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.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Football Notes 

Offensive Coordinator Matt Cavanaugh will be inducted into the Youngstown Curbstone Coaches Hall of Fame tomorrow. You know, I lived in Y-town for 2 years and never heard of this group. I have no idea where they put the plaques.

My first thought was that they had resurrected the "Youngstown Walk of Fame." Apparently at some in the early 90s they had various "famous" people and athletes from Youngstown on one of the once busy streets. What they had used though was that stuff you see around swimming pools usually looking like feet, to make the starts. So by the time I got there in '97, most of the stars were ripped or unreadable. I didn't recognize most of the names I could make out. The only one I knew then was Dave Dravecky. A mediocre starting pitcher in the 80s. Most might remember the clips of his arm breaking while pitching.

The other thing, is just an amusing piece of delusion from a sportswriter for East Carolina. They still like to think they will make the jump to the Big East someday.
There is also speculation that the addition of a 12th game could bring new discussions about expansion of the Big East, a conference now with just eight football schools. Adding a game will bring scheduling opportunities and challenges for those schools.

The new Big East football conference is comprised of Cincinnati, UConn, Louisville,
Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse , South Florida and West Virginia.

The status of the Big East in the Bowl Championship series has become tenuous since the exodus of Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech. There's no question the Big East has lost some glitter as a major football conference, in terms of perception.
Would adding ECU help or hurt in that regard? There is no question that the Pirates’ recent football woes have come at a very bad time. In fact, timing could not be worse.

Looking ahead, however, there is a renewed sense that ECU could be back on track in the near future. At the very least an argument can be made that the commitment is there.

Bringing in national names like Terry Holland and Skip Holtz have raised some eyebrows around the country. This should be helpful if, indeed, the Big East makes a move anytime soon.

Having South Florida move ahead of ECU in this sweepstakes the first time around is still a bitter pill for many Pirate faithful. Perhaps there is another opportunity around the bend. And it could be rushed along a bit by this 12-game schedule.
I realize the pickings are slim for finding more football schools when the Big East splits in about 5 years and the football schools need to pick up some other teams. East Carolina, though, is way down on the list. Memphis, Southern Miss., Marshall, Central Florida are all in front of ECU.

Troutman Quickly Cut 

I said Chevon Troutman was making a mistake for trying to play any football while still holding out hopes of playing in the NBA. Yesterday, Ron Cook, said it was a mistake for Troutman because he didn't have the passion for it.

Well his first tryout ended quickly. Troutman was cut after the first day.

It was a bad sign when coach Joe Gibbs at first couldn't place Troutman. Gibbs had been asked for his assessment of the player whom the Redskins hoped might be the next Gates, who zoomed from Kent State basketball star to Pro Bowl tight end for San Diego in just two years.

"That's a good question," Gibbs said. "I wish you hadn't have asked it. ... oh, the basketball player. ... San Diego starts it off and they get a tight end [Gates] who came out of basketball and plays great. You'd have to say running around in college basketball, there's a lot of good-looking tight ends. Every time I see them, you're like, 'Good gosh, they're all tight end potential.' "

Sounds like Gibbs really wasn't too enthused about bringing Troutman into camp in the first place.

"Chevon showed a lot of toughness and physical prowess on the basketball court that you hope translates onto the football field," tight ends coach Rennie Simmons said. "When I saw him catch the ball, you could see that Chevon has some athletic ability, but he has a very long way to go. He started to come around towards the end of practice, but unfortunately, if you're not sure what you're doing, where to go or what foot to step with, you're like a duck out of water.
"When they first threw everything at me, it looked like Spanish or something," said the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Troutman, who halted his football career after he played defensive end and tight end as a high school junior. "It's a lot different than basketball."
You get the sense that both Troutman and the Redskins had, shall we say, ridiculous expectations of how it would go.

Well going into it, Troutman's dad seemed more realistic that this was just a little test the waters thing.

Troutman and his father, Steve, drove to Washington yesterday. Steve Troutman said several NFL teams were interested in his son, who will be tried out at tight end.

"This gives him a chance to see how he feels about it," Steve Troutman said. "It keeps him busy. The worst thing you can do is sit around and do nothing."

Look, his heart is still set on playing basketball. There will be teams that get back in contact with him to gauge his interest after he figures out if he wants to play basketball overseas or not.

If you have to do the Antonio Gates comparisons, remember Gates tried to get into the NBA first. He failed, and then had to train for football. Then it took a year before he really saw playing time.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Assorted Notes 

Dennis Dodd's notebook column is just chock full of goodies. Well worth reading it all. I'm going to pick out some that I feel like adding comments.
In some people's eyes, Notre Dame's new BCS status might be matching its football status.

Second tier.

Beginning in 2006, the maximum Notre Dame can earn from a BCS appearance is $4.5 million. That's the same amount currently earned by second teams from conferences in BCS bowls.

BCS coordinator Kevin Weiberg made the announcement as the annual BCS meetings wrapped up on Wednesday.

The $4.5 million represents a decrease of approximately $10 million per appearance Notre Dame earned under the old BCS agreement that expires after the 2005 season. The school essentially traded an all-or-nothing shot at a $14 million pot of gold for guaranteed income each year.

In years that Notre Dame does not play in a BCS game, it will earn approximately $1 million, essentially equal to a minimum share received by each BCS conference school.

That means beginning in 2006, Notre Dame could play in a BCS bowl once every 10 years and not make as much money it did in 2001 for its one Fiesta Bowl appearance under the current parameters ($14 million vs. $13.5 million). That 2001 Fiesta Bowl remains Notre Dame's only BCS game in the seven years the system has been used.
The changes seem to be a net loss for Notre Dame, but given its recent football fortunes, it doesn't have much leverage.

"They've accepted that, it's something we agreed to," Weiberg said.
They also made the standards for ND to qualify for a BCS bowl a little tougher. They will not be sharing the BE's BCS berth.

My first reaction was: Heh. On reflection, though, it strengthens ND's football independence. Taking the guaranteed money reduces some of the pressure on them financially. Most importantly, it gives ND time. I think they were building to a point where, for finances, they had to really consider a full conference affiliation -- the alumni and boosters be damned. This relieves that issue. Much like the BE affiliation in all other sports did for the basketball program.

Now on the subject of the future BCS telecasts by Fox Sports:
Fox will begin televising the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls (as well as BCS title games) beginning in January 2007. Current BCS rights-holder ABC retained the Rose Bowl.

"Sometimes it's been one of our most frustrating areas," Weiberg said, referring also to ABC. "We felt like at times the self-promotion within the telecast ... is a real problem. ... We're frustrated about the amount of time it takes to put the ball back in play. Fox wants to bring to the BCS its unique approach to production. ... We're excited about the energy they've already brought to these discussions."
ABC's self-promotion within the telecast was a problem? Have they ever watched Fox Sports televise games?

Then the subject of keeping automatic BCS bids:
In 2008 and 2009, the number of conferences getting automatic BCS berths will be capped at seven. Conferences will be judged BCS worthy at that time based on average rank of their champion and other criteria from 2004 through 2007.

However, Weiberg said that a conference could qualify based on "market size". That seems to give the benefit of the doubt to the Big East remaining in the BCS despite losing Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech. The league still has a sizable demographic on the East Coast.

That's bad new for the Mountain West, which has been campaigning heavily for BCS status coming off the great the season by Utah.
The BCS system is doing everything they can to keep the BE in and the Mountain West out. They counted Louisville's finish in the BCS standings this past season for the BE. They are going to include "market size," which kills the Mountain West and clearly benefits the BE just based on Syracuse and Rutgers covering NY and NJ

At this point, the only thing that can screw the BE out of the BCS is the BE teams not performing. It's all on the programs in the conference.

Spring Football Recap 

ESPN has a recap of all the Big East teams spring football and some of the expectations. Good thing to check out for an idea of the competition. It gives you some idea about why Louisville is so heavily picked to win the BE. The thing to note. Like Pitt, they have issues of depth on their lines. That can sink either teams season really easy.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

DePaul's New Hire -- Who Is This Guy? 

DePaul hired Jerry Wainwright away from Richmond to be their new b-ball coach.

Is he a good hire? I dunno. It depends on who you ask.

This is what Mike DeCourcy at the Sporting News said.
So this next statement might be hard to accept, but I firmly believe it to be the truth: Jerry Wainwright is the best pure basketball coach to work at DePaul during the NCAA tournament era.
Wainwright was an ideal choice for DePaul because of his deep Chicago background, his ability to deal with, accommodate and entertain the media, his track record as a recruiter at Xavier and Wake Forest and his accomplishments as a head coach at UNC Wilmington and Richmond. He took both those programs to the NCAA tournament. Wilmington had never been there before. Richmond had been there only once in the previous 12 years.

