Monday, March 30, 2009

First Scrimmage Thoughts

So yesterday we got our first chance to look at the team in a live situation. For all the numbers I'm using credit goes to Gorman's blog on the Trib website:
  • I'll start with something positive and that is Jonathan Baldwin. Baldwin dominated our cornerbacks and it appears as though Cignetti has made getting him the ball priority number 1. He caught a huge 50 yard plus touchdown pass from Billy Stull. Then he caught another touchdown pass in the endzone. Baldwin is going to be an All Big East 1st team player at the end of the season.
  • Stull had a very disappointing day only completing 2/7 passes and throwing a pick. This type of performance would put a normal quarterback in jeopardy of losing his job. Will this performance have any effect on the distribution of snaps this week with the first team for Stull? If it truly is "Billy's job to lose" then he is doing a great job of testing that statement out.
  • Dion Lewis is becoming the star of training camp. Lewis got to play with the first team and had a very decent day with 12 carries for 62 yard. I'm very interested to see what Lewis looks like in the Blue-Gold game because the coaching staff is in love with him.
  • Lucas Nix is still getting second team reps which doesn't surprise me at all. Gibbs is a guy that Wanny loads up with playing time in spring then forgets about in the fall. Do I think this means Nix will jump into a starting spot in the fall? Of course not, Wanny is keeping left tackle warm for Pinkston and giving Nix less snaps is an easy way to justify not starting him. Right tackle will be Joe Thomas barring injury because of the fact that he is a senior. Jacobson appears to have a good shot at winning the left guard job which is promising.
  • Bostick and Sunseri both had a decent scrimmage but neither set the game on fire. Sunseri drew praise from Wanny for making a couple of passes under big pressure. Bostick was extremely efficient with his passing and had a good completion percentage. One of these two is going to have to do something amazing before the end of spring to jump Stull.
Coming up this week keep your eyes on who is playing with the first team. That could give you a decent idea as to what the two-deep will look come summer practice.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Salute To Levance, Tyrell, and Sam

Thanks guys for the 4 years of wonderful basketball and experiences that we will all never forget. Losing sucks but they got us further than anyone thought was possible. Hail to Pitt!

A redshirt for Bostick and Lucas Nix?

In case you haven't heard, Tino Sunseri has recently been getting more reps with the 2nd team offense. To be fair, everyone who has been attending camp has said that Tino has been playing very well and has earned the extra reps.

This just might be a best case scenario as Bostick could get the year to redshirt. This situation reminds me of when Pitt played Luke Getsy over Tyler Palko when Rod Rutherford was suspended for a half for kicking out a girls car window at Philthy McNasty's. It wasn't that Luke was playing better than Tyler, we just wanted to preserve Tyler's redshirt. This year, Tino is playing well enough to give him a chance to be the back up to Bill if needed whiel Pat gets a redshirt.

While Cignetti says "it is an open competition", I'm not buying that because of Wannstedt's comments that "Stull is the guy". I have told friends from the moment the season ended and I'll stick with it now that if I had to place a bet of Stull vs the field, I'd put all of my money on Stull.

Another thing that should be apparent to Pitt fans is that with Pinkston out until August, Jordan Gibbs has been getting almost all of the reps at 1st team left tackle. Over the last couple of days, Joe Thomas has been out with an ankle injury. Most Pitt fans would think this would give Pitt the opportunity to let Nix get his shot with the first team. This has not been the case though as Greg Gaskins has gotten all of the first team reps making the OLine look like: Gibbs, Jacobsen, Houser, Malecki, and Gaskins.

Unless you're getting Gibbs and Gaskins ready for the season so that Nix can redshirt, this just doesn't make sense to me. Nix played for Thomas last year in a couple of series when Thomas went out with injury. While Clowser started at LT during the Sun Bowl, Wannstedt said if the injury would have been sustained earlier that week, Nix would have started. I don't understand the change of heart here.

