A bunch of Pitt fans/alumni writing and ranting about the University of Pittsburgh Panthers and anything sports and entertainment related. Other than being alumni, the writers of this blog have no affiliation or official connection with the University of Pittsburgh, the Pitt Panthers, and related entities. The views expressed on this blog are solely our own. You can e-mail us: PittSportsBlather-at-sbcglobal.net.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

With Depth Like This... 

6-6 overall is starting to look really good.

Reports are, that Luke Getsy is going to transfer. No official confirmation yet. (Shouldnt' that be coming from the others of PSB who actually live in Pittsburgh?) Crap. I don't begrudge him. It's his call, and his right to do so.

It is purely selfish, as a fan. I don't trust the O-line to keep Palko healthy throughout the season. That means Joe Flacco is the back-up, and I guess Strong is the emergency QB.

Other things

Coach Harris's press conference regarding USF is posted. In a great moment in evading the question and its implications:
South Florida runs a scheme that has given Pitt challenges in the past.
They play a spread offense, no huddle. They gave us problems before. They are well conceived and that’s difficult to play against. We played against a couple of them in our conference, and some of them gave us a challenge; West Virginia has, and Temple has as well. That will add to it and the fact that there is no huddle will make the execution harder on our defenses. That’s why we have to make the plays, execute the calls, and get off the field.
Uh, "given Pitt challenges?" Try burned our asses. I'm not even going to say anything about his comments regarding the loss in 2001. It still burns me to this point, that he won't admit that it was his @$^&* mad scientist attempt to impose a spread offense on a team and QB built around a pro set style that cost Pitt that game and several others that year.

Pitt B-Ball: Roadtrip to Toronto

The Pitt basketball team, is taking a roadie to Toronto this weekend. They will play some really early exhibition games up there. The NCAA allows "schools to take one foreign tour every four years and permits 10 practice days prior to the date of departure."

Practice for the 2004-05 season officially begins on October 16. No mention of the present schedule, especially the non-con. Though, they do reveal what they will be stressing in trying to sell it -- that Pitt has the best winning % of any school over the last 3 years.

Under/Over Achievers
General college football info. The lead question from SI.com's Stewart Mandel's mailbag concerned overrated teams in polls.

Trying to find pre-season and final rankings on the Net is a lot harder. I actually looked once -- just going back 5 years -- and finally had to give up, so I wish he could have placed the raw data out there.
With the help of Lexis-Nexis, I went back and found the first and last AP poll from every season and counted each time a team finished at least seven spots lower than predicted. Why seven? I don't know, It just sounds more dramatic than six.

Ladies and gentlemen, the nation's most overrated program, with eight such occurrences in 14 seasons, is ... the Washington Huskies. Not far behind were -- here's a shocker -- Notre Dame (seven), USC (seven), Auburn (six) and Texas (six).

While I'm a little surprised at Washington, overall the results aren't too shocking. With the exception of USC and Texas' recent resurgences, these are all teams far removed from their heyday (with the Huskies peaking right at the beginning of the period in question), yet many voters have a hard time looking at tradition-rich teams objectively. On paper, Notre Dame could have the exact same qualifications as, say, Iowa, but nine out of 10 times the voter is going to favor the Irish. It's something I try to make a conscious effort to avoid myself. Case in point: Minnesota finished 20th last season and returns nearly its entire team, yet is starting the season five spots lower, while Auburn, which finished last season unranked, is suddenly 17th.

Anticipating what your next question was going to be, yes, I compiled the same data for teams that finished at least seven spots higher than predicted. Teams didn't make nearly as many regular appearances in this category, probably because after exceeding expectations a few times voters got the message and started picking them higher.

The leaders, with five instances each, were Ole Miss, Iowa and Alabama, followed by LSU, Washington State, Virginia Tech, Kansas State and Texas A&M at four. The Rebels, Hawkeyes, Crimson Tide, Tigers and Cougars are textbook examples of teams whose breakthroughs have been sporadic enough so as to catch voters off guard when they happen. I was surprised, however, to see Alabama on the list. You'd think, with their tradition, voters would be more likely to err on the side of optimism.

There seems to be a flaw in the reasoning for Kansas State and VaTech to be considered underrated.

Our Man In ESPN 

The Big East football notebook on ESPN.com (subs. req'd) this year will be written by Joe Bendel of the Trib (must somehow be a part of the vast-right-wing conspiracy between Scaife and Disney). Considering the last couple of years have seen beat writers for Miami and BC do the notebook, this can't hurt. His comments in the notebook on Pitt:
Here's a name to remember: Clint Session. He's the bone-jarring sophomore middle linebacker who has taken it upon himself to revitalize a Panthers defense that got humiliated in 2003. Session, a Florida product, is counting the days until the Labor Day opener against South Florida. "Watch and see what happens," he said. "Our defense is going to be flying. I'll make my presence felt right away." The most recent time South Florida faced Pitt, the Bulls threw the ball 65 times and pulled off a monumental upset at Heinz Field in 2001. The Panthers are still stinging from that one. Session could be a difference-maker on Monday.
Sophomore Tyler Palko won the starting quarterback position at training camp and could eventually upgrade a position that was exceptional last season. Graduate Rod Rutherford was a unanimous All-Big East first-team pick and set the league standard for all-purpose yards. Palko, a lefty with unwavering confidence, was the school's biggest recruit in a decade.

If the Panthers get behind against South Florida, forget about it. Palko has just two career completions, and six of his seven top receivers have yet to catch a pass in a college game. Scary.
I'm not expecting homerism, but last year the notebook was pretty much all about Miami.

Down In Tampa 

Preparations for a game, from a blogging sense, must include the other team's media and resources. This is the USF sports site. John Edwards is now working for USF. The football page doesn't have a lot at this time -- not even advance game notes. Here are the Bulls' fan site. An article talking about Pitt refers to the offense as "young kitties." USF is also selling this gear:

Also in regular t-shirts and buttons. I think it's important to understand just how juiced the fans down there are trying to get for this game. Just as their win over us in 2001 showed that they were deserving of being in Division 1-A football, they are essentially looking at this game as the unofficial beginning of their membership in the Big East.

Now for the media coverage. Not much yet. They still have 3 other major college programs in Florida that garners most of the focus. Apparently USF has had a few injuries in training camp, but is getting better.

This preview of USF from the beginning of August, suggests that they have solid lines (especially the O-line), but QB and RB are big question marks. Their secondary is also a concern. The survey of C-USA coaches picked the Bulls to finish 7th.

Looks like the planned move to the Big East keeps paying dividends for USF. They got a blue chip QB to commit. The Tampa Tribune is the only media to have a page just for USF. You might want to look over their special report, a multi-part piece about college recruiting.

So, About That Game on Monday... 

Another late night...

Unlike most schools, Pitt doesn't play until Labor Day. This allowed the fans and pundits an extra day to explore the madness of JoePa.

Now, the stories and articles begin on the team and preparing for USF. The opener will be Pitt's first road opener since 1993 -- Pitt's first year under the Johnny Majors, Back to the Future plan -- when Pitt upset Southern Miss. 14-10; and the first road opener for Harris.

This game is considered an immediate test. Pitt under Harris is 7-0 in openers, "but they lose most of their luster because of the teams the Panthers have beaten: Southwest Louisiana, Villanova (Division I-AA), Bowling Green, Kent State, East Tennessee State (I-AA), Ohio and Kent State."

In the game notes, you can find the depth chart for Pitt (page 3). Depth has emerged as a huge concern during training camp. Overshadowing to some degree concern over how the lines will play. The depth chart is examined here.
Most notable were the eight walk-ons on the two-deep list, including starting wide receiver Joe DelSardo.

Of the seven wideouts listed, only one has caught a pass in a college game. The tight end has two catches and the starting quarterback owns all of two career completions.

The top three tailbacks accounted for 79 yards in 2003. Junior starter Raymond Kirkley took a redshirt.

The question is: Can the Panthers get it all together in six days, when they open at South Florida in sunny Tampa?

