by his name and put on a Zoo shirt which leads us all to believe that Bernardo Nunez will be the 3rd commitment of the day.

We also saw the previously committed guys like Cory King, Will Clarke, Juantez Hollins, and others join the Zoo and cheer for a while until Bob Junko pulled them back to their seats.

All in all it was a great day for recruiting for Pitt as the basketball team added top 50 recruit Isiaih Epps to the class of 2010.

What a great day for Pitt's future.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Waiting is the hardest part

Well it looks the like whole Shady situation is on hold until Monday. If you live under a rock and didn't hear, Shady and his family met with Wanny today in a meeting that lasted about 90 minutes. According to KDKA, it was a very emotional meeting.

I can't even imagine what must be going through Shady's mind. On one hand he has the opportunity to come back and have a chance to lead Pitt to another good season while improving his draft status, and getting a shot to win the Heisman. On the other hand he will surely be selected in the draft and it certainly would be nice to get a big paycheck like his big brother.

The hardest part for Shady is that he is a very emotional guy who wants to do what is best for him while not disappointing those around him. This is where the problems come in. He is very close with Wanny and feels that he owes it to Pitt and Wanny to come back and try to improve the team. He has also been given support by his father to stay in school for another year. On the other side is his mother, brother, Larry Fitzgerald, and Darrelle Revis who have all told him it is time to move on.

Either way, he will feel like he is disappointing someone with his choice.

The main factor just might be all of these juniors who are declaring. Not only is this probably the most loaded running back class of the last 20 years, but there are also a ton of other juniors who are declaring. I feel that this year will be one of the best drafts in NFL history. What that means is that teams will have more options early on. Another problem is that many teams feel that they can find great backs in the later rounds so that they don't have to spend 1st round money on a back when they can find someone later on who will be just as productive.

My feeling is that if he truly believes and receives the advice that he will be a first round pick no matter what this year, he will go. If he will be a mid-second or later, then it is probably good news for Pitt.

I hope that Shady makes the choice that he wants to do in his heart. I hope that the only advice he considers are the pieces that are important to him and no one else. This is his choice in his life and he should be the one with the final call, not his parents, not his coach, and not his fans.

I will say this though, if he is at the basketball game on Sunday, I will work my hardest to push my Pitt agenda to get him to stay. I know I am breaking my wishes for him, but my wish is that he stays so that we will be decent again next year. I also hope that I can show to him that we wanted him 2 years ago when I made my "checklist" sign, and I will show it again because there is nothing I would love to see more than #25 back for another year with a shot to win the Heisman and potentially be the first running back taken in 2010.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Shady To Declare For the NFL Draft

So Kevin Gorman just broke the big story that Shady McCoy is going to declare for the 2009 NFL Draft. This news comes as a bit of a surprise considering the quotes from Wanny this week and what Shady had been saying all season. I have no idea what caused this move, I have heard conflicting reports of what the draft advisory board had to say about his potential (anywhere from 1st rounder to a borderline first day pick).

As a bit of an addendum to this story I have an extremely hard time buying that the advisory board told him that he would be a first round pick without seeing his combine workout. I'm a bit of a NFL draft nerd and I can't see how Shady would be anything other than a late second to early fourth round pick level(pre-combine) just due to size, injury history, and perceived lack of breakout NFL level speed. He has certainly put together a great college career in his two years at Pitt but he has put up these numbers in an inferior conference and hasn't dominated in the way you would expect a first round running back prospect to. 

None of this is to knock Shady at all I'm just saying that he is far from a can't miss 1st round NFL prospect and another year working on his game could have only helped. Something about this story seems to suggest that Shady wanted out of Pitt but maybe he has an awesome workout in him and he knows he can blow away the scouts at the combine. 

This isn't the end of the world because Chris Burns and Shareef Harris are promising players. Chris Burns is the guy that has all the hype on him as a replacement for Shady. Hopefully, one of the two is ready to take over the work when we get to camp in the spring.