But more important than what his record says is what his opponents say. However shocking it might be, there have been coaches in the NCAA tournament who weren't really all that capable. They got the right players in the right circumstances and managed not to foul it up. And some of those guys are pretty well known.

Privately, when coaches talk about those in their business that earn respect, Wainwright is someone whose name comes up frequently. Wainright's admire how he deals with his players. They envy his eye for talent. They respect his ability to teach and coach defense.

Sounds glowing. But wait. How about Greg Doyel at Sportsline.

Wainwright to Leitao's old office? That's a fast hire. That's a frugal hire. But a great hire? No, not a great hire.

Bearing down on Wainwright, who went 50-41 in three seasons at Richmond, is like sitting down at a nice restaurant and ordering the first thing on the menu. Maybe it'll taste good. It better, because this place costs too much to do it again next week.

The spin coming out of Chicago -- did you know Wainwright's from Chicago? -- is that DePaul has hired a coach with a track record of winning seasons and postseason appearances. Those are nice words, but the numbers aren't quite so nice. Black and white, here goes:

DePaul has hired a coach who has never failed to lose at least 10 games in a season. DePaul has hired a coach whose career record in 11 years is 186-144, which means a typical season for a Jerry Wainwright team has been 17-13. And those seasons happened in the Colonial Athletic Association and Atlantic 10.

DePaul knows about those numbers, obviously, but doesn't care. This hire wasn't about finding the best possible coach to lead DePaul into the best possible conference, the 16-team Big East. If DePaul wanted the best possible coach, it would have taken more than four days to zero in on someone coming off a 14-15 season at Richmond.

This hire wasn't even about Jerry Wainwright. It was about Leitao. DePaul went for greatness when it hired Leitao three years ago off Jim Calhoun's bench at Connecticut, and greatness -- or the hint of greatness -- is what Leitao delivered. He won 58 games in three seasons at DePaul, recruited better than a Conference USA school with such shoddy facilities deserved, and then bolted for Virginia.

It was a smart move for Leitao, but a stick in the eye to DePaul. Being jilted hurts, and DePaul responded like so many jilted lovers -- by vowing not to love again. DePaul will like Jerry Wainwright, but it will never love him. He'll win between 13 and 18 games a season at DePaul for as long as DePaul will have him, he'll steer clear of NCAA problems, and then he'll retire. You don't fall in love with a coach like that. You esteem a coach like that.
No matter what the truth is, Wainwright and DePaul are in for one hell of a baptism this season.

Possible Transfer, Baggage Included 

Pitt might be in the running to secure an experienced successor to Tyler Palko for the 2007 season.

Tennessee Tech Coach Mike Hennigan said yesterday that he was unaware of anyone from his staff inquiring about the possibility of recruiting former University of Tennessee quarterback Brent Schaeffer.

There were two radio reports Tuesday, one on WLAC-AM 1510's PrimeTime Sports, saying Tennessee Tech was one of three schools that had asked UT officials for permission to contact Schaeffer. The other two schools were Kansas and Pitt.

Schaeffer actually started the 2004 season as the starter, but found himself co-starter with the other freshman QB Eric Ainge. Schaeffer broke his collarbone in the 8th game. He was considered the better athlete of the two. Ainge, though, looks to be the starter this year, and Schaeffer is looking to transfer. If he transferred to Pitt, he'd have to sit for a year.

The problem is, Schaeffer may have to resolve his legal issues first.

Tennessee quarterback Brent Schaeffer and receiver Bret Smith were suspended indefinitely from the team Monday, a day after they were charged with hitting a student who was arguing with Schaeffer's girlfriend in a dormitory.

The players were arrested at a dorm where many athletes live. They were charged with misdemeanor assault and released on their own recognizance Sunday after the early morning fight at another dorm. Their arraignments are set for April 18.
Part of Schaeffer's actions was caught on tape by a video camera in the dorm lobby, University of Tennessee police said.

According to an affidavit campus police filed in court, student Quantavios Emerson was arguing with Schaeffer's girlfriend about her cell phone Sunday when Schaeffer hit Emerson in the neck.

The affidavit also said Schaeffer and Emerson grabbed bats but dropped them before hitting anyone and Schaeffer then picked up Emerson from behind and threw him down. Emerson struck his head on the floor and was then hit by Smith, the report said. Emerson needed four staples to close a cut on his head, authorities said.

Yes, Schaeffer is one of the many players from the wild Tennessee team in trouble with the law.

I'm having some very mixed feelings right now.

Basketball Notes 

Keeping options open. That's the best way to describe Chevon Troutman's latest move.
Former Pitt power forward Chevon Troutman will put on a helmet and shoulder pads for the first time in six years tomorrow when he goes through a tryout with the Washington Redskins.

Troutman, who has not played football since his junior year at Williamsport High School, will participate in a minicamp at Redskins Park with Washington's draft choices and rookie free agents. Troutman will be tried at tight end at the three-day camp.
If he impresses, he could get a free-agent contract offer and an invitation to training camp.
Troutman is still trying to attend the Chicago pre-draft camp for the NBA. This does not seem like pursuing basketball first, then football. This seems like a dual track, which just seems dumb. The conditioning for each sport is so different, it just seems he is going to hurt his chances for both.

The other thought, as an Eagles fan, is not the Redskins.

Over at the Sporting News, Mike DeCourcy thinks that Pitt isn't losing that much in Chris Taft.
Once again there are some early entrants who won't be sorely missed next season.
Chris Taft, C, Pittsburgh. The Panthers can replace the 13.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game Taft produced as a sophomore. It'll be tougher to find someone who can manage more than 11 field-goal attempts for every one assist. Pitt's concerns mostly are on the perimeter. It will be just fine with 7-0 Aaron Gray in the middle. Gray has better post moves than Taft and is unselfish. Gray does not move as well, but Taft was so unsound defensively that his athleticism rarely made a difference.
He may slightly overstate the lack of drop-off from Taft to Gray, but it seems that most Pitt fans are more down on losing Troutman and the possibility of Krauser than seeing Taft go pro.

At the 22nd annual Mon Valley Panther Club Chapter Banquet the other day, the key speaker was of course Football Coach Dave Wannstedt. He spoke of high expectations for the team. Coach Jamie Dixon also spoke at the event.

"I like the group we have coming in," he said. "We have some big, strong talented kids. This is the best recruiting class in my six years here."

According to Dixon, the futures of graduating Chevy Troutman and junior Carl Krauser -- who made himself available for the NBA draft but retained the option to withdraw since he won't sign with an agent -- are still up in the air.

"Chevy is going back and forth with football while Carl could be coming back. He'll be going to Chicago for a pre-draft camp to go against foreign and high school players to see where he stands. Sixty players have already committed for the NBA draft and there's still three more weeks to go. It's almost an epidemic."

Dixon looks for sophomore Chris Taft to go in the first round of the draft.

"It's a good situation for him and his family," said Dixon. "We had him for only 18 months but we're real proud of him."

Wish they had more on what Dixon said. I doubt he said much of any consequence, but I'd love to know if he said anything even approaching disappointment regarding the past season.

National Football Notes 

A few pieces on the national sites. Over at SI.com Stewart Mandel lists his very early top-25. He puts Pitt at #21
Spring star: RB Rashad Jennings. The freshman wasted no time establishing himself as the Panthers' feature back.

Lowdown: Dave Wannstedt spent his first spring installing a power-running mentality that should make the Panthers more balanced and, in turn, more dangerous offensively. Similarly, the defense will have more of a "pro" look, but it may lack enough impact players along the line to be dominant.
Louisville was ranked #12.

And he had this to say in his review of spring practices:
Pittsburgh: Though he has at his disposal one of the nation's most promising quarterbacks in Tyler Palko, coach Dave Wannstedt spent much of the spring trying to convert the Panthers from the finesse style of predecessor Walt Harris into more of a power running team. In doing so, he found a potential star-in-the-making in freshman RB Rashad Jennings, who carried 19 times for 119 yards in the spring game and likely will be the opening-day starter.
Expectations keep rising.

Over at ESPN.com, Bruce Feldman lists his hot 100 players.
The college football season is still a few months away, but it's time to take a preseason look at the Hot 100 list for 2005. As always, this isn't a projection in regards to draft prospects, but simply a run-through of who will be the biggest impact/value guys to their programs in the '05 season.
51. Tyler Palko, Pitt, QB: Should be even better now that he's working with Matt Cavanaugh.
75. Greg Lee, Pittsburgh, WR: A combination of Larry Fitzgerald and Antonio Bryant and he gets to work with a better QB than they had.
H.B. Blades was ignored.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Family Values... 

The outgoing Sports Editor of the Pitt News tries to do the right thing.

My roommate says it's a damn shame, and I couldn't agree with him more. Sleepless nights have plagued me ever since I heard the news: My younger brother will be getting a degree from Penn State.