Can you say, "Gulp?" The depth chart also reveals that Freshman Darrelle Revis will start at right cornerback ahead of Reggie Carter and Josh Lay. The last true freshman to start at corner was Shawntae Spencer, now with the SF 49ers, in 2000.

Along with Revis starting, another mild surprise is that converted Offensive Left Guard, Charles Spencer will start. JUCO transfer, Josh "Sunshine" Cummings, has won the starting kicker job.

Two column pieces, both concern Tyler Palko. Ron Cook focuses on the Texas A&M game in 2002 when Rutherford layed an egg for 3 quarters, leading to chants of "We want Palko!" and "Put in Palko!" from the stands. Showing a bit of cluelessness from where he actually sat in the press box, he says the chant was "We want Tyler!"

I missed that game, as per the "annual Pitt home game to fall right on a High Holy Day" (this year's model is only the Furman game on Yom Kippur so it isn't so bad). Maybe Lee and Pat can share their memories of that game and the chant.

In a bit of revisionism Cook considers the calls "absurd." Up to that point, it hardly was. Rutherford had not looked good in his first couple games and all through the first half against A&M. It just seemed that Rutherford couldn't handle the job until he finally found the switch.

Me on August 27:
No reason for Getsy to transfer yet. If the O-line is as bad as last year, he'll be starting because Palko will be out for at least a game with a concussion.
Cook on August 31:
Have you looked at that Pitt offensive line? ...

If I'm new fan favorite Luke Getsy, I'm not thinking about transferring just yet. I'm thinking about maybe playing against South Florida Monday after they carry Palko off.

Advantage, PSB.

The other column from Mike Pirusta focuses on Palko's confidence. I've already said that I like having a cocky, arrogant QB. I think Pitt needs that right now. Leave the negativity to the professionals.

Monday, August 30, 2004

One More Thing 

There is a game next Monday against USF on ESPN. Pitt has its Game notes and some stats (in PDF) available.

The Early Report 

Up late doing other things, so let's get some of the news that was already posted on sites.

Depth is becoming a bigger issue every day for this Pitt football team. The team is thin at the tailback, fullback, and lines. Just not a good thing. We are going to be holding our breath every time a Pitt player is even slow to get up after a play this year.

Something very useful Joe Bendel at the Trib does articles on the offense and defense, complete with his grading and quick summary of the components. Not totally surprising, but the defense looks to be improved while the offense is really thin and with question marks everywhere. Both lines are still reasons to worry.

Backhanded defenses for Walt Harris in the whole Pitt-Penn St. Rivalry won't be renewed mess. Paterno is taking the beating. First, Ron Cook, who has been on a 3-5 year mourning of watching Paterno fall from grace in his eyes.
I think we can agree Walt Harris was way out of line with his inane comments about the Pitt-Penn State football series earlier this summer. To say Penn State was somehow selfish for discontinuing the series -- even as talks between the schools' athletic directors were going on to resume it -- was outrageous.

To suggest Penn State was to blame for Pitt's recruiting problems was blatantly self-serving. Harris wants to know why he couldn't outrecruit Penn State after his team went to its fourth consecutive bowl game last season and the Nittany Lions went 3-9? It's because the Big East Conference turned into a second-rate league after Miami and Virginia Tech left. He wants to know why he'll have a hard time outrecruiting Penn State again after this season? Maybe, just maybe, it's because star players will be hesitant to play for a coach who will call them out publicly if they happen to get hurt.

As I should stress, again, backhanded defense.
Harris' habit of speaking before he thinks isn't enough reason for Pitt and Penn State not to play again.

We all know the truth here.

There is absolutely no good reason for the series not to resume.

Joe Paterno will tell you differently, of course. He's the greatest college football coach of all time. He also might be the most petty. That's the only reason this great series between great rivals withered after Penn State's 57-13 win in 1992 and finally died after Pitt's 12-0 victory in 2000.

Paterno doesn't want to play Pitt and will use any excuse not to do it. Not because he's afraid of losing the games and his recruiting edge, as Harris so foolishly observed. The idea of Paterno being afraid to play anyone is almost laughable. No, Paterno doesn't want to play Pitt because of a grudge he still carries from more than 20 years ago when Pitt joined the Big East basketball conference instead of his dream all-sports Eastern league.

That's why the reports of talks between the schools about resuming the series were more unfathomable than encouraging. Paterno has carried his bitterness this long; there's no reason to think he'll change his mind about playing Pitt now.
He's right. He still has a bit of hero worship, so he couches it as petty and a blind spot in Paterno's vision. Still, by the end, even Cook admits the game won't resume until Paterno is dead retires.

Next this piece from Joe Starkey is much more caustic and brutal to Joe PA.
If not for Joe Paterno's petty resentments, Pitt and Penn State might be kicking off each season against each other instead of against, say, South Florida and Akron.

Paterno wrecked the great Pitt-Penn State rivalry, and he'll use any excuse to prevent its renewal -- even if it means pulling a few harmless quotes out of a student newspaper.

The truth is that Paterno harbors grudges against Pitt administrators, who have long since left the university, or, in some cases, have long since died.

The truth is that because the Ohio States and Michigans of the world can't be bullied, Paterno needs an outlet for his bully tendencies, and he views Pitt as a convenient target.

Starkey may also use petty, to describe it -- because it is -- but he is more brutal than most sportswriters when it comes to describing Paterno. He then runs through all the sudden changes that seemed to make the return of the game appear to be on the horizon. He is more willing to give a better defense of Harris (though with a backhand slap for flourish).

Then, Paterno supposedly turned sour when Pitt coach Walt Harris popped off to the Daily Collegian, Penn State's campus newspaper.

"I think it's a selfish act on (Penn State's) part, not playing us," Harris said in the July 29 edition.

He was right. Penn State discontinued the series twice in the past 11 years, essentially because Paterno hasn't gotten over the fact that Pitt wouldn't join him in an all-sports conference back in 1982.

Or was it 1882?

Not knowing the athletic directors had spoken, Harris said, "I don't think there will be any communication on playing (Penn State) as long as one man is running the program."

Those comments are said to have ruined Paterno's will to renew the rivalry.

Suddenly, it looks as though Harris is the bad guy. Don't believe it.

Oh, Harris is plenty capable of screwing things up -- he often does -- but he's not the culprit here.

He had the right idea, even if he has backed off his statements and said he would have kept quiet if he'd known talks had occurred (why didn't he know?).

The right idea, by the way, is this: As long as Paterno is running Penn State, this rivalry is dead.

Besides, how substantive could the talks have been if all it took to derail them were a few comments in the student newspaper?

It will be interesting to see if the central and eastern Pennsylvania newspapers even are willing to write anything about this. Or will they pretend it never happened so they don't have to defend the indefensible? The Penn St. Weblog on PennLive has nothing for all of August.

UPDATE: Apparently something finally got the attention of the PSU Weblog. He doesn't actually defend it -- other than using the old Paterno chestnut of the Eastern League argument that is nearing it's 25th anniversery of never happening; and the more recent talking point of Pitt packaging the tying all (other than the allotted tickets to PSU) individual ticket sales for the '98 PSU-Pitt game with Temple tickets (and for the record, the combined cost of the two was still cheaper than a single ticket at Beaver Stadium that year). Enjoy that Land Grant Battle.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Semi-Late News Round-Up 

I don't feel so bad getting to the stories in the paper today, because nothing particularly big is going on.

There are 2 puff pieces on members of the offensive line in the Trib. One on lineman Justin Belarski and the other on guard Matt Maiers.

Pitt released its latest graduation figures for the football team a few weeks ahead of when the NCAA will. The good news, they are almost double the number from last year. The bad news, that is still only 31% -- the average is about 54%. I'm not a big fan of the way the NCAA calculate graduation rates. They don't count transfers to a program in the rate, but if the player transfers out it counts against you. Go pro early, goes against you. The other problem of course, is that the data is quite stale. These latest figures are based on the class from 1997.

Final article is one worth reading. About how the latest talks to revive the Pitt-Penn St. game blew up. Coach Walt Harris gets blamed for this too -- he pissed off the ultrasensitive Paterno. You know, at this rate, Harris is going to be blamed for the City of Pittsburgh going bankrupt.
In June Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and Long discussed the possibility of the teams playing again and promised to revisit the subject again at a later date. By accounts on both sides, talks were headed in the right direction.