Sunday Funday

Sunday should mark one of the biggest Pitt sporting events in our school's history. For the first time ever, we will be ranked #1 in the country when we play against St. Johns. Not only that, but we are lucky enough to have this game at home.

With recruiting season upon us there will be some "must gets" for the staff in attendance at the game on Sunday. Right now it looks like the top uncommitted guys who will be attending are: Dan Mason, Ike Holmes, Shane Gordon, and the guy I really hope we get, Kolby Gray.

While it is great that these guys will be here, it is not so good that I have to tell you that the Zoo is completely sold out for this game. That means if you didn't get a ticket yet, you will be unable to witness in person the announcement and performance of our #1 ranked basketball team.

I hope that if the recruits do sit in the Zoo that they won't have an entire section as we should have as many students as possible to be a part of this historic event.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What would it take?

This is just going to be a hypothetical thing as I can't even fathom the answer to some of these questions.

So feel free to answer 1, some, or all at your leisure.

1. What would it take for the most passionate Pitt fans to start to lose faith in this team?

2. What would it take for Dave Wannstedt to voluntarily relieve Cavanaugh of his duties before pressure was put on him by anyone else?

3. What would it take for the most staunch Wannstedt supporter to lose faith in him.

4. What would it take for the people you always hear screaming for the backup to be satisfied with the starting quarterbacks play.

5. What would it take for Dave Wannstedt to change his philosophy and adapt to college instead of trying to make it fit his mold?

6. What would happen if the results be if we lost the home opener to an inferior opponent?

7. What would happen if we won the Big East next season?

8. What would happen if the big money donors demanded some sort of change in the football program?

9. What would happen if Shady left this year?

10. What would happen if Peterson and Wannstedt went head to head much like Walt and Steve did back in the early 2000's.


Monday, January 5, 2009

I can't EFFING believe it!

Here, read this and tell me how you feel.

Do you want to know how I feel? I'm seriously disgusted. Sure, we all knew (as I posted below) that Stull was going to be the starting quarterback next year, but Cavanaugh really?

This guy has done nothing since the day he has been here. He can't run an offense, he doesn't know how to utilize weapons, he doesn't understand the limitations of his players, his play calling atrocious, and most importantly the so called great developer he is hasn't been able to develop a quarterback.

This is the biggest joke for the University since I have been here.

So much for Wanny being mad at Cavvy for the poor play calling at WVU, the poor play calling that cost us the Bowling Green game, and being humiliated at the Sun Bowl.

Does he not understand that no matter where he has went throughout his head coaching tenure with the Bears, Dolphins, and now Pitt, he has never had his own quarterback that he developed actually be successful? Does he understand that this isn't the NFL in 1980, this is college football in 2009. You need an offense that can put up points fast if you want to be highly successful.

Wannstedt has never had a great offense as a head coach and Matt Cavanaugh has never had a decent offense as offensive coordinator at any job that either has held.

If this choice is Wannstedt telling Steve Peterson that he won't listen to him, then it is time for the staff to be cleared out. We can't have the good ol' boy system where you look out for your friends and make sure they have jobs even though their performance indicates they should have been let go yesterday.

This has been the hallmark of the staff since the moment they were hired. The is 0 accountability from the staff. We always used to joke about "Not My Fault Walt" but really, when was the last time you heard Wannstedt accept responsibility. This season Cavanaugh admitted a few times that his game plans were poor and the results of which led us to lose to Bowling Green as well as struggle against Iowa and Buffalo.

If this move was done just for recruiting purposes, then this was the wrong move. If they were afraid of losing someone due to letting Cavanaugh go, then they are being very short sighted. They might keep 1 or 2 guys now, but eventually they will lose out on better prospects who do not want to play in this stone aged based offense.

We often lose out on top flight quarterbacks due to our style, but not getting rid of Cavvy plus the performance we just showed this season (especially at the Sun Bowl) will be a great tactic for other schools to use against us.

I said that if Cavanaugh was returning I would not be enthusiastic about next season and not invest so much of my time, money, heart, and soul into the football team. It appears that I will have to follow my word.