I believe the starting 5 will be Pinkston, Jacobsen, Houser, Malecki, and Thomas. What I would like to know is what has Gaskins and Gibbs done since January 1 that has put them ahead of Nix this spring? Wannstedt has talked about the importance of Lucas Nix, yet he's not getting the chance this spring to go out and prove himself with the first team.

I'm sure people will say that this is only spring and we can't look too much into it, but a lot of what happens here will be a big factor of what happens this season. When you see Dion Lewis as our second string running back come August, don't be surprised because it was what he did during the spring to move him up ahead of Shariff Harris.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Elite 8

Enjoy it!!!!!!!!!! We have been waiting forever for this.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"It's Billy's Job To Lose"

Today all the stories coming out of camp were about the QB competition. Wanny came out and basically reiterated his belief that Billy Stull is still the starting QB until Bostick or Sunseri wins the job. I'm hoping that everybody isn't surprised by this seeing as Stull is a senior and he has been Wanny's pick for 3 years.  What I wonder about is why Wanny made this declaration so quickly after claiming in the media prior to camp that this is a 3-way QB battle?

I think what the bigger problem in the program currently is the lack of actual "open" position battles. Each year coming into camp we are told that certain positions are open and that a competition will be held for the position. What happens 100% percent of the time is that the upperclassmen or the incumbent at the position wins the job. I'm not about to attack Wanny for always playing the upperclassmen because that is really a moot point now, it is just what he does. What I'm attacking is Wanny's inability to deal with the media and the fanbase in situations like this by just telling people what they want to hear then immediately backtracking on that through who plays and the two deep. He knows who is going to play before one snap is held in camp each year.

This is Stull's job to lose and we knew that before we even got into camp so why did Wanny make such a big deal about the QB competition a week ago then make this comment today. I know that he thinks this is necessary in order to show Stull that he still has his confidence but there was no reason for this yet. Let this spring play out before commenting about the situation so definitively.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring Preview (Linebackers)

As big of a loss as Shady was at running back I think Scott McKillop is a bigger loss. When we open up against Youngstown State I think the absence of McKillop will be immediately noticeable. Our depth was boosted big time though earlier this month we when got word that Adam Gunn got his sixth year of eligibility. Luckily for us we have a bunch of bodies at each linebacker position so this will be a very interesting spring.

The groupings during the first few days of spring practice have been (thanks to Pantherlair):

Strong Side: Greg Willams, Nate Nix, Manny Williams
Middle Linebacker: Adam Gunn, Steve Dell, Brandon Lindsey
Weak Side: Max Gruder, Tristan Roberts, Joe Treblitz

Strong side linebacker could have a very similar setup once the season starts. Greg Williams played some fantastic football once given the chance last season. He showed some really good athleticism and playmaking ability. He will definitely be a starter at one of the outside linebacker positions. Nate Nix struggled in his time on the field last season and I'm interested to see what he brings to the table this spring. Manny Williams hasn't seen any time at all and may be lost in the shuffle for this season but could contribute on special teams.

Middle linebacker is missing a name and that is Shane Murray who is sitting out camp due to injury but has been moved to this position in the offseason. I'm a little apprehensive to have Murray as a middle linebacker just because of his physical limitations. He is a solid player who made tackles as the weak side linebacker two years ago but I wonder how well he will hold up to the middle linebacker position. He isn't terribly fast and is a bit undersized but he can tackle which is a big asset. 

With Murray out Adam Gunn has stepped into the middle linebacker position but I see him moving back outside in the summer. Gunn is coming off a neck injury but he has proven to be a decent player in the past, if a bit unspectacular. A great spring could lead to him taking over the position but my money is on him moving back outside. Wanny has praised Steve Dell in the off-season as a player he expects to make a run at his position but he hasn't played at all other than some special teams in 3 years here. Remember that this is his senior season and crazier stuff has happened so don't count him out. Brandon Lindsey is a guy who looks the part and has looked good every time I have seen him in practice. I would love to see him get a shot at this position in the spring but he might be a guy who is destined for a position change or never getting a shot which is unfortunate.