But then Paterno got wind of some of the comments Pitt coach Walt Harris made at Big East media day in late July and any enthusiasm for renewing the series on Penn State's side was curtailed.

Harris was quoted in the July 29 edition of the Daily Collegian as saying: "I think it is a selfish act on [Penn State's] part, not playing us. But from their perspective, I can see why they wouldn't want to play us. I'm not saying we would beat them every time, but we would be pretty competitive."

Harris also said, "I don't think there will be any communication on playing [Penn State] as long as one man is running the program."

Harris said last week that he made those statements without knowing Long and Curley were involved in discussions. Had he known, Harris said he would have kept quiet. His intent was merely to spark up conversation about the series.

Of course, we know what Paterno is now saying about the game. I also find this a refreshing piece of truth from Fran Ganter, Penn State's associate athletic director for football administration -- and the former PSU offensive coordinator who got booted from that position:

"We're in no big rush for 2010 or 2011 for a game like Pitt or a Notre Dame," Ganter said. "We're always looking for guarantee games. Games like Akron. Those games are harder to get."
That's because those are games that are in demand by about 40-50 programs and there are maybe 20-25 of those Akron-esque programs out there. Those schools that you know when you schedule them they will still be a bad team when it comes time to play them in 3-5 years.

Week 1 Review: USC Escapes Virginia Tech and Crazy Paco Rules 

Well on the bright side, what a great start to the 2004 college football season. USC -- the game's most dominant program at the moment -- got a solid scare from Virginia Tech -- the game's most consistently overrated program (thanks largely to ESPN) -- but still prevailed 24-13. And it ain't like the Hokies, who were 17.5 point underdogs, did it with smoke and mirrors either. Frank Beamer and his staff -- easily the most schizophrenic group in college football (can anybody argue that they didn't just mail it in against Pitt each of the past three years?) -- used a solid game plan built on their team's strengths: a highly mobile quarterback (Bryan Randall wound up being their top rusher with 82 yards) and good tight ends (I hope Walt was watching). So did Virginia Tech surprise me by being a little better than I expected? Sure, I'll admit that much.

But what really surprised me was how badly overrated USC was. Neither their vaunted receiving corps nor (more importantly) their offensive line was anywhere near national championship caliber. Matt Leinart looked thoroughly average in the first half, although most of that must obviously be blamed on his relatively slow, blockhanded receivers and his absolutely porous offensive line (I admittedly have to give VT's usually terrible defensive coordinator Bud Foster some credit for his blitzing package). In the end, the #1 ranked Trojans were barely saved by their halftime-adjusted defense (Tech only got about 70 yards in the second half), a few gimmick passes to their tailback Reggie Bush, and a @#%*@#! offensive pass interference call on Tech's Hyman.

So anyways, like I said above, what an entertaining game... on the bright side. On the bad side, I obviously picked USC to cover against what I thought was an absolutely pathetic Virginia Tech squad after they ended last season going 1 for 6. Well, at least I consistently suck, unlike Virginia Tech.

Finally, and most importantly, I must request -- nay, demand -- that all good Pitt fans read Crazy Paco's review of Paterno's most recent comments concerning the renewal of the Pitt-Penn State rivalry (mentioned here first by Chas last evening). Absolutely genius, funny, and most importantly of all, factual. The part where Paco completely debunks the Paterno-born myth that Allegheny County has more Penn State alumni than Pitt alumni is the high point. From one Blair County Penn State debunker to another, you're the best, Paco.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the Centre Daily Times neither covered Paterno's comments nor made any attempt to rebut them.

Hail to Joe Paterno continuing to make himself look like an idiot without any help from anyone else.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Paterno Fisked 

In the political end of the blogosphere it is common to engage in fisking a particularly idiotic statement, article or argument. I may not have had the energy to fisk the idiocy from Paterno on why he ducks Pitt on the schedule, but Crazy Paco didn't.

Read and enjoy this thing of beauty.

The Day After 

The starting QB has been named and Palko and Getsy can now talk to the media. Palko remains extremely confident about Pitt being a winning program and capable of being a national power. I'm glad he's confident and even a little arrogant about what he expects from himself and the team. He has to be. Realism, cynicism, and even pessimism is the realm of the fans and sports writers.

Luke Getsy, on the other hand, is extremely down on not getting the starting nod. It isn't just idle talk from fans and writers about whether he'll transfer. Getsy, himself, acknowledged that it is an option he is actually considering.
"It has been difficult, no doubt. I wanted to get my chance but the time is just not right now," Getsy said. "I love this university but I have a lot of options and I am just going to think about the situation, weigh it out and see what goes on. As long as I am here I am going to bust my [butt] for this team because you never know what is going to happen."

He said he wasn't "sure what the rules are" on pursuing a transfer. "I don't know how quickly I have to act, but those are things we need to find out and I'll sit down and figure it out."

According to the rules, if he wants to transfer to another Div. 1-A school and play in 2005, it must happen by the 12th day of that school's fall semester. For a school like the oft mentioned Akron (where former Offensive Coordinator J.D. Brookhart is now the head coach) he would be able to play the first 2 Pitt games before deciding.

I don't know what he's going to decide. I do know that Pitt needs him to stay. Not to stockpile talent, so much as my deep belief that this O-line is going to get Palko knocked out for at least a game. Bendel noted that his reading between the lines of Coach Harris is that Harris is very worried about Getsy transferring.

Bendel's notebook notes that Pitt will play a mock game under the lights tonight and then the team is off on Sunday.

Puff piece on likely 3 time academic All-American Vince Crochunis by P-G columnist Ron Cook, who also uses the piece to take some shots at Coach Walt Harris. I think Harris may punch a columnist before the season is over at this rate.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Are You Done Yet? 

I know, I keep coming back to the non-con. That's because I am really, really pissed about this. So I keep thinking about it, and remember other things. Like the fact that part of how the NCAA seeding committee rationalized dropping Pitt to a #3 seed and sticking them in Milwaukee to play Wisconsin in the second round was the non-con.
When the head of the committee Bowlsby, the AD from Iowa was being interviewed that was one of the first questions. His defense was Pitt's non-conference schedule dragged them down and losing to UConn 2 out of 3 times. He ignored Pitt's Big East schedule and winning the Big East regular season -- impliedly suggesting that for Pitt, the conference regular season wasn't important.
Every year at NCAA Tournament time, the talk always turns to who played a good non-con and who took the cheap way out. The last couple years, we have seen the seeding committee reward teams that play a tough non-con and punish the ones who take the weak route in the seedings. Pitt was all but told to toughen up the non-con or look for the same thing again. Way to pay attention.

Over His Dead Body 

Remember about a week ago, when the news surfaced that Pitt and Penn State, might renew the rivalry. Guess who is doing his best to kill that:
Q: Is there an interest in renewing rivalry with Pitt?

PATERNO:There are a lot of reasons for not playing it. One of which is that Pitt decided to go their way. All of those years when they weren't in the Big East, we couldn't get them to play us in basketball. It's a two-way street. I tried to get them all into a league and if Pitt had been willing to go along with the league, we would have had a Big East arrangement that probably would have been better for a lot of different people. That and the fact that when we go to play Pitt at Pitt, they double the price for our fans. It's not the same price (as other games). At one time you had to buy two tickets in order to get to see Penn State play Pitt out there. We would love to play Pitt if they would come here 2-1 and not because we particularly want that, but we think that would be a fair way for us to give them the same kind of money. It's not really a good arrangement for us. Now having said that, which I know that next part of this is not going to get printed, I'd love to play Pitt. I grew up here when Pitt and Penn State were big rivalries. I'd love to play Pitt. I have all kinds of friends at Pitt. Suzy Broadhurst, whose husband, Jim, has been marvelous in fundraising at Penn State, some of the trustees in Pittsburgh?we have more alumni in Allegheny County than Pitt has in Allegheny County. I think it's natural. We should play it. But there has got to be an arrangement. We have to have six home games. We have a women's basketball team in Italy, we have a men's soccer team in Brazil, and that is great. We have 29 sports and we have two-thirds of the budget that Texas has and Texas has 19 sports. And that all has to come out of the revenue that we can produce out of football because the University doesn't give us a nickel. Anything that we do has to be based on "can we have six home game? Can we satisfy the fact that we have become a national school that we have tremendous pressure to play in different parts of the country?" We are playing Boston College. Syracuse is getting back on the schedule. Notre Dame is getting back on the schedule. You would think Pitt would be a natural, West Virginia would be a natural to get back on the schedule. But there are a lot of things involved in it. It's not just a question of picking up the phone and saying "let's play." I think some people have to make some concessions to us because of the problems that certain games would create for us. It has nothing to do with competition, it's got to do with how you finance the operation you have.

