Monday, May 31, 2010

News and Notes

Dion Lewis makes the Orlando Sentinel's list of five sophomores to watch.

University of Pittsburgh employee salaries were released and as a surprise to nobody, Jamie Dixon is king. Dave Wannstedt comes in second and AD Steve Pederson was fourth.

HD replays will now be available to officials. Never understood why they didn't have them in the first place.

While not confirmed yet, Duquesne mentions that they're bigger games, including the City Game vs. Pitt will likely be played at the new Consol Arena.

And some writer from...somewhere...picks Pitt as your 2010-11 NCAA Basketball National Champion.

Women's Basketball Program Update

Even though women's basketball may not be the hottest topic out there, I'd been waiting for a story on what's transpired over the past several months. The program seemingly has been in disarray with two assistant coaches leaving and the transfer of three players, which made up the entire sophomore class.

The Post-Gazette came out with a pretty thorough piece about everything that's transpired.

We know that Jeff Williams left to become a head coach, so that's understandable. Yolett McPhee McCuin the other assistant left to become an assistant. When it was first announced, it appeared to be a lateral move at a lesser school. However, the article points out that she left for more money and a promotion from 3rd assistant to 2nd assistant. Not a huge jumpg, but at least understandable.

Regarding the three transfers:

- Pepper Wilson transferred for personal reasons
- Kate Popovec transferred for more playing time
- Sarah Ogoke transferred to be closer to home and for more playing time

At least those reasons are somewhat reasonable and don't necessarily point to a major clash with the coach.

When you look at the fact that the team hasn't lost any of its starters from last year, they have four incoming freshmen, and were able to attract a former WNBA coach, things don't seem to be as bad as perhaps they first appeared.

Pitt Left Out

Pitt's NCAA tournament hopes ended when the bracket was revealed. Pitt was only able to win one game in the Big East tournament before being ousted.

Still, a pretty successful year for a program that hasn't typically done very well. Hopefully they can use this year as well as their new facilities to build upon.

Also, two Pitt players, Corey Brownstein and former football player Kevan Smith, made the All-Big East Tournament team.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dwight Miller Out

Ray Fittipaldo of the PG+ section (Note: If you are not a subscriber to this section, you have a limited number of page views to the content before you must subscribe) says that it is looking as if JJ Moore has qualified academically, meaning that Dwight Miller is looking to transfer.

With JJ Richardson playing well in spurts last year and Travon Woodall getting much better as the year went on, Dwight Miller's fate was looking worse and worse.

As Fittipaldo mentions, this has not been confirmed by Pitt yet. But assuming his information is true about Moore, I'd expect Miller would be the one to go.

He put in a lot of work with Rockets great Hakeem Olajuwon and I'm sure Jamie Dixon doesn't like the way this looks. But Miller would likely have been hard pressed to get minutes anyway, so this is probably best for him.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Welcome Pat Skerry

Jamie Dixon hired an assistant coach to replace Tom Herrion - the rumored Pat Skerry from Providence has accepted an offer.

This is a good get for Pitt. Not an established former head coach (served as the head coach for a couple of years at a small school, Curry College), but someone who's been viewed as a top assistant. Some of the qualifications from his bio:

- Named as one of the top assistants in the country in 2007 by Hoop Scoop

- 2008 top mid-major assistant in the country

- Helped put together a top 25 recruting class at Rhode Island in 2006

He also has a history with departed assistant Tom Herrion as he served as an assistant with him at the College of Charleston.

Skerry was in on the recruiting efforts for Providence this past season and helped land two ESPN top 100 recruits, including #54 overall Gerard Coleman.

His history on the east coast and ability to recruit well at less successful programs has me encouraged. It's nice to think he might be able to do even more at a school that's had one of the winningest programs in the country over the past decade.

I'm pretty happy with this choice.

Big East Network Part II

So I first mentioned this a few weeks back. Didn't give it much thought since, other than to again ask myself WHY it couldn't happen.

But now, it appears the idea is real:
Paul Tagliabue, the former commissioner of the National Football League who is now working as a consultant for the Big East Conference, says the 16-team conference is not standing pat while discussion continues nationwide on the future of the college sports landscape.

To that end, Tagliabue is advising the Big East on its television rights. One option would be for the Big East to follow the example of the Big Ten and form its own network.

He said it was too early to say whether the Big East would go that route.

"A lot of what is being discussed has to be explored quietly and in depth," he said.
And as I also pointed out in that initial article, the Big East's reach is pretty significant:
The Big East also would have a bigger reach. Seven members of the conference are located in the top 12 media markets in the country. And 12 members are located in the top 34. That covers more than a quarter of all U.S. markets, the largest coverage of any conference in the country.
Look, I'm not saying this is a slam dunk. I merely brought it up because it seems foolish to me that the Big Ten is the only conference that can have its own network. I think eventually you'll see all major conferences with their own network. Just look at how sports programming has grown. ESPN started in 1979 and sat as the only round-the-clock sports channel for a while. But now, 30 years later, you've got FOUR ESPNs, ESPN360/ESPN3, Fox Sports, CBS College Sports, the Big Ten Network, and the like.