Strong side linebacker is being kept warm by Max Gruder until Gunn or Murray moves back. Gruder is a very interesting player in that he played a bit last season on the outside and looked good. Wanny seems to be grooming him as a do everything linebacker that can play inside or outside. I think Gruder will be a player who gets a ton of playing time even if he doesn't start this season. Tristan Roberts is another player like Brandon Lindsey that I have been impressed with whenever I have seen him and I would really like to see him get a shot down the line. Joe Treblitz is a redshirt freshman and I would expect him to see make an impact on special teams this season.

Williams-Murray-Gunn is how I see the linebacker position shaking out to start the season. I'm a bit worried about the lack of a big time playmaker in this group but there is experience with Murray and Gunn. Filling the shoes of McKillop is going to be impossible for anyone and I hope we can lock down this position for the future. 

Sunday, March 22, 2009

First Two Days of Contact Thoughts

Well we are going to Boston after a scary first weekend. Back in Pittsburgh the football team is now practicing in pads. Here are some quick thoughts from the news coming out of the Southside:
  • Wanny has come out and praised Lucas Nix and Chris Jacobson. Nix got reps at left tackle with the first team offense on both days and has made a good accounting of himself. Jacobson is clearly the front runner at the left guard position and he is living up to that status early in camp. I'm still very skeptical about how much Nix will play and what the final depth chart will shake out at when we get to the fall.
  • Bostick and Sunseri got chances to work with the first team which is promising if you expect a legitimate QB competition. So much is going to happen over the rest of these practices and as long as Bostick and Sunseri get their chances I'm happy. I really hope Cignetti gets a chance to look at everybody before the decision on who starts is made.
  • Elijiah Fields is getting all the first team reps at strong safety which is great news. Fields has the opportunity to be a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball. If Fields plays to his talent we have a potential All Big East player in him. 
  • Greg Cross was returning kicks yesterday which seems insane to me with a guy his size. I would imagine Saddler and Wright will be the kick returners but this is an odd development. 
So that is it from the weekend of practicing in pads. I'm going to push the linebacker position battle column to tomorrow since things got a little hectic today. See you tomorrow.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Opening of Camp Thoughts

So we opened up camp yesterday and very little is going on as to be expected. I wouldn't expect any real news to start coming out until next week when they get into pads. We got an explanation as to why TJ Porter was suspended a DUI arrest. Hopefully, he can get those problems behind him and be a contributor down the road as I've always enjoyed the role he plays on the team. Let's get to a couple of stories:
  • Greg Cross worked exclusively with the wide receivers today. I'm a big fan of this because it will get the ball in his hands. I'm hoping that adding him to the receiving corp would mean that he will have packages in the offense based around him. 
  • Stull was practicing with the first team which is what I would expect at least until the Blue-Gold game. Since he was the starter last season I believe that Bostick or Sunseri will have to win this job decisively in order to jump him.
  • Brandon Lindsay was at linebacker so the position change to FB rumor was false.
  • Jordan Gibbs was the left tackle with the first team so take that for what it is. I'm not ready to go on one of my Wanny is lying rants about Nix being with the first team yet. Although if Gibbs is still playing with the first team this time next week I will be. 
After a huge scare today we are still alive in the tournament so enjoy the rest of the games tonight and this weekend. I will be back on Sunday to preview the linebacker position and give some more thoughts on the early practices.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring Football Preview (Running Back)

So we lost Shady to the NFL and Stephens-Howling to graduation but I think this position is going to be a big strength coming into this season. We have a ton of bodies and different types of runners that could be utilized by the new OC. Last season at Cal Cignetti had a fantastic rushing offense and I think he is looking to build that type of success here.

If you listen to what Shady said upon his exit of the program Chris Burns is the front runner. Burns is a speedy back who is built identically to Shady when he was a freshman. Since Burns redshirted we have no real idea what his game looks like at the college level but he is a very intriguing prospect. 