So next year at the games, you will not see me sitting in the front row of the student section. I will be moving else where in the stadium to an assigned seat so that I don't have to worry about waiting in line for hours then running to my seat. Instead I will have a nice assigned seat, I will park outside of the stadium and enjoy a few drinks with my friends.

It's amazing how this coaching staff can kill the passion of one of the most passionate fans, but congrats Wanny and staff, you have managed to do so.

I will enjoy our men's and women's basketball teams and know that they are heading in the right direction.

Hail to Pitt.

Sun Bowl: The Quarterbacks

I feel that this one deserves it's own post as much attention has been given to the play of the quarterbacks in this game.

Lets rewind to 2007. Pat Bostick became the starter after Kevan Smith struggled to successfully replace the injured Bill Stull. As a true freshman who had missed some of camp, Bostick struggled in games going 3-5 as a starter. Despite this poor record, he did have us in position to win against Louisville and Rutgers as he led two last minute 4th quarter drives that we stopped by a Shady fumble and a bogus pass interference call. Throughout the season as Pat struggled, many people assured us that 2008 would be different as Bill Stull was capable of playing at a much higher level.

In 2008 we saw Stull lead us to our first bowl game under the Wannstedt regime. The major point in the season seemed to be the Rutgers game when Stull was carted off the field. It seemed like Stull was a different player when he returned after that hit. At the end of the regular season Stull finished with 9 touchdowns and 9 interceptions after playing in 11 of the 12 games.

What we saw from Stull in the Sun Bowl was just terrible. Even Bill will tell you that he played poorly and has accepted responsibility for the loss. Despite the poor play, there is no reason to pile on the kid. Remember, he is only a college student doing this because he loves the game and because he loves Pitt. While I do believe it is fair to analyze his play, I do not think it is fair to throw personal insults out at Bill. With that said, I will try to keep this as fair as I can with talking only about the play and quarterback qualities, while leaving all of the personal stuff that you've probably read on message boards out of this article.

From the beginning of the game, the staff gave Stull the chance to shine in this game. Maybe it was to catch OSU off guard, maybe it was because Stull had a great week of practice, but for some reason, Pitt came out throwing against the Beavers. The problem for this was that Stull was unable to come close to completing anything. On his deep throws, he was unable to get the ball anywhere in the vicinity of the receiver, and when it was close, it was usually out of bounds. On his short throws he over and under threw routes to the running backs and threw the ball behind the receivers on many plays leaving them extremely vulnerable to a big hit.

These types of passes are ones that we have seen from Stull all season long, so it was not like we should have expected anything different from our passing game. The other problem with the passes were that they lacked zip. I know some people don't feel like that is an important part of passing, but getting the ball to the target faster will allow that person more time to make a move or give the defense less time to make a play on the ball.

All season long, those who have defended Stull have claimed that he is a great game manager who makes very few mistakes. The problem with this is that if you're having an off day, you can not complete the passes to keep drives going which allow you to manage the game. In fact, the only ones who were able to manage the game was the defense.

One thing about Stull that has really concerned me all season was his lack of ability or perhaps desire to check down on his options. Watching the game it really showed that he focused on one receiver and unless he was sacked or threw it away, he was going to throw it to that guy no matter what. If you have the chance to re-watch the game and are OK with subjecting yourself to it once again, you can see several times when other guys on the field were open including plays such as ones we saw later in the game that went to Dorin over the middle. There were times when we had the chance to make plays with the passing game, however poor execution prevented us from establishing any real threat in the air.

The one valid excuse for Stull which I think is a very important one, was the terrible play by the offensive line. The tackles were letting guys get by them all game long and Stull had to make fast throws all game long because of the pressure. I know that if I was in his situation of coming back from a scary injury in which he had to be carted off the field, I would be nervous about getting leveled from one of the defensive ends. If the line won't give you the time to make a play, then you simply won't succeed.

This was definitely the worst performance by the Pitt offense in quite some time. The hardest thing to deal with was seeing that Stull was simply not the answer, yet we stuck with him for 55 minutes of the football game.