I don't even feel like tackling the number of lies, half-truths, spin and plain bull s**t in there. Suffice to say that he took more time rationalizing this than any other question in the press conference.

Late, Late Recap 

Okay. Quick and dirty.

Palko named the starting QB last night. Luke Getsy was apparently very upset and even Harris doesn't know if he'll stay at Pitt. No reason for Getsy to transfer yet. If the O-line is as bad as last year, he'll be starting because Palko will be out for at least a game with a concussion.

Wide Receiver Greg Lee was surprised by the decision. He thought it was too close to call and would play out into next week.

The QB starter may be named but a bunch of others are still up in the air. This includes tailback, fullback, a cornerback, wide receivers, and of course injuries on the lines have a bunch of questions.

Coach Harris considered last year's paper thin defense to be an "aberration" for the entire year. So that means he expects the D to be better this year (And how much worse could they be?).

Joe Bendel does his breakdown of the team and the challenges. Bottom line, is a 6-5 regular season and losing its bowl birth to finish an even 6-6. Right around what most expect.

Post-Gazette beat reporter Paul Zeise, does his first Q&A for the new season. Nothing that surprising, but even Zeise, a beat writer who has to deal with the guy almost daily, notes Harris needs a good year:
Q: How secure is Walt Harris? Will eight or nine wins save his job?

ZEISE: The seat that coach Harris is sitting on is certainly getting warm but I'm not sure there is a magic number for him remain at Pitt. I know three wins would put him in big trouble, but the other end of the scale (7 or 8) is not so cut and dried. Harris runs a clean program, the team wins enough and the kids go to class and he doesn't put up with a lot of off-field nonsense. That goes a long way towards keeping the administration happy, further than most people know. Season ticket renewals, however, have not been quite as good as the university had hoped and that's a factor as well. The bottom line is Walt needs to have a good season, how good is not quite as clear.

My feeling .500 or better he stays. 5-6 or lower, and a change will have to be made.

Finally, Pitt has its 7th recruit. Rashaad Duncan from Belle Glade, FL. He's apparently a diamond in the rough, according to this breakdown from Bob Lichtenfels from Panther Report.

Still Ticked Off 

Sorry, I know I still haven't done the news round-up for Pitt football, but I have a few moments and I am still bugged by the non-con.

I note that Pitt's web site still hasn't put out an official press release on the non-con. Interesting. They had no problem trumpeting the Big East schedule even though the actual dates and times weren't ready. The actual time and dates are supposed to come out next week. I'm guessing at that point Pitt will put out a press release trumpeting its "full" schedule as being very difficult and will even resort to the same pathetic we-have-games-against-teams-from-3-major-basketball-conferences spin again.

If Pitt is too embarrassed by the non-con to release it separately on the site, then even they now what a joke it is and can't give a legitimate defense of it. And, "look at what team x or y does" is not a defense.

Lee's Picks: Unfortunately Back for Another Season 

Thank Christ almighty, college football is back. And just in the nick of time. I'm not sure how much more baseball I can take, let alone the completely inane Olympics.

Throughout last season, I picked 60 college football games against the spread (as all three of you who regularly read this site may remember). I tended to stay within my two favorite conferences (the Big East and the Big Ten), but occasionally ventured outside for big, national games. Despite my obsessing over college football to a greater extent than almost anybody I know, my final season record was a depressingly neutral 29-30-1 (heck, I would have rather gone way under .500... then I could at least make money betting against myself).

Given that my record was so grey, I suspect that nobody out there cares if I start picking again this season or not. So what the hell. I need something to do over my lunch hour...

THE SUCKER BET BOWL (The University of Southern California (-17.5) at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Cracker Barrel, and State University): This year's Black Coaches Association game isn't going to be much of a contest, and ESPN2's simultaneously broadcasted "Behind The Scenes" crap doesn't look too promising either. I'm hoping that Pete Carroll will keep it interesting by firing off some cheap shots at the NCAA for the way they completely butchered the Matt Williams situation (and made the wrong decision to boot). But either way, I'll stay up to the end anyways, because my wife says I'm an addict.

FoxSports's Fearless Predictions (or should I say "Fearless Prediction," since there's only one game this weekend) didn't take the Trojans to cover the 17.5 point spread. Really, since USC could pretty much score as many points as it wanted to in this one, whether or not they'll cover is more a matter of how soon they call off the dogs. Sure, Virginia Tech should be able to put a few touchdowns on the board against USC's defense. But they won't be able to keep it close, even without Williams.

I think USC will win by three or four touchdowns, so I'll take the sucker bet and give the 17.5.

Hail to Virginia Tech taking a good, swift asskicking in their first game as a member of the ACC.

Delayed Day 

Very busy today. Personal matters. Lots of stuff at both papers, but I have no time to do a write-up.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

And One More Thing on the Non-Con 

I wanted to include this in my last post on the non-con, but was limited by time (mainly the end of Sesame Street). I have no doubt how Pitt will spin the schedule: it must be taken as a whole. That Pitt has such a difficult conference schedule, that it justifies lining up nothing but patsies. I just hope they don't try to claim this as they did last year:
"By far, it's the most difficult schedule we will play in my five years here," Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon said. "The Big East will again pose a tremendous challenge. I'm excited about our non-conference schedule as well. We're bringing in teams from three of the major conferences -- the ACC, SEC and Big 10. I doubt there are many schools nationwide who can say that."
The other problem for Pitt with this schedule is that there is no margin for a loss on this schedule. Even against Memphis or South Carolina. Those (and maybe Richmond) will be the only good RPI games. Lose any of those games and everyone will and should question the team.

Non-Con Looks Hideous At Every Angle 

Quick little check on the end of the 2003-04 year RPI for Pitt's 11 non-con opponents is pathetic:
Loyola-MD - 322
Howard - 321

St. Francis - PA - 249
Coppin St. - 234
Robert Morris - 217
Bucknell - 216

Penn St. - 189
Duquesne - 162

Richmond - 47
South Carolina - 45
Memphis - 32
Two -- two teams with RPIs in the 300s! That is inexcuseable. Over half the games against teams with RPI at 216 or lower. Disgusting. Those hideous numbers puts the RPI of our non-cons at: 184.91. For a program like Pitt, that guarantees no non-con national TV coverage (except for the Memphis game). Pitt will take deserved ridicule for this kind of schedule. At the very least the needed to schedule some games against legit "name" mid-majors like Kent St., Valpo and Creighton despite the risk. I hated last year's schedule. This one is just as bad.

The Fog of Training Camp 

With training camp over with the final scrimmage (Um, what is the real difference between "training camp" and the practices that will be taking place for the next week and a half -- I mean other than preparing directly for USF and a #$&*ing spread offense? Shut up and don't ask such stupid questions!) yesterday, what have we learned?

I'll come back to that in a later post. Right now, the stories of the day.

No puff pieces today. The primary in both papers is Greg Lee playing in the scrimmage and a bit of tension between Coach Harris and the teams expected #1 WR. Lee said part of the problem in his length of sitting out was that there was a mis-diagnosis in his injury. They originally thought it was in the hamstring, and worked that but it turned out to be in the quad. Harris still thinks Lee was just trying to duck working. This is hardly the stuff of Antonio Bryant prima donna act, but after being spoiled the last couple years by Fitzgerald's otherworldly level of professionalism and maturity it doesn't look great. In the other piece, there is a question of double standards asked regarding Tim Murphy's injury, but not being questioned. Harris dismissed such a question because Murphy is a senior, a "hard-nosed player... [and] a tough guy," who has proved himself.