Kevin Collier is the upper classmen option to take the starting job. Colllier has been around forever and has been a little snakebit in his time in the program having to redshirt due to injury in 2007. He was a highly regarded recruit from Wanny's first recruiting class but has only seen the field very sparingly in his 4 years here. 

Shariff Harris is a guy we have hyped up here since he was a freshman due to his thundering running style. I've seen him in practices a few times and he is a difficult player to bring down. He could be the thunder to the lightning of Chris Burns and I would love to see him in a big role this year. Pure power runner with some breakaway speed. Definitely my favorite back of the group.

Dion Lewis is a true freshman who I would expect to get a look but in the end I think he redshirts. Down the line he could develop into a big time player with his speed but I think there is a log jam at running back and he will have to wait his turn.

Fullback is a position that could be intriguing as well because we assumed that Henry Hynoski was the heir apparent at the position but Wanny has given him some competition. There is a rumor that linebacker Brandon Lindsey has done the dreaded position switch and is going to compete at fullback. Collier has been mentioned as a guy who will do some lead blocking as well. How much we use a lead blocker is a guess since we haven't seen what Cignetti is doing with the offense yet.

*Completely off the running back topic I heard the rumor that Mark Madden put out yesterday that Stull was going to be benched and it was now a two man race for the starting QB job between Sunseri and Bostick. I don't believe this for a second unless some sort of rules violation was involved. It makes no sense to narrow the QB battle until at least everybody has gotten a chance at the job in spring practice. If anything remotely credible comes out on this I will give the update but for now enjoy the NCAA tournament.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spring Football QB Preview

So here is the most important position battle coming into the spring. QB has been a position of much discussion and strife in the program. Currently, we have a bunch of bodies at the QB position and two with starting experience. Now the real question is do we have anybody who can play the position well.

Breakdown of what we have at the position:
  1. Bill Stull; Before Cavanaugh left the program Wanny made it clear to the media that Bill Stull was coming into the spring as the starter. Then Cignetti was hired and Wanny has changed his tune to that there will be a 3-way competition for the starting job. Everybody knows what Stull brings to the table and what he doesn't. We have written article after article about how we feel about Stull's play over the last season so no need to re-hash it. The real question for Stull is what Cignetti thinks of him and how he would fit into the new offense. 
  2. Pat Bostick; Two things that Bostick brings to the table is the ability to win a game while playing badly and the ability to turn the football over. Bostick was an interception and fumble machine in the old Cavanaugh offense. Despite that flaw Bostick also showed the ability to spread the football around and read a defense. If we are running an offense where the QB needs to use all his weapons Bostick is the way to go. 
  3. Tino Sunseri; Sunseri is in a really bad position for a young quarterback in that he is perceived as a solution to our QB problems because he isn't Bostick or Stull. Since Sunseri redshirted last year nobody knows what we have in him. Sunseri has some good physical tools and is apparently going to get a chance to win the starting job. Everybody needs to cool their expectations on Sunseri for this season until we see what we have in him.
  4. Greg Cross; Here is the x-factor in the QB battle. Cross brings something to the table that no other QB on the depth chart has, speed. He got a raw deal last year with the constant promises of us having packages for him but in the end never getting a real chance to contribute. Hopefully, Cignetti will create formations and scenarios for Cross to touch the ball multiple times per game. Cignetti  values what Cross brings to the table since he rescued him from a position change. If Wanny wasn't the head coach I would include Cross as a candidate to win the starting job.
I didn't include freshman Kolby Gray I expect him to redshirt. No matter what happens in spring practices we need to figure something out at this position before we get to fall camp. Cignetti will be putting in a new offense and he needs to find his guy to run it. Reading between the lines of his comments to the media since the end of last season Wanny has tied his horse to Stull. Each QB on the roster has their flaws and we have no clear candidate to be the starter. Can 2009 be the year we get competent QB play? 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spring Practice Coverage (O-Line Preview)

Here we go again we are two days away from football. While the rest of the Pitt Universe is focusing on the matchup with ETSU on Friday the football team is gearing up for their first spring practice. Over the next few days I wanted to focus on some of the important position battles. Today I thought we would look at the offensive line.