When Pat Bostick entered the game, the staff did the right thing by showing full confidence in him since they let Shady run the wildcat for 4 plays and then had Pat hand the ball off on 3rd and 9 (sarcasm here). When they finally did give Pat a chance to throw the ball, he went 2 of 3 with a couple of nice down field strikes to Dorin Dickerson. Sadly the offensive line hindered Pat as he had about 2 seconds on the last play of the game before a defender hit him for the sack.

While at the tailgate, I sat with a guy who claimed that Stull was the be all end all of quarterbacks. He also enlightened me to the fact that Pat was slow, had no arm, no zip, and couldn't read a defense. That my friends, is what is wrong with this fan base. Objectively speaking, yes Pat is slow and he does have that little hitch in his throw. He may not have the zip that I would like of a quarterback but Pat can throw the ball deep, Pat is accurate, and Pat can read a defense. In fact, I would say that Pat probably has the highest football IQ on this team. He is a dedicated, hard working guy who puts everything into becoming a better player to help his team. How many high schoolers do you know that develop plays during their senior year to bring with them to college to help out the team?

The biggest difference between Pat and Bill is leadership. Pat is just a natural leader on the field. He is always trying to motivate and bring the best out of the players around him. He is always the first to congratulate a player after a big play or there to pick them up after a mistake. One thing that concerned me about Bill was that when on the bench he often sat by himself and avoided his teammates. A quarterback has to be the leader of the team since they are such a crucial part. Just because Shady is a great leader and the best player on the team does not mean that everyone else is relieved of their duties to motivate the team. In a game such as the Sun Bowl, we needed a leader to motivate the offense and get them going, sadly, the leader was missing.

I really wish we would have seen Pat earlier because it could have changed the entire outcome of the game. Instead we were left with a 3-0 loss which actually may be better for the long term success of our program (check out my next post about the staff).

Next year we really do deserve a true quarterback competition, not the fake one like we saw this year. We all knew that Stull was going to be the quarterback no matter what this year. Next year, I do believe we will see the same thing. I am 95% sure that Bill Stull will be your starting quarterback for the 2009 season. He is a senior and a Pittsburgh guy who Wannstedt likes. For those of you who want Tino, well that little redshirt freshman tag by his name probably will be enough for Wanny to not trust him with the offense just yet.

We have often seen too much hype coming from kids straight out of high school and while I was guilty of it last year with Pat, I feel that our Pittsburgh fan base is falling into the same trap with Tino. We haven't seen him in a game and just because he had high school success does not mean it will translate to college. Next fall, if Tino truly is the best quarterback that gives us the best chance to win, then he deserves to be the starter. If he is not, well then he does not deserve to be the starter just yet. In my biased opinion, I'd go with the guy who has proven he can win the big game, the guy who can make plays when he needs to, and the guy who has shown he has what it takes to lead the team to victory in crunch time. Pat Bostick should be your 2009 opening day starter. He will be a true junior which is good since Wanny likes the older guys. He has proven he can win and win the big games which no one on this roster has shown they can do yet.

I just hope that whatever quarterback option we see used next year is the best one for the team. While I think it will be Stull, it will be very interesting to see how it plays out. I also enjoy looking forward to reading the Tino is the next Marino threads across the internet that we will see over the next 7 months.

Sun Bowl: The Offense

No messing around, lets get right to it.

I'll save the play calling for later when I rip apart Cavanaugh so this will just be about the players performances and execution.

Shady really never had a chance to get going in this game. The offensive line didn't give him any holes and he only had 1 carry in the first half. It seemed as if whenever he started to get going the staff pulled him in favor of LSH. I'm not sure if they did this because Shady needed a break or if they wanted LSH to get some more carries in his final game. Miraculously Shady some how gained over 80 yards in the game. When Brian and I were checking out the final stats of the game, we were both in shock that he was able to do so well when the rest of the team fell apart around him. Hopefully this poor performance really seals the deal and encourages him to come back so that he has once more chance to shine in a bowl game. The opposite could be true however that he may be discouraged by the way our offense is run and will try to get out of here as soon as possible. January 15 is the day to watch though as that is the last day for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft.