Craig, a senior in high school now, has been top on my list of recruits. I made the calls and the house visits, just as Jamie Dixon and Dave Wannstedt do, yet it was all a waste. I tried so hard to steer him clear of the dark side, but I have failed.

Buck up, Jimmy! You made an honest effort. And what's more, you're not the only whose family has been torn asunder by such a misguided notion (My own aunt is a PSU alum, for example). What matters is that you stood up for your soon-to-be Alma Mater.

We salute you, Sir!

Some Notes 

A few pieces to note.

The article today about the facility deficiencies at Pitt for the "other" sports. It mentions the status of facilities at other Big East schools and the problems for Pitt in finding enough land nearby to construct the new facilities envisioned. Big surprise that a Pittsburgh agency with some desired property would just let it lie fallow (though for once it isn't the URA).

In Chicago, Coach Dave Wannstedt recalls drafts gone horribly wrong.
Dave Wannstedt can feel Lovie Smith's joy right now. He hopes Smith does not wind up sharing his pain when it comes to selecting promising running backs in the first round of the NFL draft.

Wannstedt felt as euphoric when he drafted running backs Rashaan Salaam (1995) and Curtis Enis (1998) for the Bears as Smith must have felt after the Bears took Cedric Benson of Texas with the fourth pick of the weekend draft.

"It's Christmas all around the NFL today," Wannstedt said Monday during a break from his first recruiting trip as head coach of the University of Pittsburgh. "Everybody feels like they got the best players and everybody feels like they got the guys they wanted. It's a wonderful life right now."

This time 10 years ago, Wannstedt felt wonderful about selecting Salaam out of Colorado.

"How about getting the Heisman Trophy winner with the 21st pick of the draft that year? I mean, we liked him ahead of a couple of the other guys, so we were excited," Wannstedt said. "It worked out for a year. He rushed for [1,074] yards his rookie year? In my mind we were off and running. But things happen."

Salaam became involved with marijuana and then fumbled his way out of the league three years later.

In '98, Wannstedt and the Bears believed they were taking a safe pick in Enis.

But a lengthy contract holdout, numerous injuries and a questionable work ethic hastened the running back's downfall.

"Curtis Enis was about as sure a bet as I thought I was ever going to make," Wannstedt said of the former Penn State star. "Between me and [former Bears player personnel boss] Mark Hatley and Greg Schiano on our staff then, who recruited Enis out of high school ... you can't do anymore homework on an individual unless the FBI and the CIA are involved. It just didn't work out."
He drafted a Penn State running back, that is never a safe pick.

Final note from Texas, surveying the college football landscape.
Get used to these names. It's a good bet that next fall, we'll be hearing them more often.
Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh quarterbacked the Panthers to a national championship in 1976. He believes Pitt junior quarterback Tyler Palko has the qualities necessary to do the same. Over his last six games in 2004, Palko averaged 303.5 yards passing while throwing for 17 TDs with just two interceptions.
Rising expectations.

BCS Calculation Speculation 

They have been meeting for the last couple of days to figure out how to work the BCS for this upcoming season. With the AP poll out, it is still unclear what they will do. Dennis Dodd at Sportsline wonders if they are going to do anything.
Administrators gathered here for the annual BCS meetings have discussed the idea of essentially leaving the much-tweaked formula as is. After the Associated Press pulled out in January, the BCS was left with just the coaches poll and six computers.

So, it was inevitably asked here in a conference room at the Royal Palms Resort, why not leave the dang thing alone?

"It's possible," BCS coordinator Kevin Weiberg said. "It's not an option we've taken off the table."

The commissioners listened to presentations by the National Football Foundation and National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics on Monday. Both entities are seeking to organize and administrate a new poll to replace the AP's.

But it's becoming clear it's a monumental task, especially if, as Weiberg says, everything must be in place by July 15. First, approximately 40-60 voters would have to be found who were willing to disclose their ballot each week. That could be a challenge in itself. Some AP voters were harassed by fans last season.

The American Football Coaches Association, which has never publicly released its ballots, is reluctant to take even the tiny step of releasing ballots after the completion of the bowls.

"Ya'll will have a field day with that," AFCA executive director Grant Teaff told reporters. "Coaches will be duckin' and divin' (if their ballots were released). I'll be going on vacation right about then. The situation basically called for it because of what happened last year."

That's when the BCS endured its most intense scrutiny. Undefeated Auburn couldn't get into the BCS title game. Meanwhile, voters basically decided on the last day of the season that Texas would edge out Cal for a BCS berth.

Teaff seemed to indicate that if another human poll is established, the coaches would consider releasing their final ballot. But don't hold your breath on the coaches ever releasing ballots during the regular season; if that were a requirement, they'd be gone.
This story, though, suggests that there might not be any choice but for the coaches to start releasing their votes for the final poll.

Opposite of Dodd, Matt Hayes at the Sporting News thinks they will add another human poll.
The National Football Foundation outlined a plan at this week's BCS meetings that would have former players, coaches and administrators vote in a poll to replace the departed Associated Press poll. And the plan, although in the early stages, appears to be the answer in yet another chapter of tweaking the controversial system.

"That looks like the way we've got to go," says one BCS administrator.

Because it's the safest way to go -- a way with the least amount of complication and a way to bring back some legitimacy and integrity to the series points system. The problem: getting it set up and put in place by July 15, a deadline Big 12 commissioner and BCS czar Kevin Weiberg has set for the points system to be rolled out for all to see -- and criticize.

"My personal preference is human polls," Weiberg says. "But there are a lot of people in that room with a lot of ideas."

Other proposals that will be discussed Tuesday include the formation of a selection committee, having the coaches poll and computer polls stand on their own or the potential for a hybrid of those ideas. Each of those, though, have serious flaws and the objective, one BCS administrator says, is to keep the point system from straying too far from previous years.

Weiberg says the new weekly poll would have to have anywhere from 40-60 voters, and the first vote likely would be released on Oct. 1 -- not in the preseason like the coaches poll and the now eliminated Associated Press poll. The pollsters would be evenly chosen from all points across the nation to eliminate any potential regional bias.
I'm sure the next system will be just as effective and controversy free as the previous.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Football -- Past and Future 

A piece on Vince Crochunis hoping to sign with a NFL team via free agency. He will be earning his masters degree at the end of the semester. A legitimate credit to the concept of the student-athlete (or cynically, the exception that proves the rule).

On the other hand, there are all these high school day camps for seniors to try and raise their profile for scholarships -- for a fee.

They'll have more opportunities than ever before, whether it's at free, invitation-only day camps sponsored by adidas, Nike and New Balance or Joe Butler's Metro Index camp, which costs $160 per camper for each four-day session.

Sparkling performances at the Nike camp were instrumental for former Penn Hills quarterback Anthony Morelli and former Gateway cornerback Justin King to be ranked No. 1 nationally at their respective positions and among the top-10 overall.

"These things are key for recruiting," West Allegheny all-purpose back Dorin Dickerson said. "You have to be prepared and focused going in. It's crucial when you do one-on-one drills against the best kids."
MSL Combines ran that event, and is staging one May 7 at Gateway High School. MSL Combines, sponsored by New Balance, measures athletes to NFL standards, then creates a profile of each prospect, complete with digitized highlights and their results from the combine. Access to the Web site is $25 for prospects, but much pricier for college coaches.

"It's a pretty amazing deal," said Sara Ellison, MSL Combines event producer. "We don't like charging kids for things. A lot of times, the really good kids don't need it."

Add the adidas Elite Camp, to be held May 14 at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex, to the growing number of one-day combines to come to Western Pennsylvania this year.

Nothing like seeing the shoe companies do these camps at the schools they have deals with.

Monday, April 25, 2005

The Bright Side 

Of Rob Petitti being the only drafted Pitt player from last season's squad suggests that the Pitt team should be better as the they didn't lose a lot of talent to graduation. It also points out the yin and yang of former Coach Walt Harris. He definitely didn't do a good job at recruiting, but he did do a good job in coaching up what talent was there.

Naturally, a Jersey kid is happy to go play for Bill Parcells.

As for why he dropped.

"Coach Parcells called and asked if I was a hard worker," Petitti said. "I told him I was, and he said they'd draft me. I was so ecstatic when he called again. I talked to him and Jerry Jones, and they said I could win the starting right tackle job if I came in here and worked hard. So, I'm ready to go to work."

Petitti was a four-year starter at left tackle for the University of Pittsburgh, playing in 49 of 50 career games, and he was a second-team All-America selection in several publications after last season. He likely dropped to the sixth round due to offseason weight gain, a poor game against Utah in the Fiesta Bowl and a foot injury prior to the Senior Bowl.

The injury also contributed to a poor performance at the scouting combine.