Zeise's notebook focuses on the decision on QB. No predictions. A live panther, named Shasta, was at the scrimmage yesterday for some pictures and video with the coach and players. We can expect to see it on the jumbotron at the games this year.

Bendel notes some of the one-on-one activity during the scrimmage. He also observes that the O-line was makeshift because of injuries.

That leads to Starkey's column. Depth will be a real issue this year. Pitt is thin at many places, but more so on the lines. Starkey takes Coach Harris to task for the number of misses right in his own back yard.
Derry Area's Kyle Schmitt is the starting center at Maryland and one of the more respected linemen in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Mt. Lebanon's Justin Geisinger is Vanderbilt's starting left tackle and team captain.

Mt. Lebanon's Bob Whitaker, a 320-pound right guard, was a Sporting News freshman All-American at Kansas.

Thomas Jefferson's Tyler Reed arguably is Penn State's best linemen and plays next to North Hills' Andrew Richardson.

Washington's Dan Mozes, a sophomore guard at West Virginia, is regarded as a certain NFL draft pick.

The list goes on.
But the overriding factors are Pitt's failure to attract enough talent and to develop the talent on hand.

He doesn't actually make the point except on Mozes, but he is indicating with these players that Pitt hasn't looked for the diamonds in the rough at the line. Pitt can't get the blue-chip linemen yet.

Starkey credits Harris for finally realizing the importance of the lines by the hiring of a new tackle and tight end coach and a new strength coach. The problem, he thinks, is that it might already be too late for Harris. The pressure on Harris is already big. Pitt is going to have to win 2 of its first 3 games, to start bringing it down. No small task.

Meet the New Non-Con, Same As the Old Non-Con 

It hasn't been posted on the site officially as of yet, but Pitt releases its non-conference schedule today. Just like last year, it's full of patsies.
This season's non-conference schedule is similarly constructed, with 9 of the 11 games at the Petersen Events Center and no games against quality opponents on the road.

Pitt opens Nov. 20 with a home game against Howard. The Panthers also play home games against Robert Morris (Nov. 24), Loyola, Md. (Nov. 27), St. Francis, Pa. (Dec. 1), Duquesne (Dec. 4), Coppin State (Dec. 18), Richmond (Dec. 23) and Bucknell (Jan. 2).

They will play in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden, facing Memphis Dec. 7. The only road game during the non-conference schedule is Dec. 11 at Penn State.

Three teams -- Memphis, Richmond and South Carolina -- played in the NCAA tournament last season.

Next week the dates for the Big East schedule will be released. This sucks. It's not just that they are facing bad teams, it's the sheer volume of absolutely horrid teams. These are teams that are in the 200s of RPI at best. Once again, the non-con will absolutely kill the RPI.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

End of Camp Scrimmage 

The scrimmage was played. Coach Walt Harris answered questions afterwards (PDF version and Stats).

Harris still hasn't made a decision on a starting QB. He seemed to have declared training camp a draw. Not clear when he will decide. Judging by the stats, I guess this time Palko got the protection (5 of 8, 0 INT and sacks, but only for 23 yards) and Getsy was running for his life (2 of 6, 0 INT, 2 sacks, 64 yards).

Kirkley looks to be the starter at RB, but only because Murphy has been banged up. Harris obviously has questions about Kirkley's mental part, "he's got to be a better football player. That would be the most important area he needs to improve." Hardly a ringing endorsement.

Greg Lee played today. He looked pretty good (judging by calling his performance "standout" in the question itself), but Coach Harris really implied that Lee was nursing his quad or hamstring to stay out of practice, "Obviously he must have got himself in the right frame of mind." Subtle.

Puffery Awry 

Usually I save the puff pieces for last, but this just doesn't make sense. Both the Trib and the P-G do stories on the new Strength Coach, Mike Kent. Plenty of player raves about the guy and how he motivates them. Kent stresses lower body fat, flexibility at the hips, and more shoulder and hand strength. He came here from Louisville, which joins the Big East next year and has become a respectable program.

So why do these puff pieces bother me? Well the big story of camp and again yesterday were the sheer number of injuries to Pitt players. How about the entire starting interior O-line being out of practice yesterday with injuries. Guard Rob Frederick is going to be out for a while. Whatever the MRI showed, Pitt hasn't told the press yet. Two more WRs, Kevin Chandler and Jason Gaffney were injured and didn't practice yesterday. The number of players out with injuries yesterday was 15.

Now, I'm not blaming Kent and his program. I happen to agree with lowering body fat and increasing flexibility. And considering I have bum shoulders, I can't argue with doing anything to strengthen them. I am wondering why no one is asking if the Pitt conditioning program may have anything to do with the volume of injuries. Whether it is some sort of adjustments to the new regimen, and the players' bodies hadn't fully adjusted to the changes before practices and hits started. Or if it's something else. It at least seems like a legitimate question.

At first, I was writing off the injuries as not a big deal because most seemed like minor dings and kids learning about playing through and with pain. Now, with some of the players out a week or longer, you have to wonder and worry.

Back to the rest of the news. Freshman Darrelle Revis is now in the mix to pull down a starting position at cornerback. Darrell Strong already looks good at the TE position. Coach Harris has done a fair amount of personal coaching . Safety Tez Morris tried to thin out the WR depth even further when he knocked out Joe Stephens with a hit as Stephens lunged at a tipped ball.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Everything Is On the Net 

Now this is an awesome resource. The Helmet Project (via FanBlogs). An ongoing work in progress attempting to replicate and show the football helmets for all teams -- pro and college. Right now the sight goes back to circa 1960. The Big East section has Pitt helmets going back to the mid-60s. Like This.

Cool place to click through.

O-Line Looks Worse 

Maybe Darrelle Strong would have had a chance to be a starting QB this year -- simply by the odds that Palko and Getsy may both be mauled by opposing defenses. Judging by what the latest Walt Harris quote collection (PDF version) says, the line looks incredibly fragile and inexperienced.

Whatever is wrong with Guard Rob Frederick's left foot, "It's not day-to-day, it will be awhile." That means Charles Spencer will have to get the hang of the position really fast. Plus Center Justin Belarski suffered back spasms today. He missed most of last season because of injuries.

Should be another fun day for the whole offense with tomorrow's scheduled scrimmage.

Strong-ly Positive 

Thomas Smith, a senior defensive end, comes in for today's puff piece. He's a tough guy, he knows how to play through and with pain, a bit of a throwback, a plain tough football player, a leader by example... Oh, you know the storyline.

Despite more injuries, the stories today were quite upbeat. The move of Darrell Strong from QB to TE seems to be the reason. Despite all the early talk about his strong arm, he can have a more immediate impact as a TE. Linebacker H.B. Blades, played on the same high school team as Strong, and had lots of positive things to say.

Zeise's notebook leads with Strong moving to TE. Now for the bad stuff. Freshman RB Brandon Mason tore ligaments in his thumb. He will be out an undetermined period. At this rate, all Kirkely has to do to win the starting tailback job is not get hurt. Cornerback Josh Lay, who got a late start because of academic issues, will likely be out for a while with a hamstring injury. More dinged up defensive players -- J.J. Horne and Kennard Cox. Harris was unhappy with the way the defense played, they lacked intensity.

Bendel's notebook led the ailing left foot of Guard Rob Frederick. The positive, being that the X-rays were negative. Now he will have an MRI to see why it is hurting. Bendel thinks Mason won't return from his thumb ligament surgery until late in the season, and will end up red-shirting. Kirkely looked good running the ball, but was it all him or did the defense let down.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Getting Thinner Everyday 

Okay, now I'm concerned about the number of injuries. The Walt Harris quote list is up for the day. Add Freshman RB, Brandon Mason, to the injured list. Mason has to have surgery on Thursday (actual injury not stated). The players are just dropping. OL Rob Frederick apparently doesn't have a break in his foot, but now is going to get an MRI to figure out what the problem is.