LSH and Conredge had underwhelming performances in their last games as Panthers. That doesn't mean that they played poorly, they simply just didn't do much to stick out. Given the way our offense was going, that is no surprise. LSH simply doesn't have the power to break tackles and get yards when the OLine is faltering. Conredge is a victim of the system and through out his career did not have the opportunity to carry the ball much. The light at the end of the tunnel for him is that he will be the 1st fullback drafted in the NFL this April and after a very nice career at Pitt, he will have earned his way into the NFL. LSH may be a different story, his size is his biggest weakness, but we have seen small players make their way into the NFL recently. Hopefully his body of work as not only a productive running back, but as a good special teams player helps him along the way.

The wide receivers didn't have a chance to do much as the execution of the line and quarterback prevented them from having a shot. There were a few dropped passes, a few times when it appeared the players had given up on the play, and times when they weren't even given a chance to make a play. TJ Porter had the best day of the receivers as his special teams play really set him apart. It was sad to see Kinder return from injury after a great junior year only to have a disappointing senior year. It wasn't his fault as the last time he played, Tyler Palko was throwing him the ball, this year, sadly it was not Tyler. Hopefully next year Baldwin develops into the guy we expected him to be and can line up alongside TJ to make a nice WR pairing. Also Mike Shanahan, Cam Saddler, and Aundre Wright should find their way into the offense more. I'm not sure what to make of #88 as he has been very up and down in his career and at this point, this team can not afford instability and inconsistency.

The tight ends are and were who they were all season. Nate and Pelusi had decent blocking games and weren't used much outside of that. Dorin Dickerson was completely under utilized. As Phil Bennett said this year "Dorin creates the biggest match up problem for any team", yet we did not use him until crunch time. There were times when he was on the field and ran the same routes as he did in the end of the game when Bostick threw to him, but Stull never found him. Hopefully these 3 come back next year with something to prove and a new offensive coordinator that can get them the ball.

The offensive line.............

Well, I can tell you that CJ Davis and John Malecki played very well. They were the only 2 bright spots on this line for this game. CJ Davis truly had a great career at Pitt. He was never highly touted and had to earn everything throughout his career here. At the end of the day, all Panther fans will look back and see him as a steady offensive lineman that was able to provide some consistency to a line that was often a problem during his years at Pitt. As far as John Malecki goes, I hope that he has another great season next year and makes his way to the NFL. He comes from a very nice family, is a very nice guy, and leaves his heart and soul on the field. If there is one player I'm rooting for on the team, it is Big John Stud.

Chase Clowser, Dom Williams, and Joe Thomas. This really was the reason we lost. Had Shady been given a decent line for this game, he could have won it by himself. Stull wouldn't have been counted on for the big plays, it would have been Shady. Instead we were given two guys on the left side who played like turnstiles, everyone got to go through. We heard on Dec 30th that Chase was sick and may not play and really didn't make much of it since we didn't think he would even see the field. Instead we were shocked to hear and see that Jason Pinkston was hurt and would not be playing. Losing Pinkston last year really killed the team, losing Pinkston this year gave us no chance to win.

I don't understand why Dom Williams was playing. He was part of the last Walt recruiting class and has never impressed anyone during his time at Pitt. All we have heard from Wannstedt was how we needed to improve both lines so that we could run the ball and stop the run. Well that is a good philosophy as long as the right players are getting time. I just don't understand how if you come into Pitt saying we don't have the players for your system, you end up playing guys who were here when you got here. By the 3rd quarter it was evident that Clowser and Williams were not the answer. We have depth at the OL positions for the first time in a while this year and we never used it. Instead of sticking with what was not working, Lucas Nix and Chris Jacobsen should have been given the opportunity to play and give some life and momentum to a team that desperately needed it.