But let's put the fact that Pitt had only one player drafted in some perspective.
That means Division II IUP had one more player drafted than Penn State, which had one of the longest streaks of producing draft choices. The Nittany Lions had at least one player drafted every year since 1960. They were the only team from the Big Ten Conference not to have a player drafted.
I think it was a sad day for nepotism everywhere when Penn State moved Jay Paterno out of the position of recruiting coordinator.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Not a Good Weekend for Pennsylvania 

At least as far as the draft goes. At this point, the highest drafted player from a PA college was Rian Wallace, Inside Linebacker from Temple. He was drafted in the 5th round, the 166th pick by the Steelers.

Rob Petitti tumbled from an expected late-3rd/early 4th round to near the end of the 6th round by the Cowboys with the 209th pick.

No body from Penn State and other PA colleges have been drafted as the 7th and final round gets underway.

UPDATE: LeRon McCoy, a WR from IUP was drafted #226 (7th round) by the Arizona Cardinals.

UPDATE 2: It's all over but the undrafted free agent scrambling. New England selected Tight End Andy Stokes from William Penn University in Iowa (???) with the 255th and final pick. Expect Vince Crochunis, Dan Stephens and Malcolm Postell to at least get a shot.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Draft, Logo and Depth 

It's cold and rainy in Cleveland today. I have until sundown to drink the beer in the house. Sounds like the perfect day to watch the NFL Draft.

Rob Petitti gets a home town piece today.
"Everyone's pretty energized," said Bob Petitti. "Rob's brother and sister will be home, and everyone's just hoping for the best. There's a lot of intrigue. Not only don't you know where he'll get drafted, you don't know what team. There are so many different scenarios that need to play out. The location of the team. Some teams have indicated there's a chance for early playing time, while other teams are more established on the offensive line. Whatever happens, I don't think anyone will be disappointed."

It's already been a hectic week for Rob Petitti. On Tuesday, he held a private workout for the St. Louis Rams on the field where he played his high school football. A day later he was at the beach enjoying the good weather with his friends, spending most of his time doing anything to keep his mind off the Draft.

"When Rob's in town the kids will all come flying into the weight room when he's in there," said Rumson-Fair Haven football coach Shane Fallon. "The kids just gravitate to him. Or when he's in town they'll see him and come tell me he's home. He's pretty tough to miss. With the stature he has around here, it's tough for him to sneak into town without someone knowing.

"It's going to be an exciting weekend for the whole town."
Petitti is expected to go sometime in the 3rd round.

Yesterday, I noted the new Big East logo in the background of a Marquette function. Joe T tipped me off to the when this went down. This actually happened at the end of March.
Beginning in August, just in time for football, the collegiate athletics conference that includes the University of Connecticut will unveil a new logo designed by The Silverman Group.

"Right now, we’re in the midst of working on a whole new re-branding plan," said Jim Keenan, vice president of marketing at The Silverman Group, which is located at 436 Orange St.[New Haven, Connecticut.]

Commissioners for the Big East chose the company from a field of 18 competing bidders to devise a multimedia marketing campaign.
Its athletic directors decided to re-brand the conference this year in light of the changes, said Big East Associate Commissioner John Marinatto.

As of July 1, the conference will lose Boston College, but gain five schools — University of Cincinnati, DePaul University, University of Louisville, Marquette University and University of South Florida.

Officials with the University of South Florida recommended The Silverman Group, which previously worked with the school, Marinatto said.

The Silverman Group presented Big East officials with 19 variations for a new logo, he said. The conference has had its current one since 1996.

"I liked the fact that they took chances," Marinatto said of the proposal.

The new marketing campaign will include print and television ads, public service announcements, on-campus promotions and community events, Keenan said.

The primary goals of the campaign, Keenan said, are to introduce the Big East into its new members’ markets and to make existing members’ markets aware of the new schools.

Big East officials are in the process of choosing an official trademarked conference tagline, Marinatto said.
There you have it.

Paul Zeise has a Q&A up. It's the last until (likely) sometime in August. As usual, it's a must read. He sees some holes on the defensive line, the offensive line is good but shallow, and figuring out the depth chart at WR (after Greg Lee) is going to be fluid.
Q: Do you think Pitt's pass rush will be better this season than the last couple of years?

ZEISE: Could it be any worse? The pass rush has been non-existent the past few years to say the least. I think it will be better because the coaches will do a lot of scheming and blitzing to make sure there is pressure. I think you'll see more linebackers blitzing and defensive ends in a straight pass rush trying to get to the quarterback. It will be interesting to see how much heat the defense puts on opposing passers. Again, however, a key is the middle guys and their ability to collapse things in the pocket. Right now, there is only one player - Thomas Smith - who looks like he can make things miserable for opponents in the middle.
Q: Do you think early commitments might hurt Pitt later because they won't have scholarships available for players who may surprise during the season?

ZEISE: No, if there is a player that needs to have a scholarship offered to him, colleges always find a way. They might have to gray shirt someone, push a fifth-year guy into his life's work and there is always a couple of guys who won't make it academically. There are ways to juggle your numbers so that any player you really desire can have a scholarship available to him.
Q: What do you think of the uniform changes?

ZEISE: I love putting PITT back on the helmets just because that's the school name. I never understood why, when you have a name that is unique to your brand, you throw it away and go by a name that three professional teams use. So becoming Pitt again is a good thing. One person e-mailed me this thought and I agree - why put Panthers on the front? Why not put Pitt or even Pittsburgh? The fan who e-mailed me raised a good point - he lives in a different state (I think Florida) and when he wears his Pitt gear he wants people to know who he is rooting for. Now, he'll be wearing his Pitt jersey but nobody will know who it is from because the shirt just says Panthers on it - that could be a high school team's jersey, perhaps for someone whose never seen the Carolina Panthers jersey, they could think it is that. Again, instead of having your brand name on the front of the jersey's for all to see, you put a generic name that only those familiar with the program will recognize.

Optimism abounds.

Friday, April 22, 2005

A Couple Places to Check 

The guys at Marquette Hoops linked to the BE Coaching rankings. They also have a countdown clock 'til they officially join the Big East. And I just noticed this:

Looks like the BE is changing logos. Couldn't find any press release or even a version of this logo on the BE site.

ACC Basketblog also linked to the coach ranking in their Friday round-up. Be sure to check out their story on Clarence "Big House" James.

How Quickly It Ends 

You hear and read the pious crap that comes from college coaches about their players. How they want what's best for them. How they understand the difficulties. Well it is so, until it makes their jobs more difficult. This piece from Andy Katz has coaches whining about underclassmen testing the draft waters.

Two to three weeks, max. That's the total time college coaches say underclassmen should have to make up their mind about staying in the NBA draft. How long do players get now?

Try nearly three months.

College players have from the end of their season until June 21, a week before the NBA draft, to make a decision on staying in the draft. Yes, they have to declare by May 14, but they have another five weeks after that during which they can still withdraw and return to school, as long as they don't sign with an agent (though you know many get advice from one).

The NBA personnel want the time to evaluate the player on an individual basis. They want to see the player – either against other players in similar situations at the Chicago pre-draft camp the first week of June or in individual workouts at the NBA teams' practice facilities, under their supervision and against a selected group of players with equal or similar talent.

That's right, basically if a player wants to consider going into the draft, ending their eligibility, and affecting their entire future. They should make up their mind irrevocably in no more than 21 days.

Why? So the college coaches can go out and recruit their replacements.

While that may make the coaches' jobs easier, it would screw the players and defeat the whole purpose of the chance for college underclassmen to find out about where they could go in the draft. To work out for teams, to attend pre-draft camps, and generally get a feel for what their future holds regarding playing basketball.

I know, I should be with the coaches on this. After all, with Carl Krauser testing the draft waters Pitt Coach Jamie Dixon can't be sure whether he needs to prepare for a new starting point guard and can't offer another scholarship to a high schooler, junior college player or prep player until he knows what Krauser is doing. Going with the coaches, would clearly favor the schools.

Sorry. That's unfair to Krauser and other college underclassmen. You know too many would err on the side of going pro. I like the period as it is. It gives players the time they should have to decide about leaving school and starting their career. These college coaches who talk so much about wanting what's best for their kids suddenly lose interest the minute the kid looks to the pros.

Wonder how they would like a rule that restricts when they could make a job change. Only leave for a pro job in a 3 week window, or jump to another school within a certain timeframe after the season ends. I'm sure they would howl long and hard about how unfair and restrictive it would be.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Big East Coaches 

I'm not going to do any ridiculously early prognostications for BE basketball until closer to the NBA draft. At that time, while still stupidly early, at least I'll know which juniors are jumping and which are coming back to school. Instead, I'll do something even more subjective and speculative: ranking the 16 coaches in the Big East.

