Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More Camp Thoughts

Here is some more updates on Spring Camp:
  • I think it is safe to call the QB competition. Sunseri is the starter and Bostick is the backup, which means that is the opening day depth chart. Spring Camp starters transfer 100 percent to Fall Camp barring any injury.
  • A player to look for in the Blue-Gold game and going forward is defensive tackle Tyrone Ezell. With the depth chart changing after the departures of Mustakas and Williams I expect someone to step in as the first sub and make an impact like Caragein did last year. Ezell has been a performer in camp and is making plays. I'm very excited to see what he can do.
  • Another big story in camp has been the play of the new cornerback tandem Imoru and Reed. The coaching staff has apparently changed the philosophy of the secondary and has implemented more bump and run coverage. If we play tighter coverage I will dance a jig. I'm all for eliminating the secondary giving up huge chunks of yards in order to keep every play in front of them. Corner is a position where we could see marked improvement this season.
  • On the offensive line things are very positive. Pinkston-Nix is as good as any tackle pair in the Big East. Jacobsen is finally going to get his chance to shine at guard. The two positions that are going have unproven starters are RG and C. Greg Gaskins is a pretty sure bet to be the starter at RG and he has a decent amount of hype from the coaching staff. I don't expect him to immediately do what Malecki did last year playing next to Nix but in time I think we will continue to see the right side moving bodies. At center all we need is a someone to be solid. The current depth chart is Alex Carabin and converted defensive end Jack Lippert. I'm hoping that Carabin, who has been around forever, can lock down the position so that we can give time to Lippert to develop as an offensive lineman.
Spring camp is going along pretty well without any major injuries, which is all we can hope for. Continue to enjoy the comical Dixon to Oregon rumors and the Pens getting ready for a Stanley Cup defense.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wannstedt's Contract Extended Until 2014

Joe Schad is reporting on twitter that the terms of Wannstedt's new deal will keep him here until 2014 and that it will make him one of the top paid coaches in the Big East. With the marked improvement in his winning percentage the last two season's this was inevitable. I'm happy that the deal is only until 2014 which will give us recruiting stability but also keep the pressure on Wannstedt to keep improving.

Anybody who has read one column on this website knows our feelings about the coaching ability of Dave Wannstedt. The past 5 years have been such an up and down experience. What we do know is that with Wanny at the helm we are a recruiting powerhouse in the Big East. Our depth chart, especially on the two lines, is light years ahead of what it was when Wanny got here. The on field success has been arguable to say the least.

In order for this extension to be successful and for the program to continue in the right direction one thing has to happen, a Big East title. The past two seasons the Big East title has been lost on the field against Cincinnati. With Brian Kelly out of the Big East the track to us winning a title should be much smoother. Realistically, we need to win this Big East title before 2012 because our place in college football could be much different once the Big 10 expands. With our recruiting success and the relative weakness of the Big East there is no reason to miss out on the BCS again.

So in 4 years at the end of this extension I would be 100 percent satisfied if we have a Big East title. I'm setting my sights realistically with only 1 Big East title because I've grown to understand what we have here. Wannstedt is not a guy who is ever going to have an undefeated season. Wannstedt is not a guy who will win every game that we should. The next 4 years just like the first 5 are going to be scattered with head shaking losses and a few big wins. Hopefully, these 4 years are more like the last 2.

