It's May, so you know what that means - time for more worthless Pitt-Penn State series renewal chatter! Seriously, it's getting earlier every year. At least it was mid-May last year.
This year's catalyst is none other than Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien, who is on a PR tour of Pennsylvania (via the Trib):
“I would love to see that game played on an annual basis,” O’Brien told the Tribune-Review on Friday. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for (Pitt coach) Paul Chryst and their program, and that’s a great rivalry. For the fans of Pennsylvania to be able to see that game every year, I think that’s pretty neat.”
Before everyone gets all "ZOMG DA RIVALRY!!1!" that was pretty much Joe Paterno's long-held position on the issue too. At least publicly.
I'm excited about the series briefly resuming in 2016 and 2017. If nothing else, it will be better than a random BCS-level home-and-home. It should generate a lot more for the programs in terms of interest, both by fans and the media. But anything longer than that would require some tough decisions by both programs that might not be in either's interests.
Both teams are set to play nine game "set" schedules. For Pitt, it will be nine ACC conference games. For Penn State, eight Big Ten games plus a rotating Pac-12 opponent. That leaves three games to work with. And both teams will likely take the same general approach: one FCS game, one MAC game, one marquee BCS-level game.
And before the thought takes root: Pitt should absolutely not drop Notre Dame to make room for Penn State. Like it or not, Notre Dame is a national game. Pitt vs. Penn State is regional. If both of Pennsylvania's major teams are ranked, it garner national attention, but in the unfortunate situation that neither team are ranked to start 2016, get ready for a 4:30 kickoff on ESPNU. On the other hand, no matter how bad both teams are, Pitt-Notre Dame is on NBC/ABC/ESPN. Notre Dame is national. Playing a team two-and-a-half hours away is regional. College football programs thrive on exposure and playing Notre Dame delivers that in a big way that no other program can match.
And the same goes for Penn State. They're coming off a home-and-home with Alabama. Next up is a series with Virginia and a Meadowlands game versus Syracuse. Then it's an eastern tour against Big East remainders Temple and Rutgers. If they threw in Maryland, they'd have all their major recruiting areas covered. And while Penn State obviously recruits western Pennsylvania, the level of exposure they get here is enough to keep kids thinking of them.
So unless either teams drops the cupcakes (not going to happen - FREE MONEY), the series ends again in 2017. And that's ok.no comments
In what I can only assume is an effort to provide bored Pitt bloggers a topic of discussion in these dire spring months, Pitt signee James Robinson is trying out for Team USA's Under 18 team. Cameron Wright tried out for last year's Under 19 team but didn't make the cut, however, Ashton Gibbs had a great experience with the Dixon coached the U19 team in 2010 that won the gold and is credited with his development.
The invitees are led by Tennessee sophomore Jarnell Stokes, Michigan State signee Gary Harris and Duke signee Rasheed Sulaimon. Robinson will be competing for a spot with fellow point guards Ryan Arcidiacono (Villanova), Kris Dunn (Providence) and 2013 point guards Andrew Harrison and Nate Britt. Robinson's teammate and Syracuse SF signee Jerami Grant was also invited.
Probably a bit of an uphill battle for Robinson just by glancing at the player rankings, but he's certainly in top-tier of 2012 point guards so anything can happen.
The tryouts are in the beginning of June in Colorado and the games begin June 16th in Brazil. We'll be following this closely.
It won't be Robinson's first time representing the USA. This month, Robinson participated in the Nike sponsored "Hoop Summit" event in Oregon. Robinson kept a diary of the event, so you can read about how Nike sinks their claws in kids early provides developmental assistance young men.
(More after the jump)no comments
Despite the success of several Pitt players in the NFL this season, the program's reputation wasn't enough to get one of Pitt's 2012 senior class drafted in this weekend's NFL draft.
This is the first time Pitt was shut out of the draft since 1999 and it's only one year after Jon Baldwin was taken in the first round by the Kansas City Chiefs. Pitt has produced four first round picks since 2004 (Fitzgerald, Revis, Otah, Baldwin).
By conference, the SEC had the most players selected. The ACC was third and the Big East was tied for sixth with the Mountain West, ironic given their constant comparisons.
For the newest ex-Panthers, it wasn't a particularly enjoyable weekend. Turns out, sitting and waiting to hear your name called is only fun if it actually gets called (via the Trib):
Lindsey said watching the draft was no fun.
“I stopped watching after a while,” he said.