Obviously it is mostly subjective, but there are some variables such as accomplishments, recruiting/player development, reputation, potential and pedigree that can factor into it. Especially in some cases. It comes down to these questions: How would you feel if this guy was the head coach of your team? Would you like your chances of winning with him? How would you like to face a team where he is the head coach?

The top 4 are reasonably set to me. They have the extended resumes that makes them hard to unseat from their perches by the other 12 for at least 3 or 4 more years at best. After that, it starts getting harder.
  1. Jim Calhoun, UConn -- 2 National Championships, 2 Final Fours, 6 Elite Eights,10 Sweet Sixteens. Has won the BE regular season 8 times and the BE Tournament 6 times. Built UConn from a program with a modest rep (at best) to one of the best, top programs in the country. Even before coming to UConn, he actually made Northeastern relevant in the Boston area. Excellent recruiter. His teams always seem to improve as the season continues. Just voted into the basketball hall of fame.
  2. Rick Pitino, Louisville -- You could argue that he should simply be tied at #1 with Calhoun and I wouldn't put up much of a fight. Still, there has to be a second place and in my list, it's Rick. Pitino has won everywhere in college. He has taken 3 teams to the Final Four. 1 National Championship, 2 Championship Games, 5 Final Fours, 7 Elite Eights. He may annoy you (or just me), but you can't really argue with the success.
  3. Jim Boeheim, Syracuse -- The Grand Master of the Big East. Elected to the basketball hall of fame this year. Has a National Championship. Over 700 wins in 29 seasons at Syracuse. The fact that his teams have historically underachieved keeps him out of the discussion for the top spot. He's a solid #3.
  4. Bob Huggins, Cinci -- Call him "Thuggins" (Lee) or "Huggy Bear" (My wife and many other Cinci alum), but you have to give him his due. You may not like the man, the style, the kind of players or the graduation rates. Fact is he's been to the Final Four. He's been in the NCAA 14 straight years, he's won the C-USA regular season 10 times and the conference tourney 8 times. The team has underachieved in the NCAA, but you're reasonably certain of getting there each year.
  5. Tom Crean, Marquette -- In only 6 years as head coach, he has rebuilt Marquette, gotten them into the Final Four, and is at the top of every school's wish list when there's a coaching vacancy. He has been consistently good at recruiting and has a solid track record for developing the players -- Wade and Deiner.
  6. John Beilein, WVU -- Prior to the start of this season I thought that Beilein was one of the better coaches in the Big East. He made me look good. Beilein is a basketball lifer who has slowly and steadily climbed the college basketball coaching ranks to this point. His teams play precise, smart basketball. A very good game coach. The players improve each season and during the season. Because of where he's been, he's never had the best talent, and it will be interesting to see if he can finally land some of the better talent after this season, and if he can use it.
  7. Jay Wright, Villanova -- What a difference a year makes. Last year, he would have been down near the bottom. His team was inconsistent, selfish, and just gave games away despite the talent. It seemed that his success at Hofstra was simply because his talent was so much greater than the rest of the conference, but in the BE he was exposed. He could recruit, but coaching appeared non-existent. Now 'Nova was a phantom call from the Final Four. He showed he could game plan and adjust in game this season.
  8. Jamie Dixon, Pitt -- Took a tumble in his second season as a head coach. Last year he was BE Coach of the Year. He is one of the better recruiters in the conference. His coaching flaws, though, were exposed. He had a difficult time managing his bench and using substitutions. All too often the team would come out flat and completely out-of-sorts to start the game, and it seemed to get worse as the season wore on. In-game adjustments were inconsistent, to be kind. Player and team development was definitely called into question as there was no improvement on this team from the beginning to the end of the season. Lots of questions.
  9. Mike Brey, ND -- He has the resume and pedigree. A key assistant for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke from 1987-95. He spent 5 successful years at Delaware, before taking over at ND. Everyone raves about the players he recruits, and expects big things. It's been downhill, though. In his first season with Matt Doherty's players (and whoever was the coach before him), ND finished first in the BE West Division and made the NCAA Tournament. His second season, second in the BE West and again in the NCAA. Third year, third in the BE West, but did make the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA. His 4th year, the team was 9-7 in the BE and went to the NIT. This past season, again middle of the pack and the team just showed no heart in the last couple weeks of the season. Losing to Rutgers in the BE Tournament and rolling over at home to start the NIT.
  10. Tim Welsh, Providence -- 7 seasons at Providence. He has 4 winning seasons and 3 losing. His record is 115-99 (.537), but in the BE it is 53-61 (.465). In both the NCAA and NIT Tournaments, Providence has one win. I wouldn't exactly put him on the hot list.
  11. John Thompson III, Georgetown -- I severely underestimated him. He took a very thin team that looked weaker than the team that was hideous last year, and had them play great basketball most of the season. The lack of depth took its toll as the team visibly wore down by the end of the season. The coaching doesn't seem a question, just getting talent and depth.
  12. Norm Roberts, St. John's -- This is probably too high for a 1st year head coach who's team finished 9-18 and second last in the Big East. But I really like what Norm Roberts has done in his first year. His squad was the thinnest and least talented in the Big East with all of the problems and scandals from the Mike Jarvis error. Still they finished out of the basement, which was a surprise. He has quickly mended fences with the area high schools, and despite the potential for NCAA sanctions has landed a very good recruiting class (including beating Pitt for a couple of guys). He spent 7 seasons before this apprenticing under Kansas Coach Bill Self.
  13. Louis Orr, Seton Hall -- Major tumble. He was the 2003 BE Coach of the Year, and even won a first round game against Arizona last season. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year, but this team just quit. You had numerous player suspensions. A coach who couldn't get through to his own players. A complete mess of a season, and recruiting has not been very good.
  14. Gary Waters, Rutgers -- Backers of RU inevitably invoke the idea of a sleeping giant. If the best the giant can do is runner-up in the NIT, then there is a problem. Waters attracted interest from Ohio State over the previous summer, but the RU AD wouldn't even let them talk. Now Waters is on the warm, if not hot seat. The team could only manage 2 conference wins. Bad team, no cohesion and less than impressive recruiting. The team has hired ace recruiter and the son of the RU baseball coach, Frank Hill, Jr. away from Villanova. Assuming the recruiting picks up, Waters will have even less excuses.
  15. Robert McCullum, USF -- Honestly, I don't know if McCullum deserves this rank or not. I know nothing about the guy or the team. He had one season as a head coach at Western Michigan, where he went 20-11. He was an assistant to Lon Kruger at Florida and Illinois for a decade. In his 2 seasons at USF the team is 21-36. He did double their win total from his first year (7) to his second (14).
  16. ????????, DePaul -- No head coach at this time.

Time Shifting 

I'm a bit groggy this morning. So, it will stay simple until I can plug the I.V. with coffee into my arm.

Past: Rob Petitti waits to find out where he goes in the draft, and needs to keep the weight off.

"I'm going to keep my eyes off of it," said Petitti, a native of Rumson, N.J., who grew up a few houses down from The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. "I'll let my dad watch it for me. He'll tell me when it's time."

Petitti did not work out at the NFL Combine due to turf toe, but made an impression during a collegiate career that saw him hold down a starting spot since his freshman season and earn All-Big East honors twice, including first-team the past two seasons.

Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. rates Petitti as the No. 13 tackle in the draft, describing him as a player with "plenty of pop at the point of attack, but he'll need to work on sustaining the block and finishing the play."

NFL Draftscout.com rates Petitti as the 36th offensive tackle. The biggest concern about the former Pitt star stems from his fluctuation in weight. He ballooned to 365 pounds for the Senior Bowl before dropping 30 pounds to get to his current weight of 335-340.

Presently: Pitt defensive end Azzie Beagnyam may be academically ineligible for the upcoming season.
"Azzie's status with the team for now and the immediate future is uncertain because he has a number of academic obligations to fulfill," said Pitt sports information director E.J. Borghetti. Beagnyam, who was a starter heading into last season but missed most of the year with a broken ankle, was not permitted to participate in the Blue-Gold spring game because of his academic issues.
Future: In Joe Bendel's Big East Insider on ESPN.com, the lead story is on QB Tyler Palko and
Offensive Coordinator Matt Cavanaugh developing their relationship.
That's why Cavanaugh and Pittsburgh junior Tyler Palko were attached at the hip this spring, working endless hours to return the Panthers to glory.

Palko desperately wants a national championship -- he pledged to win two upon signing with Pittsburgh -- and Cavanaugh, the former offensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens who holds the same position with Dave Wannstedt's Panthers, wants to get him there.

Palko, of course, doesn't have the luxury of handing the ball to Tony Dorsett 25 times a game like Cavanaugh did, but he does possess the championship qualities that defined his offensive coordinator three decades earlier.

