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
And the Jamie Dixon trail of tears continues.
Just days after TCU moved on with their coaching search (and ironically hired away LSU's coach), Jamie Dixon reportedly flew down to Atlanta to meet with with LSU's AD, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. That would be extremely significant because of all the jobs he's been linked to, I can only remember him actually meeting face-to-face with Maryland. And even then, Dixon claims that had more to do with Dixon's friendship with Kevin Anderson than the actual opening.
So why can't I link the article today? That's because its been retracted and deleted (via Times-Picayune):
A previous report on Nola.com that Alleva met with University of Pittsburgh Coach Jamie Dixon was inaccurate.
I honestly can't even see Dixon using the threat of going to LSU as serious leverage for an extension. It's just not plausible. Pederson would dare him to take it.
For what it's worth, Pitt says Dixon spent the day in his office in the Pete and Ray Fittipaldo talked to him at the Penguins game. So unless JD has discovered the secrets of human teleportation and is now using it to explore opportunities at lesser jobs, he probably wasn't in Atlanta.
Too bad he couldn't have seen a win last night.
In actual, real news, Pitt officially signed swingmen Chris Jones and Trey Zeigler to the program. "Versatility" is the word of the day (via the PG):
The two latest signees are shooting guards who have the versatility to play other positions.
It has been a common theme in Dixon's approach to recruiting for the past few years.
Lamar Patterson, one of his best returning players, can play three positions.
Zeigler played four positions during his two seasons at Central Michigan, and Dixon said Jones can also play small forward.
"It always has been a philosophy of mine," Dixon said of recruiting players who can play different spots.
"I don't think we're going to lock Trey into one spot. I'm very familiar with his game. He's very versatile. We're excited about his future. He's already been a very productive player."
As for whether or not Pitt may add another player (Forward Savon Goodman), Dixon said that Pitt is done. There's rumblings that Goodman might not be eligible, but if he is, I have a hard time seeing Pitt turning him away.no comments
Finding the right personnel for the defensive line seems to often be the toughest part about switching defenses. Thankfully, The coaching mess at the Pitt hasn't drained enough quality 4-3 defensive ends to pose a serious problem for 2012. Left over from the Wannstedt era are two quality end prospects Bryan Murphy and TJ Clemmings - both former 4-star recruits from New Jersey.
Bryan Murphy has the most game experience and seemed to be being groomed as a future star last summer before grades kept him out of his second season. According to Murphy, it won't happen again. And that's a good thing, because depth is going to major issue otherwise.
Murphy sees the switch back to a 4-3 as a chance to shine again at defensive end as opposed to the "Panther Linebacker" where he played under Graham until the NCAA ended his season before it began (via the PG):
[DL Coach Ionke] Breckterfield said Murphy, who is 6 feet 3, 250 pounds, is one of the more physical defensive linemen on the team and he is very good at pass rush, but he is a little undersized so he has to work on his technique to become better against the run.
Like most of the defensive lineman -- and especially the ends -- Murphy likes that the Panthers are back to playing a 4-3 defense after playing in the 3-4 last year.
He said that last year, when the Panthers used a stand-up defensive end, his natural position really didn't exist, but he's back where he belongs, with his hand on the turf to start every play.
"I love it," Murphy said, "I liked the stand-up position but I am a defensive end, I like to play with my hand down and it is working out really well. I felt a little left out last year so the focus is there and I am really motivated because I want to do well this year."
And the favorite to be opposite Murphy is fellow New Jerseyan TJ Clemmings. Once heralded super-recruit, Clemmings' progress has been about average. After being forced to play as a true freshman due to injuries, Clemmings was able to redshirt last season and now looks to contribute as a redshirt sophomore.
The hold up with Clemmings' development seems to be more mental the physical (via the Trib):
Pitt is counting on Clemmings' size and athleticism to counteract his friendly disposition and turn him into a impact player.
"He just has to realize he is a 6-foot-5, 285-pound dude," said Breckterfield, whose goal this spring is to bring out the nastiness of his players. "I just have to get him to realize that and realize his potential and how strong he is, and it will translate (on the field)."
Clemmings redshirted last season after playing eight games as a freshman.
"I realized I really wasn't ready to play," he said.
Clemmings said the key to getting nasty is knowing assignments and technique.
"I am out there thinking a little too much," he said. "Coach is always coaching us to come out of your hips (with the initial burst). I'll destroy anyone once I consistently do that."
Thanks, Jeff Hafley!no comments
Jamie Dixon doin' work (via ESPN):
Pittsburgh pulled off a huge recruiting coup to start the ACC in the fall of 2013 when Central Michigan guard Trey Zeigler chose the Panthers over Duke and UCLA on Saturday.
Former Central Michigan coach Ernie Zeigler told ESPN.com on Saturday that his 6-foot-5 son will play for his former colleague Jamie Dixon at Pitt.