Alecxih said he watched every minute of the draft.
“It was horrible — like the worst experience ever,” he said. “But things happen for a reason. I’m going to make the team.”
Not getting drafted isn't the end of the line, however. Seven of Pitt's players have already signed as free agents with various teams around the league. Here's the list, courtesy of Pantherlair:
- Chas Alexcih - Miami Dolphins
- Max Gruder - Atlanta Falcons
- Buddy Jackson - Indianapolis Colts
- Brandon Lindsey - Pittsburgh Steelers
- Lucas Nix - Oakland Raiders
- Antwuan Reed - Cleveland Browns
- Greg Williams - Houston Texans
For what it's worth, NFL.com has Nix as one of their best players to go undrafted.
Best of luck to all of them.no comments
Meet Dan Samuelson. Dan committed to play for Pitt last week. Dan is a big boy (via the South Bend Tribune):
Plymouth Rockies guard Dan Samuelson, a 6-foot-5, 290-pounder, became the fourth player to verbally commit to Pitt's Class of 2013.
"He's a very physical run blocker," Plymouth High School coach John Barron said of Samuelson. "Not only was his size what attracted a lot of people, but his length attracted people. He has long legs, long arms, and he moves real well. He's a guy we can pull and trap with. We can run power behind him.
"Dan is the type of kid who fits what we do at Plymouth, but certainly is a fit for major colleges. Even though we don't throw a lot, he can play tackle and block that real athletic edge player. I think that's what people project him to be."
Samuelson will be the first Pitt player from Indiana for 42 years. That's not a big surprise - it's a smaller state with three BCS schools and firmly in Big 10 country - but it's another example of this staff using their midwest connections to lure Big 10 kids to the ACC. And it's clear that the staff is using the ACC as a recruiting tool (via):
"It's pretty important to be the first class of Pitt football moving into the ACC," Samuelson said.
"We have a big goal to try and be powerful in that conference. We need a lot of talent to finish out our team. We obviously have a lot of work to do. It's pretty special that we'll be the first ones to compete in the ACC."
His high school coach was impressed with the coaching staff's honesty (via the Trib):
Samuelson also enjoyed his meetings with coach Paul Chryst and line coach Jim Hueber, Baron said.
“It didn’t seem like Pitt (coaches) were a bunch of car salesmen,” said Baron, who had a hour-long telephone conversation with Chryst. “The other schools seemed like car salesmen, wheelers and dealers.
As for Samuelson's personality, well (via):
"He's a really athletic big kid," Barron said. "Plus, he's an A-B student. He's a kid who's never been in trouble, he's never going to get in trouble. He's a tremendous leader for us. He lives in the weight room and loves it."
Fantastic. Welcome to Pitt, Dan.no comments
Like the offensive line, the defensive line is an area that's been neglected during the course of the coaching turnover. With only one defensive end and two defensive tackles over the past two signing days, Chryst needs desperately needs to add talented players to the four man line.
Enter defensive end Shakir Soto, who committed to Pitt today.
Listed around 6'3"-6'4" and between 230-240 lbs, Soto is unranked by Rivals and Scout right now, but is a three-star according to 247. 247 also has him as the fourteenth best prospect in the state and number one defensive end.
The Wilkes Barre product picked Pitt over BCS-level offers from Boston College, Maryland, Virginia and Temple.
Soto is a very good track athlete as well, earning recognition in shot put, 300 meter hurdles and the 4x1600 relay.
You can check out extended highlights here, but the ScoutingPA.com highlights are after the jump (they're generally easier to follow because they identify the Soto before the snap).
Welcome aboard, Shakir!no comments
Well, this sucks (via the Trib):
Sophomore forward J.J. Moore, whose late surge was a bright spot during a 22-17 season, will miss the next three months after suffering a broken right fifth metatarsal bone during a pick-up game last week.
Moore is the third Pitt player in the past 41/2 years to break his fifth metatarsal — the long bone that runs on the outside of the foot and connects to the pinky toe — joining former Panthers Levance Fields and Jermaine Dixon.
The 6-foot-6, 200-pound Moore will undergo surgery this month and likely will miss the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am League, which runs from mid-June to mid-July. He should be fully healed long before the mid-October start of practice for the 2012-13 season.