"At the end of the day, we both want to be winners -- and that's crucial," said Cavanaugh, who ditched former coach Walt Harris' West Coast offense for a power-running style. "I didn't care about the personal accolades or anything else as long as we were winning. And Tyler has the same qualities. A difference between us is that I didn't have the self-confidence Tyler has. He carries himself like a winner."
Although Palko is thrilled to be working with Cavanaugh, it's no secret he was angered and disappointed to see former coach Harris pack his bags for Stanford in the offseason. (Harris officially resigned after administrators made it clear he wasn't wanted anymore).

Harris and Palko forged a relationship when the latter was in eighth grade, and, even though they didn't always see eye to eye, there was a close bond. Palko voiced his displeasure when Harris' future came into question last season, but refuses to dwell on it. He's moved on.

"The change has been easy for me, because I've been around coaching for such a long time," said Palko, the son of a highly successful Pittsburgh prep coach. "People come and go in this business. It's not like I'll ever forget about coach Harris, but I know this is a business. Coach and I will always have a relationship and no one can take that away from us. He's been helpful in my career and he really got me to understand a lot of things I already thought I knew. He laid the foundation.

"But it's a new time now and a new era. I'm excited about working with coach Cavanaugh and continuing my work to be the best."

And what about that national championship?

"I know both of us are going to work as hard as we can to get there," Palko said. "I don't believe in all those other things like fate and that the stars are aligned right because he and I are working together, with coach being the last quarterback to win a championship here. You roll up your sleeves and you work hard and that's how you become successful."

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


I'm ready to break something. Had a really long, detailed post just about finished, went to tweak something and somehow 3/4ths of it disappeared into the ether.

In the meantime, I'll content myself with looking at the video highlights and post-scrimmage interviews.

Open Letter to the Pitt Shop 

Dear Pitt Shop,

First of all, congratulations on being able to sell the new logo apparel before anyone else. I hope business is brisk and sales strong.

As an alumni and one who has spent hundreds of dollars on Pitt gear over the last 18 years (a good chunk at your store) , it is important to note how far you've come.

For years, you were practically non-existent. A small little hovel within the bookstore in the Quad. Barely any gear at all worth mentioning.

Then in the early 90s, Pitt decided you needed a place of your own (and the accompanying revenue). To do so, they kicked out a long-time tenant and alumni who operated the Pitt Store on Forbes Avenue. This created much consternation from the community and alumni who found the methods heavy-handed and unfair. You've had to patiently wait for the negative fallout from that action to recede. It took time before some alumni would even set foot in your store.

If that wasn't enough, there was competition right down the street from an operation that literally operates out of the back of a truck. With their reduced overhead, they usually have slightly lower prices than you. Attempts to get rid of the competition by Pitt have failed and you bore the brunt of the ire for the school's action.

Then the football team started playing its games off-campus, killing your Saturday sales expectations. Most of the time there is just no way anyone is showing up at the store before or after the game.

Still, you have persevered and evolved. You added a catalog to help further sales. You even got the products online and have a direct link through the Pitt Athletic Department website.

It is your website that I wish to discuss. Let me put this as delicately as I can.

It's an embarrassment.

Look at it. Look at the storefront photo. You attempt to frame the shot, but it cuts off on each side. Look at the layout. You can't get a really good look at the items once you click them. There is no "larger view" link to really see the individual products.

This is all fixable and not that difficult. And it brings me to the main issue.

For god's sake get your own host and system and get off of "Yahoo! stores."

Are you telling me, the Pitt athletic department or the University can't help set you up with your own domain name and space on their servers? Are you so cheap, you can't get your own payment system rather than just use the standard one from Yahoo!?

I mean, you are the "official headquarters" for licensed Pitt merchandise according to your site. Start acting like it. You have no idea how annoying it is to see that little "Y!" appear in the address bar when I click to the Pitt Shop. What's next? Set up a store on eBay?

Thanks for reading this.

Chas Rich, CAS '92

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Kitchen Sink Post 

I'm filing this under: How did I miss it? A week before Pitt premeires the new logo and return to Pitt, Eric Moneypenny at Fox Sports.com was writing about football unis and who should go old school.
I know, the school's colors are officially Gold and Dark Blue now, instead of Dijon Mustard and Royal Blue. And "Pitt" is frowned upon. Keep the colors. But embrace the "Pitt." Wannstedt is selling the program's proud history of Marino, Hugh Green, Dorsett, and National Championships to recruits and the fan base all that he wants, and he'll probably do well in doing so. But the current uniforms aren't Tony Dorsett, they're Larry Fitzgerald. Really good, but not great.
Don't break your arm patting yourself on the back too much. This had been rumored for a while.

Coach Wannstedt will be doing the local radio thing this week. A couple early AM appearances on Wednesday and then in studio with Mark Madden on Friday.

Greg Doyel at Sportsline.com discusses Juniors who will test the draft waters after next season. Not that, they will necessarily go pro, but that they will see where they are:
Aaron Gray, Pittsburgh: Without Chris Taft and Chevy Troutman, Gray -- 7-feet, 275 pounds -- will get as many minutes as he can handle next season. On a per-minute basis, Gray -- who averaged 4.3 points and 2.8 rebounds -- wasn't much less productive than Taft (13.3 points, 7.5 rebounds) this past season. And the NBA loves guys who are 7-feet, 275 pounds.
Hey, if Chris Mihm could go #7, why not?

Meida and Misc. 

Planning to get drunk on the couch watch the draft this weekend? If you have ESPN-U, Coach Wannstedt will be on their college-NFL draft coverage.
Big East newcomers Bobby Petrino of Louisville and Pitt’s Dave Wannstedt are scheduled to appear on ESPNU’s college football-oriented NFL Draft coverage. New Marshall coach Mark Snyder’s old boss, Jim Tressel, will also be dropping by. Marc Bulger’s favorite target, Torry Holt, will become the first active NFL player to provide draft analysis on ESPN’s main set. ...
I think the ESPNU show is supposed to talk about the upcoming season for the college teams in light of players lost to the draft (or in Pitt's case the lack of many impact players lost to the draft).

And in completely unrelated, if you actually live in Pittsburgh, you might want to venture to Homestead this weekend to see what you can bid on from the Chiodo collection.

"It's like an archeology dig in here, trying to separate the true antiques from everything else," Tripp Kline says as he and his crew organize and identify thousands of hard hats, boots, rifles, guitars, train lanterns, model planes, boxing gloves, football helmets and bras that dangled from the building's seldom-seen tin ceilings. And that's not even starting to categorize the photos, beer signs and other mill-town memorabilia that covered just about every square millimeter of the saloon's walls. This Sunday at noon, everything -- including beer taps and a preserved rattlesnake in a jar -- will go on the block in the parking lot next to the building.

"Every time we take something down," Kline says, "we find two or three more things behind it. Yesterday we discovered an autographed photo of Joe (Chiodo) with Tony Dorsett during his playing days at Pitt, long before anyone knew he'd end up in the football hall of fame. There are so many layers."

I have to imagine there might be some really old-school Pitt items there.

Solid Recruiting 

You know, I think I've forgotten to give Coach Jamie Dixon and his staff their due on the recruiting job they have done. This is 2 straight years of a strong recruiting class. DeGroat may not have stepped in there like expected and it took Benjamin a little more time (not to mention injuries), but the Pitt coaches have done an outstanding job. Pitt has made smart hires in the coaching and support staff to create access to the more fertile recruiting areas.

The additions of Levance Fields and Trevor Ferguson make this a very strong class. Ferguson was a bit of a surprise addition and being the first recruit Pitt has gotten out of Florida since I don't even know.

But during his senior season at Oldsmar Christian Academy in Pinellas County, Fla., Ferguson averaged 26.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game to lead the Eagles to the Florida Class A quarterfinals.

Larry Bache, Ferguson's coach at Oldsmar Christian Academy, which finished the season ranked No. 2 in Class A and No. 9 overall in Florida's high school rankings, called Ferguson "phenomenal."

Ferguson, Bache said, has fully recovered from a freak accident two years ago in which he broke both of his wrists when he got entangled in the basket after dunking the ball and landed on his hands.

"If I'm the coach on the other team, the first question I'm asking is, 'Who can guard him?'" Bache said. "He has speed, he can post you up and he can dunk. Your only prayer of stopping him is with a 6-6 two-guard who's fast. He's just an impossible matchup."

Maybe a bit of hyperbole, but after watching Pitt get torched repeatedly by players who could go inside and out this season it's nice to think the team might have one for itself.

These two additions, along with essentially the final grades on the recruits by scouting groups, put Pitt in or around the top-25 in recruiting classes.

Unless there is a late addition -- Pitt has one scholarship remaining and the spring signing period ends in the middle of next month -- Dixon's second recruiting class is complete. According to recruiting services, Pitt's class is among the top half in the Big East Conference and a few rank it as a top 25 class nationally.