The offensive line is a group that improved last season under first year coach Tony Wise. Coming into to spring we only have to replace one starter (CJ Davis). Where the intrigue lies is how the highly regarded Lucas Nix and Chris Jacobson fit in. Nix has been dangled in front of the fanbase as a player who was on the verge of breaking into the starting line-up at tackle but played only a handful of plays as a freshman. Jacobson took a redshirt year due to injury as a freshman and spent last year backing up CJ Davis.

Since two year starter at left tackle Jason Pinkston is sitting out spring practice to rest his injured shoulder Lucas Nix gets a shot to play with the starters. Next to Nix will be Chris Jacobson getting the first shot to win the left guard position. At center Robb Houser is back from injury and will be a consistent performer. The right side of the line remains unchanged with John Malecki playing guard and Joe Thomas playing right tackle. I thought Malecki was fantastic as a run blocker last year as a first year offensive lineman. Joe Thomas has been a whipping boy for the fanbase in the past but I thought he was serviceable.

Handicapping the line position battles is seemingly very easy if you have ever seen a Wannstedt camp. The upper classmen are going to be the bookend tackles come the fall, Pinkston at LT and Thomas at RT. Nix needs to come out and make an impact during spring to make this a difficult decision for the coaching staff to make. Wannstedt values experience moreso than anything else in these situations as seen with Bachman and Clowser playing in the Sun Bowl. I think Jacobson has the LG job to lose just due to the fact that we have no upper classmen options at guard. Jacobson has the talent and has been around the program long enough to expect him to contribute in a big way this season.

The offensive line could be a big strength this season if the right personnel decisions are made and the jobs are won on the practice field. Nix needs to play a big role this season and the coaching staff needs to give him a chance to contribute. Tony Wise did a good job last season for the majority of the games and has made an impact on the development of some players.  

Monday, March 16, 2009

Keep this in mind during the tournament

It is OK to not root for WVU in the tournament. In fact, I encourage you to root against WVU.

This isn't like football where we need teams to win to help prevent against Big East Football bashers. In basketball, the Big East is top dog, we don't need any help.

I hate Dayton and I hate WVU, but I will be pulling for the Flyers to get the upset over the 'Neers.

Let's paint the picture of this memory. In 2006 Pitt was taking on 2nd round opponent Bradley in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament. Pitt was kind enough to put the students in the upper deck while the "money" fans were down low being quiet as usual. Throughout the game Hoopies started to filter in as they played in the game after us.

Their students were given very nice baseline seats near their band. As the game went on, they proceeded to cheer for the Bradley Braves. The crowd was clearly pro-Bradley as they were the underdog. Until that point, I had always felt there was a "root for the Big East teams" policy, but WVU broke that.

That is the specific reason why I will root against WVU in everything.

WVU I hope Dayton takes you out and we win the Championship.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

This will put a smile on your face

No, I'm not referring to QB Joe Boisture going to Boston College (that is a post for a different day).

I'm talking about the 2007 Backyard Brawl.

This is one of my favorite video's on youtube and I'll never stop enjoying it.

Anyway, we're headed up to New York for the Big East Tournament, so the internet access will be limited and if big news breaks we might be a little bit limited on what we can provide, but as of now nothing seems too imminent.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Early reports say Adam Gunn will be back

Few players get to have senior day twice and it looks like Adam Gunn will be one of those players. Early reports coming out are saying that Adam has been granted a 6th year of eligibility after missing most of last year with an injury.

Linebacker will be a huge question mark as we're losing one of the greatest to ever play the position. Now we have an experienced trio ready for next year. It looks as if the OLB's will be Williams and Gunn with Shane Murray Working in the middle. While it is very hard to replace a guy like McKillop, I do believe we will see an improvement on the otherside with Gunn replacing Ransom.

This also adds some depth in a much needed area since we've seen some of our linebackers switched to linemen. This also means that Dan Mason will get a chance to redshirt which will probably be best in the long run.