Missing Greentree isn't exactly the end of the world, but the summer league will be without one of its most entertaining players.no comments
If there's one trademark of the Paul Chryst offense, it's quality offensive lineman. And because Pitt has added just two offensive linemen in the past two recruiting classes, he's going to have to do more with less. But offensive line recruiting is a huge priority right now and Pitt took a step forward addressing it with the commitment of Chambersburg offensive tackle Aaron Reese.
Reese is unranked by the recruiting services and Pitt was his first and only offer. That would usually be more than a little concerning, but with this staff's track record, I'm not as worried as I'd otherwise be.
As you can imagine, Reese is excited (via Panther Digest):
"I am very excited to be a Panther," Reese said Saturday night, after making his decision known. "I'm looking forward to working with Coach Chryst and Coach (Jim) Hueber and the entire coaching staff."
The 6-6, 280-pound Reese played both left tackle and defensive tackle for Chambersburg this past season, where he earned all-conference honors on both sides of the ball.
"I'm excited for where they are going to take the team, and for the opportunity to be a part of it," Reese added.
Wisconsin ran an extremely successful walk-on program for lineman that took in guys without offers and turned them into all-conference players. If there's any position where stars and offers probably won't matter as much, it's linemen. Reese has great size - and carries it well in the highlight video bellow. I have all the faith in the world that Chryst, Randolph and Hueber will be able to mold him into what they want in a tackle
Welcome to Pitt, Aaron. You're extremely needed.
Jumping right into it:
Sophomore Isaac Bennett was the story of the game, as he was all spring (via the Trib):
Tailback Isaac Bennett put an exclamation point on his spring with another sparkling effort in the Pitt spring game. The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder carried 23 times for 121 yards, including a cutback 51-yarder. He also had a pair of 70-yard touchdown runs and a 50-yard score during the Panthers' 15 spring practices.
"Isaac worked this spring," coach Paul Chryst said. "He's young, and I think he had a chance to learn a lot and grow. The last three or four times we've gone pretty hard, he's done some things that have been good."
With all-Big East runner Graham recovering from early November ACL surgery and five-star recruit Shell on the way, Bennett is making the most of his chances.
And Graham is doing his part, even if he can't yet take a snap (via ESPN):
Though Graham is on the sideline, he has still been able to help Bennett, who is working on his speed, agility and reading defenses this spring.
"I always tell Ray to watch me, to see what I'm doing wrong," Bennett said. "Sometimes he just comes up and tells me you should have read the play a different way, or just to follow my instincts, or make a different cut. He has been a real big help."
Whenever Graham does come back, you can bet the two will be a big help to the Pitt offense.
Obviously there's a ton of question marks with the backfield. Can Bennett thrive as a feature back? When will Ray Graham be ready and will he be able to play at 100 percent? How will Shell produce as a true freshmen?
But no matter the uncertainty, this group will spend the summer being compared to the John Clay / James White / Montee Ball trio at Wisconsin that nearly put up 1,000 yards each. If they're compared to those three at the end of the season that means this team will likely have won more games than they probably should have.
And that's because wins aren't likely to be a result of the passing game (via the Trib):
Quarterback Tino Sunseri, who had stepped up his game midway through the 15-practice spring, struggled early, eventually completing 13 of 27 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown on a rainy day.
He twice overthrew tight end Drew Carswell on what could have been big plays. Later, safety Andrew Taglianetti, who was Sunseri's high school teammate at Central Catholic, picked off an errant pass and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown.
Backup Mark Myers was the best quarterback on the field. He completed 10 of 16 passes for 167 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown to receiver Brandon Ifill.
The quarterbacks' job wasn't made any easier by the absence of left tackle Juantez Hollins, who missed the spring game due to diciplinary reasons. That's extremely disappointing, particularly for a guy who seems to be holding on to his starting position by a thread.
It really hit me yesterday how much of a rebuilding job Paul Chryst has in front of him. There's the team coming off a season that had nearly as many head coaches as wins with an incumbent quarterback that can't seem to get the job done and no one to replace him. But there's also the fanbase - which was never particularly large or deep - that seems deeply unsatisfied with how the past 18 months have gone. The spring game was sparcely attended. With a pretty poor schedule in a lame-duck year in the Big East, attendance seems like it will be a huge problem all year. Pitt was able to draw a respectable 52,000 in 2010 and 53,000 in 2009. Last year slipped to to 46,000 and I wonder if Pitt will be able to hit the mid-40s more than twice in its six game schedule.
I'm excited about the future of the program under Chryst, but I think there's going to be some serious growing pains to get there.no comments