Joe Thomas playing bad was very surprising. I have been terribly critical of him over the last 2 years. Despite poor play last year and during camp this year, Wannstedt stuck with him over Lucas Nix. It looked like I was proven wrong as starting with Iowa, Joe Thomas finally started playing like the tackle we thought he would be. He was consistent and did his job very well. I was very glad to say I was wrong. At the Sun Bowl, we sadly saw the Joe Thomas of old return. He may have had his poorest game all season at a time when we could not afford it. I doubt he will lose his job as next year he will be a senior and Wanny loves the seniors, plus he did play well this year and I wouldn't necessarily say that one bad game should make him lose his job. I would try to motivate him this off season and hopefully use that to help him play to the best level possible.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sun Bowl: The Defense

Before I highlight the bright spot of the Sun Bowl. Let me just say this, I've been waiting 8 years but after a few short comings we can all now do so: Ladies and gentlemen, your Pittsburgh Panthers are now #1 in the country. Congrats to Jamie and the guys, what a job they have done. If you're a fan who really wants script and an on campus stadium, please put those issues aside for a while and instead help us put some pressure on Steve Peterson to give Jamie a nice extension with a huge buyout so that we don't lose him.

Now on to the defense. The one constant on this years team was that you could expect the defense to play well for 60 minutes. The only time we were disappointed was against Rutgers who ended up being the hottest team in the Big East come the end of the season.

Against Oregon State, we had a very effective game plan. We were able to stuff Oregon State and make plays when we had to. I thought for sure when we had the early turnover, we would put our offense in a nice position to score and keep the momentum going. I thought that McKillop's interception would be a boost to the team since it prevented OSU from scoring late. I also thought the missed field goal would help the team out, but alas all we saw from it was just an impressive performance from one side of the ball.

The one thing I was confused about the entire game was that when we had the Beavers in 3rd and longs, we stayed in the base 4-3. I thought this was a poor decision, especially when OSU had 5 WR's on the field. It didn't make a difference but I feared that we could have been burned big time by having Greg Williams matched up 1 - on - 1 with the slot receiver in many of the formations.

Breaking it down position by position, the defensive line probably had the best game of any unit on defense. Sheard and Romeus created havoc in the backfield and was a huge factor in controlling the game. Even the DT's did a great job clogging up the middle and preventing any type of run game that OSU tried to get going.

At linebacker, Scott McKillop saved one of his best performances in his career for his last game. He made nearly every tackle he could have and had an interception that kept Pitt in the game. He was a true gem for this defense and I really fear heading into next season without #40 ready to make every tackle possible.

Austin Ransom had a decent game too. I was very vocal about how I did not like this move at the beginning of the season. Before Adam Gunn was lost to injury, I felt that Greg Williams would have been the better choice to replace Shane Murray when he was lost early this year. Austin learned the position and often made many plays which I thought he could never make. While I feel that we will be improved at that spot next year, I believe we all owe a big round of applause for the effort and performance given by Austin this year. He certainly exceeded mine and probably most people's expectations.

Greg Williams played a fantastic game. He really looked like a star ready to break out in this game. My only complaint with him was not coming up with that interception which would have resulted in a pick 6 and the victory for Pitt. Outside of that, I think we have something special brewing here. Greg will probably be the leader of the linebacking core next year and I think that maybe we could give that little school out east a run for their money at the title for linebacker U.

As far as the secondary goes, I don't feel that anyone played a special game. Aaron Berry and Jovanni were serviceable at best. At least Aaron came down with that open interception he had. I think that next year we really need to give a shot to Holley, Jackson, and Ricky Gary to win the starting job. Sadly, I think that since we will have a Sr and a Jr on the roster, the positions will be filled without any competition.

At safety Dom and Thatcher didn't do anything spectacular and I don't recall seeing Fields out there much which means if he was, he didn't do anything to stick out. The thought is that for next year if Fields isn't off the team he may go to linebacker. That is a very interesting thought as I would love to give Tags a shot to start opposite of Dom.