Pitt's class is ranked No. 13 by Hoopscooponline and No. 25 by Rivals.com. Three players are ranked among the top 100 in the country, according to Rivals. Young, a 6-foot-7, 215-pound forward from Hargrave Military Academy, is No. 71; Biggs, a 6-8, 260-pounder from Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey, is No. 78; and Fields, a 5-10, 196-pound guard from Xaverian High in Brooklyn, N.Y., is No. 88.

"Solid is the word that comes to mind," [Jerry] Meyer[, Scout.com's national recruiting analyst,] said of Pitt's class. "They filled every position, except a true center. They added players that match their physical style of play with Biggs and Young. In Fields, they got a tough, gritty point guard in the mold of Krauser, only Fields is smaller than Krauser. And with Trevor Ferguson, they picked up a real good shooter, something that they've really needed there. I don't think there's any one player who makes this class. I just think it has five solid players."

According to the sidebar on the article, Scout.com has Pitt out of the top-25 in their rankings. Interesting to take a look at the sidebar to get an idea of the variance and natural difficulty in ranking the classes. It's always easier at the top. Louisville has only a small range difference of 1 to 5. Cinci and DePaul each make only one of the 3 lists. Marquette is anywhere from 13 to 23.

No matter, there are 8 teams for next year's Big East that can make a case to have a top-25 recruiting class. The thing to watch is what the teams get out of the players.

UConn, Cinci, Louisville and Syracuse have the coaches with the longest and strongest track records of getting their talent to perform (in Cinci's case there is something of a caveat limiting to the regular season). I don't add Marquette because Crean just doesn't have the years to be placed there, but he's fast earning the reputation to get discussed.

DePaul just lost their head coach to Virginia so they are a question mark.

Notre Dame and Mike Brey have shown real signs of underachieving with talent in the 4-5 years. Pitt and Dixon are incomplete since it is still too early to tell.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Signed and Sealed 

Pitt has announced that Levance Fields and Trevor Ferguson both signed and submitted their Letter of Intent to play at Pitt starting in 2005.
With the signings of Ferguson and Fields, Pitt will welcome five new players to campus for the 2005-06 season. Ferguson and Fields join three other student-athletes who signed NLIs in the fall: power forward Tyrell Biggs, post player Doyle Hudson and small forward Sam Young.

Pitt's recruiting class has been ranked among the nation’s top-25 nationally in two different polls: Hoopscooponline.com (No. 13) and Rivals.com (No. 25).
The signing period runs through May 18.

The press release has bio info on the two.

Incoming Recruits 

This will be a solid recruiting class that seems to be flying under the national radar. Good. Pitt has definitely been best when underestimated.

Levance Fields was named NY Newsday's Player of the Year.
Xaverian coach Jack Alesi was most impressed with Fields' leadership and his ability to rally his team. "He's beyond the normal scope of what a great player is," Alesi said. "He makes others around him better and he knows when he has to take over."
In the Jordan classic, where he scored 18 points, they all came in the second half. Let the comparisons to Krauser begin.

"I like the light on me," he said. "I come from Brooklyn, from the Brownsville area. I grew up in a tough neighborhood and when you step onto the court, you have to have a lot of heart and be ready to play to your fullest."

It is the way Krauser, another New York native, has played the game, and Fields is likely to step in as the heir apparent at the point for Pitt, should Krauser stick in the NBA and not return to the Panthers for his final season.

The other Pitt recruit who stood out in the final high school all-star games was Tyrell Biggs. He feels confident about coming in and making a difference.

Biggs, who is the third consecutive Pitt recruit to earn most outstanding player at the Chicago all-star game, is eager to come to Pitt, where he expects to be joined by the Panthers' other newcomers in mid-June for summer workouts.

"I can offer a good inside-outside presence. I know that it's a really big difference between high school and college, but with a lot of hard work and hustle and communication with my teammates, I think we can be a real good team."

This will be a team high on potential, but short on experience.

Starting the Next Wave 

Pitt news articles should be coming to a near stop this week. Spring Practice is over, the new logo is here, and Pat just let us know that he got the materials to renew our football season tickets. I have some topics and posts I will be working on, from some suggestions e-mailed to me by readers. If you have any, to suggest feel free to e-mail me.

One more article talking about the Blue-Gold Scrimmage. Strange that it would appear that Pitt suddenly has depth at tailback.

The coaches are now going into the film rooms and groups.

The coaches must evaluate players and positions and come up with a depth chart.

"Now we're going to sit down and evaluate every tape of every spring practice and figure out what we need to do to improve ourselves," coach Dave Wannstedt said. "We know where we need to improve. We have to keep talking about pass rush. We have to generate a pass rush on defense. But we got done what we needed to and now we will refine things as coaches. We will find what we need to delete and what we need to add on and get ready for training camp.

"That's the next step. It is a process. We have a long way to go but we're off to a good start."

Last year, the defense was way ahead of the offense. Something we saw through the first few games. This year, the defense is not as advanced as the offense.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Looking Ahead 

I'm not ready, yet, but there are some vague prognostications about the bloated Big East.
April is known for its attrition -- both planned and unplanned -- but in the Big East it has been ridiculous. Here's an alphabetical look at the upheaval:

Early departures: Center Chris Taft is gone for good to the NBA, and point guard Carl Krauser might not be far behind.

Graduating contributors: Without Chevy Troutman, the Panthers will lose their top three scorers if Krauser stays in the draft. Mark McCarroll is replaceable.

Staff turnover: None.

Immediate outlook: If you've got stock in Pitt basketball, now's the time to sell.
Coach Jamie Dixon is going to be in a tough situation. Realistically, there should be less pressure on Dixon and Pitt in 2005-06 with the losses of Troutman and Taft (and maybe Krauser), and none of the returning players really inspiring confidence that they can pick up the slack. At the same time, there is a fairly talented incoming recruiting class with reasonably high expectations.

This will really be considered Dixon's team. Even if Krauser returns -- considering how much he wanted Dixon to get the job -- it will no longer be considered Dixon coaching Howland's players. For good and bad.

Now as for the future, a couple of those 2005 recruits were playing in some HS all-star games last night.

Levance Fields who turned his whole HS team's season around, had a nice game in a defensive struggle in the Jordan Classic.
Levance Fields spoke this week about the pressure of playing on the Garden floor and of being the only player from the city in last night's Jordan Classic All-Star game.

But he admitted that it wasn't all that bad.

"I know that even if I go 0-for-12 and play terribly, I'll still be going to Pitt," said the Xaverian star, who scored 18 in his Gray team's 127-126 win over the White squad that was sealed when Emanuel Mayben missed a pair of free throws with three seconds left in front of an announced crowd of 6436. "So I'm set regardless."

Fields hasn't signed his letter of intent yet, but is expected to do so in the next couple of weeks.

The article also notes that there is one other potential Pitt signee from the NYC area, Saiquon Stone. Stone, a 6' 5" shooting guard, is not as highly ranked as Fields and others in the Pitt recruiting class, but was ranked #10 in Rivals top-10 in NY. More intriguing is this snippet quote from his AAU coach, "Saiquon is my best defensive player. He gets into the best offensive player on the other team and locks down on him. He's a defensive gem." He apparently has interest of teams ranging from Villanova, Oklahoma and Notre Dame to Marist and Fairfield.

Fields also gets some hometown love in the NY Times for the aggressive way he played.

In exhibitions like the Jordan Classic, hustle and defense are as unfamiliar as the two-handed set shot, but Fields threw his body around as if a title was at stake. "Just to be selected to this game is special," he said.
Out in the Windy City, the NY kids once more proved where the better ball is played.
New York used a 21-5 second-half run to coast to victory.

Only two of the 11 players on New York's roster have committed to major-conference schools.

"We underestimated them,'' Acker said. "A lot of us were talking about what schools they were going to -- but they were a really good team.''

Chicago's roster consisted of 10 players headed to top Division I schools, including Robeson's Jeremy Pargo, a Gonzaga recruit who led Chicago with 15 points.

"We didn't even look at Chicago's roster,'' Team New York coach Bob Cimmino said. "If they were surprised by how good we were, then so be it.''
NY won 102-84. Funny thing about the Chicago paper's coverage of the game there, they didn't even mention who was the MVP.
Tyrell Biggs became the third Pitt basketball recruit in as many years to be named most outstanding player for the New York team at the Windy City Classic all-star game in Chicago.

Biggs, a 6-foot-8 forward from Don Bosco (N.J.) Prep, who has signed a binding letter of intent to attend Pitt next season, follows NBA draft-bound Chris Taft, the 6-10 center who was named most outstanding player for New York in 2003, and current guard Ronald Ramon, who won the award in 2004.

Biggs scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds Saturday for the New York team.