Zeigler and Dixon were assistants together under Ben Howland at Pitt. Ernie then followed Howland to UCLA.
Trey Zeigler averaged 16.3 points as a freshman and 15.8 points and 6.7 rebounds as a sophomore.
"He's with really good people at Pitt," Ernie Zeigler said. "He's back where me and Jamie started off."
Ernie Zeigler said Trey will sit out the 2012-13 season and have two seasons of eligibility remaining.
Trey Zeigler will have two years of eligibility to play for Pitt. He's definitely not a three point shooter - he averaged less than one per game this season. Instead, he's the sort of high-volume shooter/slasher types that Pitt fans have been craving since getting torched by Kemba Walker in 2011. Zeigler scored over 1,000 points in two seasons with Central Michigan and averaged 15.8 per game last season.
If this is the first you've heard of Zeigler, here's his story. Trey's dad, Ernie Zeigler, was the head coach of Central Michigan when Trey committed there in 2010 over offers from Arizona, Duke, UCLA and Michigan State. He played for the Fighting Chippewas for two seasons until his dad got fired last month. Now he's transferring and petitioning the NCAA to be immediately eligible instead of sitting out a year (I have no idea if this is likely or not - seems unlikely).
So what's the Pitt connection? Besides having an newly open scholarship, there's no incumbent at shooting guard or even an heir apparent to Ashton Gibbs. If Ziegler picked Pitt, his only impediment to the starting job would be Cam Wright, John Johnson and freshman Chris Jones. Not exactly a murder's row. Then there's the Pitt connection: Ernie Zeigler was an assistant at Pitt under Ben Howland with Jamie Dixon. When Howland left of UCLA, Zeigler went with him and Jamie Dixon became the head coach at Pitt.
Even if Zeigler has to sit out next season, he'll be huge addition to the Panthers roster for 2013-14.
Welcome home, Trey!no comments
Thank God for the perennial "Let's go get Jamie Dixon!" talk every off season. Generating content from mid April through late July is tough. Now if it could just wait until spring football ends, this would be perfect.
This year's ridiculous idea/rumor/speculation is that former Horned Frog mid-80s sensation Jamie Dixon will be headed back to Ft. Worth (via Dallas Star-Telegram):
In the past, the idea of luring Dixon away from the tradition-rich Big East Conference to come coach his alma mater in Conference USA or the Mountain West was -- without question -- a long shot.
But how about now?
Several sources at TCU said the school's move to the Big 12 next season, coupled with athletic director Chris Del Conte's assurances that plans of a major renovation to the basketball facilities are in his sights, could be enough to get Dixon listening.
No one would love to pull off the extraordinary coaching coup more than Del Conte. And he has a history with Dixon, who first suggested to Del Conte and Big East officials that TCU should seriously consider joining the Big East.
No. Stop. Really.
To be fair, the rest of the article explains why that's an incredible long-shot. ESPNDallas prefers to go with "ZOMG GO GET EM" approach. (ESPN regional sites! The same crappy writing you're used to, but now with more homerism!)
Obviously, this isn't going to happen. Pay no heed to the fact that Dixon isn't from the Dallas / Ft. Worth area or even Texas or even that quadrant of the country. Dixon is from southern California and happened to spend four years as a player for TCU in the mid-80s. He's lived in Pittsburgh for thirteen years. His children were born in Pittsburgh. He's built #1 ranked teams in Pittsburgh. He can win here and he knows it.
The speculation seems to have not even lasted 24 hours, however, as Dixon was shot down as "not a viable candidate." When your coach leaves to take a MAC job - and not even a particularly good MAC job - you're probably going to do more than match his salary at his Big East / ACC school. Considering Dixon makes nearly three times as much as TCU's last head coach (plus upgraded salary for assistants, facilities and recruiting budget), it would cost TCU several millions in additional costs to even match what Pitt is offering. And I don't think matching would be enough to lure Dixon away from Pitt when he has shied away from interest from programs such as Maryland, Cal, USC, Missouri, Oregon, Arizona State. Hell, even Oregon tried to dig dump a pile of Nike money on him. No luck.
If you're TCU, you had to at least see if he's interested. I get that. That doesn't make it any less silly though.
Its ok. If Pitt loses Dixon, Pederson will just replace him with John Calipari. He's from western Pennsylvania - he must be dying to come home.
From Andy Katz last evening (via ESPN):
Pitt and Syracuse representatives won't be at the Big East meetings, but they will be at the ACC meetings in May. The respective coaches will be at the ACC meetings, too.
When will the two schools join the ACC? "Hopefully, we'll get everything worked out here soon,'' Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said. "Their league is reconfigured and ready to move, and when you get to that point where everybody is on the next page, everybody should move on.''
Pederson wouldn't commit to the fall of 2013, but that seems to be the goal. The ACC is ready to receive Pitt and Syracuse, and the Big East is ready to move on with its new members.
Well then.no comments