Overall the defense gave us every chance to win. If I would have known prior to the game we would only give up 3 points I would sell everything I own and bet every cent I could find on a Pitt win. Sadly the offense didn't allow for this to happen.

Tomorrow I will be back with a post about the offense (which will probably be pretty long) and then later on some comments about the coaching in the game.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

What the Sun Bowl was like

Ever since that clock hit 0:00, I've been dreading writing this initial article. I have much to say about the game, the events, the coaches, and the players. So for this first article back, I'm going to strictly focus on what the Sun Bowl experience was like. I will save the game and player analysis for later. The lone exception to this is that I regret to inform you that we have lost 2 quarterbacks. I am serious about this, Kevan Smith has been moved to wide receiver with the possibility of converting him to tight end. Also switching positions was the much called for Greg Cross. He will be moving to safety. This is not a joke.

So on to the Sun Bowl experience. As some of you know regular poster, Cat Basket reader, and good friend of mine Brian joined me on this fantastic journey. Due to Pittsburgh International airport having crazy high prices for flights to El Paso, Brian and I decided to fly out of Washington D.C. so that we could save some money, visit some friends, and also get to attend the Pitt vs Georgetown basketball game (what a win by the Panthers). We drove to our friends house on the 29th so that we could catch our 7 a.m. flight on the 30th. After a couple of flights we arrived in El Paso around 11 in the morning. Following this we were able to enjoy some unexpected problems as Priceline had messed up my car rental and hotel reservation, but it was all resolved in the end.

The first thing we did was head over to the team hotel to pick up our tickets and spend some time with one of our favorite athletic department employees, Chris Ferris. I can't speak for Brian, but I know I was impressed how they decorated the hotel for Pitt. There were Let's Go Pitt banners and signs all around the hotel, the employees all wore Pitt gear, and even most impressive was above the lobby desk, there were 4 clocks showing 4 different time zones. For the eastern time zone they put a Pitt plaque over the sign where it once said eastern time zone.

Following our run through the hotel, we decided to go check out UTEP. I must say it wasn't an overly impressive campus, but it was pretty nice. The neat thing about it is that since it is a mountainous they were able to landscape the campus in a unique way with impressive views. The one bad thing though is much like cardiac hill, the campus can be very steep in parts of it. Our first site was the Sun Bowl itself. We tried getting in but were unsuccessful due to many workers inside getting prepared for the game. We did however find this staircase outside of the stadium that led up to a little walkway where we were able to get some good pictures of the stadium and surrounding areas. After that little trip, we tried getting into the basketball stadium but alas that too was locked.

We followed that up with a little excursion to New Mexico. Wow, what a dumpy state that is. No wonder Herb Pope wanted out and got out right away. We drove past the Sun Land Casino and a dumpy amusement park that was near by and decided that was good enough then turned back to El Paso.

Once we got back to El Paso we hung out at the Fan Fiesta. This event was actually pretty awesome. We were greeted outside with some dancers and drummers that I doubt many people have ever seen a similar style to before. Once inside we headed into the "Pitt Party Room". Brian and I hung out near the huge projection screen that was showing Pitt highlights on a loop mixed in with some Ac/Dc to appease the Pittsburgh crowd.

After enough fun in there we headed in the main hall of the convention center where a 70's cover band wearing white jump suits and donning huge afro wigs were entertaining the crowd. They played for a while and then were replaced by announcing the court for the little Sun Princess Ball Whatever thing it was. We then were treated to story after story after story by many different Sun Bowl representatives. Once they were finished rambling we were treated to a battle of the bands. OSU either has a small band or decided not to bring many band members to the trip because Pitt out numbered them easily 2 to 1. In terms of the fans inside, the Pitt section was completely filled while there were many open seats on the Oregon State side. The Pitt band rocked (shout out to Max, Josh, and Griffin Butt), the Pitt fans were loud and boisterous, and the blue and gold spirit was very high. The Pitt band was louder, clearer and crisper than OSU and played much more enjoyable songs. The highlight of the night was of course the playing of Sweet Caroline. Pitt fans have really embraced this new tradition (even Jones did at WVU). The fans sang loudly and I don't know if El Paso had ever seen anything like that before. The night was capped off with a fireworks show to impress the yinzers. This was a fun experience as the fireworks went off too close to the ground and ashes came down burning and leaving soot on the crowd.