In the one piece of very good news. Freshman Darrell Strong has asked to go from QB to Tight End. This is excellent. He was a blue-chip recruit as a TE, but wanted to play QB. He came to Pitt over Auburn because he would be given a chance to play QB. Apparently after going through enough QB meetings, he concluded that he couldn't run the offense. Expect him to be on the field this season.

Line Play, Line Play, Line Play 

Guess what today's theme is?

Seems everyone who is involved, covers or cares about Pitt football has become converts to the need for good linemen and some depth at the position. It almost seems like a group epiphany. Except of course being bludgeoned with the evidence of seeing the 2003 season hardly makes it a revelation.


The defensive line vows not to be blown off the line, not allow gaping holes, get to the quarterback more than once a game, and remember how to tackle. Well, actually they just vow to stop the run. How? Experience it seems.

Safe to say that both Palko and Getsy are holding their breath regarding the X-ray this morning on left guard Rob Frederick's left foot. He suffered a stress fracture in that foot last year costing him 10 games. The piece concludes with a list of who the likely starters will be on the 0-line, and just how short on experience and depth there is behind each position. Yeep!

If he's out, then converted d-lineman Charles Spencer is in. Spencer, the subject of an early puff piece, turned out to be struggling with the conversion. He's still learning the position.

Zeise's notebook
is all about how thin the line is after the starters. Pitt will have 2 practices today, one tomorrow, and 2 on Wednesday to wrap up training camp. Then it's fanfest on Thursday.

Bendel's notebook is short -- no decision at QB and WR positions are still open.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Depth and Practice are Problems 

Quotes from Coach Harris after this evening's practice. No decision on who will be the QB to lead off the quotes; OL Rob Frederick will have an X-ray tomorrow; very thin on the O-line; and he's worried about all the injuries -- especially at WR.

Sunday Is No Day Of Rest 

Sunday has become that day spent catching up on a lot of other things, so let's do this quick and dirty.

Direct quotes from Coach Walt Harris (PDF Version) regarding the first scrimmage of the year (stats -- for what they are worth -- here). Nothing especially revealing. He wants to name a starting QB before the end of the week.

The Pooch Punt will rise again. Josh Cummings, who kicked well, had 2 pooch punts in the scrimmage. The offense struggled at times. Especially the line in front of Palko who couldn't seem to protect him. Getsy had the better day, but most of Palko's problems seemed to be that he was always on the run. Here's something I didn't want to read:
Neither player had much of a chance to show what they can do consistently because both spent much of the day running from defensive players. The offensive line struggled mightily against what was mostly a patchwork defensive line.
Reads to me that both QBs will get to start at this rate, after the initial starter is carted off on a stretcher.

Bendel's report stressed the number of injuries making this scrimmage a hard to judge event. In the notebook column, defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads singled out Charles Sallet as the best player on defense to date. Houston Texans GM Casserly and former Pitt coach Foge Fazio were at the scrimmage.

Puff piece on Offensive Lineman Rob Petitti.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Practice, Practice, Ouch! 

Starting with the notebook columns today as both deal with injuries and attempts to return. From Zeise, leads with Greg Lee and Marcus Furman returns to practice. Neither, though, could make it to the end of practice. Josh Lay and Tim Murphy both sat out practice with injuries. With Murphy trying to make it as a tailback, there is not a lot of depth and a noticeable drop in talent at fullback. With Murphy and Furman dinged and not practicing, freshman Brandon Mason has looked good competing with Kirkley for the starting RB.

Bendel's notebook deals with most of the same topics. He notes that Furman had to leave after a big hit from Darrelle Revis.

A week ago, columnist Bob Smizik's first Pitt football column of the year pretty much suggested that Harris will be coming in for a fair amount of abuse. He does another piece against Harris -- this for the calling out the injured players as being soft.
Suppose Lee responds to Harris' challenge and resumes practice. Then suppose he does further damage to his injury, which had been described as in the hamstring and/or quadriceps area. What does Harris look like if, say, Lee's hamstring is torn and he is lost for the season?

A talk in the coach's office would have been a more prudent approach. Nothing was gained by publicly embarrassing Lee.

Harris' stance is particularly puzzling because of what has transpired in football in recent years. Too many players are dying on the field, usually because of the heat, and too many programs are being blamed because of the way they treat their players. Lee's injury is not life-threatening. But if the deaths of Kory Stringer of the Minnesota Vikings and Rashidi Wallace of Northwestern have taught us anything it is that coaches and trainers need to be sensitive to the condition of the athletes in their charge.

Now here's the annoying thing. Smizik actually makes a halfway decent point. But since it came from him, it can easily be dismissed as Smizik just looking for something to rip on Walt.

Two other articles. One on Darrelle Revis and his efforts to get his grades up over the summer to avoid having to go to prep school. It will be interesting to see where he is on the depth chart at the beginning of the season and by the end. Harris seems to want to downplay the expectations.

The must read article for the day concerns the scrimmage today. A good rundown on a lot of position battles, and a lot of expected decisions regarding who will be the starter. The exception, though, is the QB battle.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Harris Commentary 

A mellower Walt Harris on Friday. Not a large amount of quotes (PDF version). He was vague on whether the scrimmage for tomorrow would take place and didn't want to talk about the injured players who came back to practice today -- beat reporters to fill in gap. A little special teams talk -- apparently punter Adam Graessele is struggling. A couple comments about Darrelle Revis including a potential red flag -- academics.
On defensive back Darrelle Revis' academic progress:
"He took care of his business. A lot of people, I'm sure, were apart of that equation to help him figure that out and do what he had to do. It's great. I think it was a family situation, too. I know they worked hard. I know (his uncle) Sean (Gilbert) was involved in being able to help him get help and to do well on all of the academic requirements he had to do, which is great. They're a great family, by the way. They are really enjoyable. It was probably one of the most fun nights I had at a home (visit) was the night I went over there after a basketball game for an official visit to his home with his mother Diana and her brother Sean. I met Sean, but I had never had a chance to be around him before. He's quite the personality."
Didn't know about the Sean Gilbert connection. Revis is a talent, but the academics bear watching.


Both beat writers do a full story on Coach Walt Harris' very strong comments about the heart and will of the players. Zeise at the P-G called it "a line in the sand" for the team. Bendel for the Trib. considered it a "candid and powerful message." Both said Harris was very frustrated by the number of injuries and at having to cut practice short for a second day.

Since they were there, and saw and heard much more, I will defer to them. Neither one seems to suggest that this was part of a "Not my fault" Walt moment. They seem to read it as a lighting-the-fire-under-the-ass type ploy. I hope it works. These sort of tirades to the media can blow-up on a coach real easily. You are still talking about dealing with pain thresholds and kids. With a young team, they are still learning about playing with and through pain.

As for walk-ons who could start, there look to be at least two. Rob Federick at Left Guard, and Joe DelSardo for the split-end WR position. DelSardo is also the subject of a puff piece. The kid is 5' 8" and 200 pounds. 5-8 and he appears #1 on the depth chart right now. Walt may have a real point.

Bendel's notebook seems to very subtly suggest that Palko is starting to open up a lead in the QB derby. Freshman cornerback Allen Richardson has switched to offense and will play wide receiver.

Zeise's notebook focuses on the number of NFL scouts attending Pitt practices this year. Zeise has more on other injuries.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

A Frustrated Sounding Coach 

Maybe it's just the fact that I'm seeing the direct quotes for the first time, but Coach Harris seems especially prickly this year. The other possibility is that he's already feeling a lot of pressure to have a good season after last year's flop. This one stood out:
On the possibility of having walk-ons start at various positions:
"It does concern me. You'd think some of the scholarship guys would wake up or transfer. We don't know who it is, though. We want the best player that is available. Some of those scholarship guys need to wake up, if that's the way it's going to be."
Man, that seemed like a pointed comment at someone. Hopefully the beat reporters will help make it clearer about whom he could be talking.

Greg Lee no longer has a hamstring problem, it's his quad. It was his hamstring, but now... I don't know. I do know that he almost sounded like he was questioning Lee's injury.