And to give Pitt fans hope, Biggs did his work inside.

...Tyrell Biggs, added 12 points and eight rebounds. The Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) product, headed to Pittsburgh, also was solid defensively.
Chicago led 43-39 at the half thanks to some streaky outside shooting. It hit 8 of 16 3-pointers and went up by as many as nine. Jeremy Pargo, the brother of Chicago Bulls guard Jannero Pargo, led Chicago with 15 points including three 3-pointers.

In the second half New York took away the outside by essentially ignoring the interior. Lowe, McDermott and Austin all played superb perimeter defense while the burly Biggs took control of the paint.

There's the double edged sword for Dixon. He's got a young team, for sure next year. But there is a lot of talent coming in to the program. Because of underachieving this year, he won't have as much time as might be considered fair to show that he is getting them going the right way.

Blue-Gold Scrimmage, Just a Touch of Interest 


I think the Pitt Athletic Department has every right to come into their offices tomorrow feeling really good.
With Heinz Field unavailable while new grass is being grown, Wannstedt moved Pittsburgh's scrimmage to suburban Gateway High School and was greeted by an overflow crowd of 8,007. It was a bigger turnout than those during Walt Harris' eight seasons as coach, when the 2001 spring game was held sans crowd at the school's practice complex.

"We had a lot more fans, obviously, than we had room," said Wannstedt, the former Bears and Dolphins coach who is still adjusting to his first college head coaching job. "It's a nice problem to have when you don't have enough room."

Some fans couldn't get close enough to the stadium to park and went home, while others braved a miles-long traffic jam to arrive nearly an hour after the scrimmage started.

Sure this wasn't a Steelers' training camp workout and not a Pitt scrimmage?
Sure, Nebraska had some 60,000+ last year, and Florida packed in some 50,000+ this year, but for Pitt this was huge. I think it's safe to say, that but for the lack of space and traffic problems it would have broken 10,000 for a spring practice. A scrimmage in the days leading up, was being severely downplayed as far as action.

There is an energy, buzz, heavy interest that I have severely underestimated about the team and Wannstedt taking over.

I don't think I am the only one a little surprised by the level of interest.

As for the on-the-field action of the scrimmage, Coach Wannstedt was happy. Stats, for what they are worth, are here (PDF). The offensive line looked really good. The moves and competition seem to be working. The issue for the o-line is the lack of depth. The drop-off after the starters is the concern. Injuries will be a major thing to watch.

While the scrimmage may have started off with a flea-flicker, the star on offense was RB Rashad Jennings. Kirkley and Murphy both sat out the scrimmage with minor injuries. Jennings appears to be passing Brandon Mason on the depth chart. The starter job will still be up in the air come training camp because of the other freshmen RBs, including Conredge Collins. Still, it's nice to have some hope for the running game right now.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Nationally Televised, Kind Of 

Want to see Pitt's point guard of the future, Levance Fields?

He'll be on playing in the inaugural Jordan Classic at MSG tonight at 8pm. The game is going to be aired on ESPN-U. So if you have satellite or certain cable outlets, you can watch. Otherwise, it will be aired on ESPN2 tomorrow from 4-5:30 pm.

Mike Davis, another Pitt recruit (kind of) will be playing the "regional" undercard game. According to some reports, Davis is likely heading to prep school for a year. I don't think anyone is broadcasting this game.

Here's an article on Fields from the NY Daily News.

Late News Today 

Trying to take advantage of a nice day on a weekend.

Starkey says Pitt should have gone back to the old colors and script Pitt.
That said, Long didn't go nearly far enough.

A truly bold move would have been to return to the old light-blue-and-mustard colors with the scripted "Pitt" on the helmets.

Imagine the reaction at Heinz Field if the official unveiling of those uniforms occurred as Dave Wannstedt and his team charged through the tunnel Sept. 3 before their season-opener against Notre Dame. The place would have shaken like it never shook before.

Long said that going all the way old school was not seriously considered and that only a vocal minority wanted to see it happen.

Well, the minority was right.

See, I think the "majority" is just in the athletic department. The so-called minority, is really a majority who would like to have the original and more unique colors back. At the time of the color change, it must have seemed like a good idea. Part of that trend of the 90s to make everything darker and tougher in color schemes. Now, though, it just looks boring and like everyone else's unis.

I think there needs to be some pressure brought at least once a year for a retro uniform game.

Today's blue-gold scrimmage (which is either over or wrapping up at this point) was going to be much more of drills and practice than actual lining up and hitting.

An article about tackling and hitting by the linebackers. A nice gem of an admission from Clint Session.

The down side is, a player can be so determined to shake loose someone's teeth, he simply forgets how to tackle. Session admits, more than once, he has drawn a bead on his target, only to see the guy zig and zag out of harm's way.
And don't think we don't notice the whiff.

Pitt and Clear Channel Communications have a new 5 year radio deal.

Pitt football and men's basketball will continue to be simulcast on FM NewsTalk 104.7 (WPGB-FM) and Fox Sports Radio 970 (WBGG-AM). Additionally, each game of the women's basketball season will be carried on Fox Sports Radio 970, marking the first time ever Pitt women’s hoops has had its own commercial station.

Panther fans can again expect to hear an outstanding array of ancillary programming that focuses on Pitt football and basketball. New head football coach Dave Wannstedt will have a weekly show during the season on Fox Sports Radio 970, originating from the Pittsburgh Steak Company. Men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon will also continue to have a weekly in-season show airing on WBGG-AM and tentatively scheduled to be held at Lot 17.

In addition to the flagship stations, Pitt football and basketball will be heard on an expanding radio network under the direction of ISP Sports. In addition to Pennsylvania and Ohio, the Panthers' network will expand into West Virginia and Maryland for 2005-06.
Sweet, maybe a couple radio stations further north in Ohio might start carrying some of the games.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Really Late for the News 

Sorry, still trying to get a balance, and today just had too much.

Quickly, another puff piece on Bokor. Mostly the same angle from previous pieces, but with the addition of his friendship with a Penn State player.

Chris McKillop also got a puff piece. Earlier piece here.

In practice news, Blades seems to be adjusting well in the middle of the D-line. Revis is in the lead to return punts. Finding the #3 WR is still a work in progress.

Tomorrow's Blue-Gold Scrimmage -- go and be the first on your block to be wearing the new Pitt logo -- will be just that. A scrimmage.
For those fans expecting game-like conditions during the annual Blue-Gold intrasquad scrimmage Saturday at 1 p.m. at Gateway High School's Antimarino Stadium in Monroeville, think again.

The culmination of 15 days of spring workouts, spread out over about a five-week span, will be just like another practice session for first-year coach Dave Wannstedt that includes a full-contact scrimmage with the first-, second- and third-team players squaring off.

"This won't be the typical divide the staff in half and divide the team and play a game,'' Wannstedt said. "We're going to go out there and work. We have a lot of work to do, and we need every day to maximize the time to make sure that we get everything covered that we need to get done.''
And since it's at a high school, no getting liquored up before hand. It's for the children.

The game times for the ESPN televised games have been set.

Today's Must Read 

Paul Zeise has it today. Before he even gets to the Q&A, he gives an overview of what he has seen from all sides of the ball. Lots of good stuff. I will excerpt one thing.
Q: Why doesn't Pitt schedule an odd number of games with Penn State and let Penn State have the first home game in the series so that Penn State will get an extra game in the series and it will in turn give Pitt a leg up when it comes time to renegotiate the contract? ...

ZEISE: Oh, boy. I'm going to say this in bold caps so that there is no more misgivings about what Pitt will do with Penn State - PITT IS NOT GOING TO ACCEPT ANYTHING LESS THAN A 1-FOR-1 HOME-AND-HOME WITH PENN STATE. Period, end of discussion. Nor should they. Pitt's program does not need Penn State to survive, in fact, much to the dismay of the Penn Staters - Pitt's program has thrived ever since they stopped playing Penn State. It is a disgrace that these two teams do not play every year. But Pitt is not a desperate program. They have a big enough stadium that the game would make financial sense for any big-name team coming to Pittsburgh. If Pitt played Penn State, it would be a nationally televised game. There is no reason these two teams can't play every year. But Pitt should not and will not play the game unless it is treated as Penn State's equal. Penn State is not superior to Pitt and therefore should not receive any special treatment. What will be interesting will be the spin coming out of Penn State now that there is a 12-game schedule allowed starting in 2006. There is no excuse now - especially since Penn State's original excuse was going to be that the Big Ten is just going to add a ninth conference game. From what I am told, that is not likely to happen, meaning Penn State will have four non-conference games to fill each year.

That doesn't mean Pitt and Penn State aren't talking (probably about playing after Paterno is gone), they are talking to a bunch of teams, but Penn St. won't happen until it is the right way.

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