On to gameday. Brian and I ventured back over to the team hotel to catch the shuttle over to the stadium. On the way over we were lucky enough to ride with the families of John Malecki, Hot rod, and some others. Once there we headed up to the Pitt tailgate. This event was fun, but it wasn't as good as the one at Navy. While the lunch food was nothing to ride home about, they egg and cheese sandwiches were amazing. Brian and I ate out lunch with some of the coaches wives and after that decided to walk around a bit. We ended up near a table just hanging out. As I was standing up adjusting my seat I was shoved by some guy trying to get to the food table. While being pushed, Brian said "look who is behind you". Turns out Tony Dorsett was pushing me out of his way so that he could get some fruit. It ends up we were at a bad table because Tony sat near us and everyone then came up to bug him for a photo. It was funny when he had to go up and speak to the crowd and a few of the people who wanted to get a picture with him were mad because they had to pull him away. It reminded me of when you see a kid outside playing and their mom makes them come inside for only 10 minutes, yet they throw a big hissy fit.

Enough about this tailgate, lets get to the game. We went in about an hour early to scope things out. I was surprised how many people were in there by the time we got in. I was also impressed with the nice hat that they gave us for free just for attending. The hat came in handy as the sun was bright that day and helped me avoid a nasty sun burn on my shaved head. We were sitting around the 15 yard line near the end zone that said Oregon State and were directly behind the Pitt band.

I must say that the more I go to traditional stadiums (like MSU, Sun Bowl, Pitt Stadium) I am very glad we have Heinz Field. It is very nice being able to sit back during down time instead of sitting on an uncomfortable bleacher. The one weird thing about the stadium was that the only scoreboards were in the open end of the stadium. On the closed side there wasn't anything there to show you the time, down, or yards needed. Outside of that I enjoyed the stadium. The stadium was built into the side of the mountain. It is a view that you will not be able to get anywhere else.

Overall minus the game it was a great experience. I look forward to going to more bowls in the future and checking out other places and events to see how they compare. I must say though that after this trip, I doubt I will ever head back to El Paso. This is one of those trips that if you have the chance to make, you should. However, if you go once, that is about all you need to satisfy your appetite.

Keep checking back as I will be posting a ton over the next few days before the semester starts to analyze the game and other items. Also, I will be posting a link later to the pictures from the trip as well as a few videos I took.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Very Quick Sun Bowl Thoughts

This is going to be very brief just because I'm so disgusted with the game from yesterday and nobody wants to read another rant about our offense.

What I've Learned This Season:

  1. Matt Cavanaugh is the worst coordinator in the nation. His playcalling and inability to get a quarterback ready for a game is mind-numbing. Having him around instantly makes whoever you have at QB worse. He needs to be fired.
  2. The defense is getting good. I thought the defense did a great job and McKillop put an exclamation point on a great career. One of the best Panther linebackers ever.
  3. The offensive line is still a huge question mark. I thought towards the end of the season the unit as a whole was playing good football but yesterday was certainly a big time setback. Wanny gets too much credit for his recruiting of the offensive line and he has really mismanaged some of the younger talent.
  4. Stull can't play another snap as a starting quarterback here. His play in the second half of the season has been terrible. He is playing as bad as I have ever seen a QB play. Getting a legitimate starting quarterback ready for camp in the spring is priority number 1.
  5. Laying this big of an egg on national tv is a big black eye to the program. National opinion on this team is going to be bad.
  6. This may be the best Wanny can do. Everything went right for us this season and we still gave away games. I worry about the future of this program as a top-end Big East team. No way will the Big East be as poor as it was this year again.
Well that is it. Happy New Year everbody and thanks for reading us last year and hopefully you will continue to read next year.