The cynic in me is starting to wonder. Harris is complaining about a lot of injuries and making a lot of questionable comments about the heart and drive of some players after a little more than a week of practices. Is Harris looking to set a fire under his players or is he already into the "Not My Fault" Walt mode. Something doesn't feel right, and I'm getting fearful about how this season will play itself out.

Get the Pound of Flesh on the Fields and (B-Ball) Courts 

Well, damn.
The Big East can't impose a $5 million fine on Boston College for defecting to the Atlantic Coast Conference, and it can't force BC to remain in the conference for an extra 15 months, a Superior Court judge has ruled.

The decision passed down by Wednesday keeps Boston College on track to join the ACC next July and pay a $1 million withdrawal fee to the Big East.

The Big East is "extremely disappointed," and considering an appeal.

Rest of the News 

More on the cornerbacks, seems to be the theme today. Sophomore Reggie Carter gets the focus. Carter wants to play like, Deon Sanders, and like Sanders needs more work on his run stopping. His pass coverage is good. Carter admits the need to be more physical. There is also a more general piece about the other players vying for starting positions in the secondary. Pitt lost a lot of experience from its secondary.

Bendel's notebook also did the injury thing. There were 14 players out with some sort of injury, but none were terribly serious. Bendel noted that Harris was very frustrated, though, in part because it cut the 3-hour practice short by about 20 minutes.

Concerns for the Student Athletes 

Okay, the Trib site seems to be functioning again, after not working all morning.

The Pitt-Penn State story.
Long contacted Curley several months ago about renewing the series and said Wednesday that he is optimistic a deal can be worked out. Curley also expressed hope that the two schools can come to terms. <>Penn State no longer is demanding a 2-for-1 setup, in which it would host two games at Beaver Stadium for every game played in Pittsburgh.
Penn State's concession alone won't guarantee the series' return. Several other factors, including the possibility of a permanent 12-game regular season, could come into play.
However, the NCAA could permanently increase the number of regular-season college football games from 11 to 12 as soon as next season. If the 12-game schedule passes, Penn State would instantly have an opening.
Pitt coach Walt Harris has been vocal in his desire to resume the series. He's even suggested that politicians should get involved.

Penn State officials and coach Joe Paterno do not believe lawmakers in Harrisburg should mandate an annual football game.

Florida law mandates an annual game between Florida State and U of Florida. If Penn State doesn't want the state involved, do it voluntarily or don't take state money.

Looks like the only way it will start befor 2010 is if the NCAA allows the permanent 12 game schedule. Showing their usual concern for the student part of the student-athlete by adding another regular season game to be played.

The dropping of the 2-for-1 dealbreaker seems to be a sign not just of the increased pressure from PSU alumni and donors for the game, but the economic reality to bring in more fans to an increasingly emptier stadium. Beating up on Temple no longer guarantees a packed house.

I am still a little cautious at this point, since I have said I don't think the game would return until after Paterno was in the ground. Paterno, could still gum this up, but apparently there are more forces working against him than in the past.

Truncated News  

There's something screwy right now with the Tribune-Review website. I had trouble even getting on the site, and individual articles are giving me error messages. Really frustrating when you see this in the sports section:
Pitt-Penn State rivalry may be renewed
The Pitt-Penn State football rivalry might soon be revived if discussions between athletic directors Jeff Long and Tim Curley continue to make progress.
Hopefully the site will be working soon and this and the other Pitt stories will be linked here.

That just leaves the P-G articles for now. A story on the new cornerbacks, specifically focusing on Darrelle Revis. Revis, a freshman, has looked spectacular in practice looks like he could earn a starting position. He may also be returning kicks. Tom Lemming for ESPN (subscription only) lists Revis as one of the freshmen who will have an impact in the Big East.

In Zeise's notebook, a little more on the injuries that had Coach Harris so pissed.
Three linemen,
John Simonitis, Charles Spencer and Rob Petitti all failed to finish practice because of unknown ailments. Starting strong safety Tyrone Gilliard left practice after his hamstring apparently was pulled.

The list of players who didn't practice at all includes starting middle linebacker Clint Session (headache), receivers Tom Kail, Greg Lee (hamstring), Tom Kail, Brandon Ballard, Larry Moore (hamstring) and Kelvin Chandler, defensive tackle Andy Alleman, fullback Justin Acierno, running back Marcus Furman (hip) and defensive tackle Michael Hearn.

On the positive side, right tackle Mike McGlynn (knee) and defensive tackle Vince Crochunis (knee) returned to practice.

I guess that is a kind of high, though it really should be expected in the first couple weeks that there will be some kids that will get a little too banged up. Trying to do too much too soon.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Missed On Adrien 

While Jeff Adrien visited with Pitt, the message boards were saying he was really wowed when he visited UConn. Now it appears that he has given a verbal to UConn. While the actual story is behind the Rivals subscription wall, the profile notes "solid verbal" next to UConn.

UPDATE: Here's the story from the Hartford Courant. He decided to stay closer to home, and he liked the idea of playing for Calhoun.

Walt's Wednesday Words of Wisdom  

I'm not sure, but judging by some of the answers, Coach Harris seemed a little annoyed today (PDF version).
On linebacker Clint Session's absence from practice today:
"He's got a headache."
On Pittsburgh's veteran wide receivers :
"I don't think there are any veterans out there at receiver other than Joe Del Sardo. To say he's a veteran, he's a true sophomore, that isn't saying much right now."
On defensive lineman Phil Tillman:
"We like Phil, but it's still a little too early to talk about guys who just showed up in horrible shape. He does have some football ability but we'll see."
Part of it seems to be that the number of dinged up players is limiting some of what he can do in practice. Lots of questions regarding that today. I don't know who else got hurt today. Most of the injuries to this point seemed kind of normal as you get more contact drills. With issues of depth, though, any starter being out is a big problem.

All the News 

Plenty of articles. Not a lot of news. The shine of fall practices has started to come off, and now it is just reporting basic information and some sightings.

Not a player puff piece or profile, but a story on Greg Lee now being the leader of the now thinned wide receiver corp. Lee seems to be handling the role of "the guy coming after Larry Fitzgerald" well. After Lee, the other 2 positions are still open. It does look that Senior Joe Stephens and walk-on sophomore Joe DelSardo are getting the most first team reps. They have the most experience in the offense, so that makes some sense.

A couple complimentary stories concerning the defense. Specifically, improving from the "non-existent" pass rush of last year. For that to happen, the linemen have to actually get pressure on the QB. The numbers from last year were pathetic. Only 21 sacks in 13 games (and 6 came against Temple). A lot of the bad pass rush of last year is laid at the feet of now gone, Claude Harriott's hideous season. That his bad year, "contaminated" the whole defense. Sorry. Can't buy that. The pathetic defense was a team effort. Harriott played poorly and underachieved but no one else was doing anything on the line. Of some concern for this line is that several of the linemen are undersized. Now speed and power are good and can help, but you do get worn down in a game and a season. Something to watch.

Now the beat reporter notebooks. Both had similar items, but Bendel had personal observations on players in practice: Murphy had a good day in the battle for the starting RB battle; and the QB battle was a draw. Both noted Brockenbrough's knee surgery and the growing list of (mostly) minor injuries to players. Zeise's notebook went more in-depth on the changes to fall practices dictated by the NCAA, and Harris' dissatisfaction with them.

Both notebooks mentioned it, but Zeise's was more detailed and this is a juicy tidbit for the basketball team.
Pitt basketball coach Jamie Dixon stopped by practice, along with assistants Joe Lombardi and Orlando Antigua. The trio was escorting prospective recruit Jeff Adrien, one of the top power forwards in the country, who was on an unofficial visit to the campus. Adrien, who is 6 feet 5, 225 pounds and is from Brookline, Mass., visited Connecticut over the weekend and is reportedly going to decide between the two this week. He will play at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire this season.
Us or UConn for a top-50 recruit for 2005 (though not listed in the top 100 in another list). Now that would be sweet. Also very important if Mike Davis doesn't qualify academically in time.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Tuesday Comments 

Selected quotes from Coach Harris' Monday press conference after practices (PDF version).