Status quo move by the Athletic Department that was expected.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Camp Thoughts

I apologize for the lack of daily updates on the spring camp this year. As always, the news and developments trickle in around this time of the year. Here are some brief thoughts on the first days:
  • If you gave me odds around -1000 now that Tino Sunseri was going to be the opening day starter I would call those a bit conservative. I think after all these Spring Camps with Wanny as head coach we can understand how he does position battles at QB. The job has been Tino's since before they even started practicing and the amount of snaps with the first team has proven that. Can we close the book on Bostick's career aspirations as a starting QB? Probably, but who knows what will happen over the course of a season.
  • Tight End is an interesting position battle that is going to have an impact on our style of offense. None of the tight ends we have on the roster are as good of blockers as Nate Byham or as good of pass receivers as Dorin Dickerson. What we do have is bodies with different skill sets. Mike Cruz seems like the obvious starter playing a similar game to Nate Byham but behind him is a bit of a mystery. Brock DeCicco is a smaller pass catching style tight end and Andrew Devlin, the UVA transfer, is similar to Cruz. As we saw last year having a playmaker at tight end is a big part of the offense.
  • The interesting place to keep an eye on defensively is cornerback. Saheed Imoru is a JUCO transfer who has been getting reps with the first team along with Antwuan Reed. Every time I've seen Reed play I've been a fan and he has had some success in practice covering Baldwin. I will continue the tradition here at The Cat Basket bringing up Buddy Jackson into every cornerback conversation, I'm really hoping he can see significant time on the field as a 3rd corner. Aundre Wright's move to corner is interesting but I'm really doubting that it amounts to him seeing the field on more than special teams.
We will be back throughout camp with some thoughts. It won't be daily but if anything big happens you can expect our thoughts.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring Camp Day 1

Spring camp is finally here and what does that mean? It's time for another fake quarterback competition. Sure the coaches will say the right things and the two competitors will share reps, but we all know where this is going. I'd like to just settle the rumors right now and state that Tino will be your starting qb this fall. Sure we know that Wanny loves experience, but this time it comes down to a kid from Pittsburgh vs a kid from Eastern PA, a kid who has a father with ties to Wannstedt vs a kid who has a dad who simply roots for Pitt, but never played or coached here or with Wanny.

Sure that's not the best way to start off a spring camp article, but we all know where this battle is going. I just don't see the need to really worry about it too much as we can read Wanny like a book here. If you don't believe me, well just think about this. Today is the 1st day and even though they were in helmets and shorts, Tino took every single first team rep.

Anyway, on to some real news from spring camp.

I know Jones and I were concerned about the 1vacancies in the offensive line created by the graduation of Robb Houser, Joe Thomas and John Malecki. Well today your offensive line consisted of Pinkston, Jacobsen, Karabin, Gaskins, and Lucas Nix. The guy who should be most happy about this is Greg Gaskins. Starting off as the starting left guard plus having the ability to serve as center will pretty much assure him a nice amount of playing time this year. It is concerning though that after spending some time at center, he wasn't able to secure up the spot. Instead we now have a battle for the center spot.

If you missed the news, Jack Lippert was moved from defensive line to center. I wasn't thrilled about this at first as I felt that Lippert had plenty to offer on the defensive side of the ball. After thinking about it for a while it started to make a little more sense. Throughout his coaching days in the college ranks, Jimmie Johnson and Dave Wannstedt have had a history of moving Dlinemen to the offensive side of the ball, this move is no different. The one area we can afford to move talent is on the D-Line since we have plenty of talent and depth to go around. This is one race where I have no idea where it is heading. With Gaskins in the mix for center I could see him winning the job in part because the staff really likes Turnley at guard. This race, in my opinion, will be the biggest and most interesting race throughout camp.

My next question this camp is what did Buddy Jackson do to Wannstedt that is preventing him from playing? Even as a freshman he had plenty of chances to prove himself, but never found his way into the games. He was a victim of injuries and other bad luck (broken jaw). This year with the departure of Berry and Chappel, Jackson had a chance to make some noise. Today though Reed and junior college transfer Saheed Imoru were your two starting corners. Maybe it's just me, but I just don't see how a guy with 3 months at Pitt is playing over a guy with 3 years in the system. Even if he beats him out eventually, let Jackson earn his keep.

With today a pad-free day we weren't able to get all of the answers were were looking for, but for now part of the picture was revealed.

As practices continue and information becomes available, we'll be sure to get it out to you.