Greg Lee looks great in filling the WR spot previously held by Fitzgerald. Lee, though, has tweaked his hamstring. This bears watching closely.

Still nothing on the quaterbacks, let's try not to read anything into everytime he gives a response.

Brockenbrough's surgery went well. "They didn't have to do a complete reconstruction." No timetable on when he might return.

No Hysteria in Hoopieland 

Since the topic of the week seems to be WVU (and because I feel guilty for not contributing since about week two of PSB), here's a missive from Morgantown. All over the country, WVU is being inexplicably touted as a top-dozen team (which has gotten Lee all hot and bothered, since WVU is not a Big Ten team, where being perennially overrated is a birthright).

Yet here in hoopieland, the thing that strikes me is how little it seems to be affecting the Mountaineer faithful. Now maybe I don't hang out with the rabid football fanatics here. Or maybe the town is in the grip of that end-of-summer, I-can't-believe-twenty-some-thousand-kids-are-descending-next- week-upon-our-sleepy-little-town haze. But the buzz seems to be at a minimum, considering this is apparently the highest pre-season ranking ever for WVU. The local rag has dutifully reported the rankings, of course, and pondered on them in a column or two, but nobody seems particularly curious or fearful or even excited. As far as I can tell, it seems about as unexpected as today's front-page headline: "WVU Ranked #4 Party School in Nation."

Last year, when the Panther expectations were so high, the hue and cry in Pittsburgh seemed much greater.

Maybe it's some kind of West Virginia mindset, a lack of trust in those outsiders in the national media combined with a lack of self-esteem. Or maybe it'll all change when school starts next week and football season feels like more of a reality.

Wasting Pixels 

I can't believe I have to defend WVU, but Lee said,

"Nobody goes from unranked and bitchslapped-by-Maryland to #10 in one year, especially with their vanilla recruiting."

I'd love to have found a website that lists the preseason and final rankings in a poll for the last 5 years, but nothing came up on Google. If anyone knows, pass it on.

Lee keeps throwing up the Maryland loss as his justification. That any team that got pounded by a top #20 team at the end of the year like that shouldn't be ranked very high. As I recall, they were ranked before the loss, and deservedly fell out of the top #25. I also don't know why Lee cares so much about preseason rankings that are mere predictions and expectations of teams. Reality is only tangentially related.

As I said, Maryland was the only team that completely destroyed WVU (twice) last year. They inexcusably gave away the Cinci and Wisconsin games. Right now, it just looks like Maryland is in their head

So, let's take a look at the top 25 in pre-season.

Hey, look at #10: Florida. Finished last season at #25 (barely), after losing 37-17 to Iowa.

#11 WVU. See above. Considered to have the 9th best offense in the country. The #6 offensive line (and we all know how important that is).

#15 California. Finished unranked after winning that wild shootout with Virginia Tech, with an 8-6 record.

#18 Auburn and #19 Virginia both finished their seasons strong after disappointing most of the year, but still ended unranked.

#22 Wisconsin. Ended the season losing 5 of 6. Do that over the last 6 games, and ranking that team anywhere in the top 25 seems like a more egregious sin than putting WVU too high in the polls.

#25 Oregon. 5-3 in the Pac 10 without facing USC last year. Had a stretch where they lost 4 of 5 including a 59-14 drubbing to 5-7 Arizona State (also 55-16 to Wash. St. and 42-10 to Washington).

So that makes 5 teams, unranked at the end of last season in the top 25. Plus one that barely made it in the top 25 at #10. Explain the outrage again?

It's About Security 

For the life of me, I don't know why Lee just doesn't make it a post when he actually has enough of a rant to fill 2 comments.

The same team that had Miami almost beaten before a couple great catches on a last minute drive kept Morgantown from burning to the ground.

I'm not going to try and explain the Maryland game, because I can't. They laid a frickin' egg. About as close as I can come, is that Maryland has their number. They're in their head. Much the way Pitt had gotten in the head of VT the last few years.

I gave my reasons why a couple weeks ago (also see the comments). You disagreed. Great. Their offense looks very good (and with a good o-line); their bigger question will be the defensive line. They have a shut down corner in Jones. They have some depth and a veteran team.

Re-read the post, the point is, we actually need them to be good for the security of Pitt and the Big East. I don't like it. It's more fun to root for them to crash and burn, but because of the present situation, there is more a need for esprit de corps among the survivors in the Big East.

If the Big East can keep a team in the top 12 of the BCS for the 4 year probation, then the Big East isn't at risk. In the bigger picture, that would help Pitt on several fronts.

Daily Story Summary 

Of course the story in the papers is the return of Josh Lay to team practice. He appeared to look good in scrimmages and was hitting hard. Lay is Pitt's most experienced cornerback, so he is very important to Pitt's defense.

There doesn't seem to be a lot of optimism about WR Princell Brockenbrough playing this season. Brockenbrough undergoes exploratory surgery today to discover the extent of the damage to his knee.

Shorter versions of those stories are in Zeise's notebook column, along with a list of who didn't practice with what ailment and NCAA eligibility issues.

A focus piece on picking a starting running back. Zeise seems to like Murphy for the position because of his speed, but says the job is probably Kirkley's to lose. Pitt has only had one 1,000 yard rusher in the last 7 years. I don't think that will change this year, because I think Kirkley and Murphy (along with Marcus Furman and possibly freshman Brandon Mason) will split the load. Unlike the QB position, it isn't so bad to split time.

Some quick hits from Bendel's notebook column. Freshman CB, Darelle Revis, has opened eyes with his play so far. He looks to at least get some playing time at corner and do some kick returning. Charles Spencer, the subject of a glowing story on his conversion to the offensive line, is not going nearly as well as the earlier piece suggested. "Charles is swimming right now." Bendel has written off RB Jawan Walker as rejoining the team this year.

SUNY-Albany was #1???? 

More good news for WVU. They made it to #10 on the list of party schools.

Harsh Reality 

I know Pat and Lee have their doubts about seeing the Hoopies ranked in the top 15. I think they are at least worthy of the #15 ranking, probably higher.

Here's what really sucks. We have to hope that WVU really is that good.

I'm not kidding. We all breathed a little easier when the Big East was kept in the BCS. I know I didn't look closely at the fine print at first. Well, here's a reminder contained in the Sportsline Big East Preview.
The clock is running. Big East champions will have to average a final No. 12 ranking in the BCS ratings over a four-year period or the conference's BCS status will be reviewed.

Think the other 5 BCS conferences will be so nice after a little time has passed? With more dollar signs to push away any remaining lingering guilt? After they had to crack the door open a little wider to the other non-BCS conferences? Think the MWC and WAC won't be complaining a little louder?

Now if you'll excuse me, I have take my couch outside and set it on fire.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Harris Quotes 

From Monday the Walt Harris quotes (PDF version). General coachspeak about putting the full gear and some scrimmaging. Actually some real news passed along.

Josh Lay, cornerback, has rejoined the team for practices. He has apparently cleared the problem of "academic work to do." Jawan Walker, however, has not.

Princell Brockenbrough will have surgery on his knee tomorrow. Could be out for only 6 weeks or the full season. A little bit of wiggle room.

Full Gear Today 

Monday is full gear practice, the first of the fall practices. There are several minor injuries, so it won't be likely the dinged guys will do much in full gear. The beat writers don't think Harris is going to say who the starting QB will be for a while. Both are now saying that Palko is looking better in practices.

I still think he'll name a starter by the end of the week -- there is a full scrimmage on Saturday. If Palko has a good scrimmage, Harris will probably pull the trigger to name Palko.

Greg Lee has looked great as the #1 WR. With Brockenbrough out, for who knows how long, the hardest thing for Lee may be dealing with all the Fitzgerald comparisons.

Two player pieces today. The almost forgotten tough position player to replace, Kris Wilson at TE. Erik Gill, a junior, has that difficult task. He's bigger and possibly a better blocker, but he lacks Wilson's speed and hands.

And the other is JUCO transfer kicker, and our new R.J. English -- Josh Cummings. Check out the photo. Not like the English photo they would put on the jumbotron, but...

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