And it's easy to sit back and laugh, focusing on the Big East's inability to show quality football games. Fine. But look at the basketball games that could be showcased? And trust me, I've seen some pretty bad Big Ten matchups on their network along with the host of team features and minor sports including college baseball, which happens to be on right now.

What I like is that the conference is thinking big:
Could Big East sports alone be enough to entice cable subscribers? Maybe not. But Marinatto says the league has access to "other alliances that could drive that concept." He declined to give specifics, but when I asked him if by "alliances" he meant other college sports, pro sports or even entertainment programming, he said, "all of the above."

"Because we're sitting where we are in the Northeast corridor, we have people from our schools who are involved in the business world who are working at the right places," he said. "Maybe that can help create some partnerships that would make us unique."

Could you envision a Big East sports and entertainment network that includes not only league games but also concerts, Broadway musicals and Major League and NBA games from cities like Philadelphia and Washington D.C.? Who knows. Marinatto said "everything is on the table."
The question is, is it too late? And while I like some of the thoughts being thrown out there in theory, it almost seems to me as if these are more pipe dreams that actual living, breathing possibilities.

One thing I'll point out is as a sidenote to Paul Tagliabue's quote about the conference's study of a potential network needing to be 'explored quietly and in depth.' I agree with that, but I think it also needs to be done fairly quickly. Depending on what rumors you believe, the Big Ten is either on the doorstep ready to knock or at the very least, on the way over. It seems at least one Big East team could be invited and it could end up being three. The Big East has to realize that it's likely any invited team would accept, with the exception of Notre Dame. Since that invitation could come quickly, a plan needs to be assembled and distributed to the member schools even quicker.

A promise of a network likely will still not be enough for schools to stay. But if the conference can somehow make the unbelievably fast turnaround of getting a network deal secured with guaranteed payouts, that might be a start for securing the conference's future. Even if the conference lost some schools to Big East expansion, could a Big East network be enough to lure a couple of other teams away from the ACC or elsewhere?


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pitt Baseball on the Ropes

In a week that saw star player Joe Leonard named the Big East Player of the Year, Pitt was dealt an opening loss in the Big East Tournament, losing to Rutgers today 9-5:
"We just have to turn the page and forget about today," said Baker (11-3), who had matched a season high with 12 hits allowed in his first meeting with Rutgers, a 9-8 loss on April 1. "We lose again, we're done, so we can't linger on today and let it affect us."

With innings at a premium on the mound, facing a potential six games in five days, Jordano stuck with Baker for six innings and a season-high 130 pitches. He gave up 16 hits, matching a 16-year-old Big East record.
The baseball fan in me immediately was drawn to the 130 pitches. Holy crap. Even Dusty Baker thinks this kid might be overworked.

Seriously, I know little about pitch counts in college baseball. But minor league teams reguarly limit young pitchers to under 100 pitches, so that seemed a bit high to me.

Anyway, so Pitt is now one loss away from being out of the Big East Tournament. There's a general consensus that 40 wins will get you into the NCAA Tournament most of the time. Pitt is still four away from that number and is now in danger of missing the tournament.

Bye-Bye to the Double Bye

This was rumored for a while, but apparently, Big East basketball coaches have abandoned the idea of the double bye. There were a lot of complaints about this after some first-round upsets.

Personally, I think you're going to have upsets no matter what. Some of the higher seeds won't have as much to play for while a lower-seeded team may be scrapping just to get into the NCAAs. To me, the whole idea of all 16 teams getting in is a bit much. A team that flops throughout the regular season should have no shot at postseason play. In weaker conferences where only one team gets into the NCAA tournament, I could at least listen to the argument of including everyone. But conferences like the Big East that get numerous bids don't need to reward every single team with a conference tournament berth.

Only college basketball coaches could complain about getting too many automatic byes.

Twin Towers

I don't like to discuss high school recruits that haven't committed to Pitt. Frankly, it's too much time keeping up with who might attend the school. We all know that even verbals are no guarantee.

But saw this interesting story initially on Bob Smizik's PG blog. Pitt is taking a look at a pair of seven footers from India attending Kiski here in Western PA. Both have shown promise and next year, one will be a sophomore while the other a junior.

Sometimes when you see stories like these, the players are a long way off in terms of development, but they actually appear pretty skilled so far.

Other schools expressing interest in one or both include Duke, WVU, Kentucky, LSU, Stanford, Texas, and USC, among others.

Likely a longshot for Pitt, but something to keep an eye on.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Recruiting Thoughts

A writer from Scouts, Inc. for ranks the Big East basketball classes and Pitt is sixth.

Every now and then when I see these stories, it really gets me to thinking. To be honest, I don't know what amazes me more. Pitt's inability to consistently land higher-rated recruits or their ability to get the most out of the ones they do get.

One argument I'm sick of is the one that says Pitt won't get these types of players until they get to a Final Four. Please. Rutgers landed All-American Mike Rosario didn't they? Through Huggy Bear, Kansas State lured Michael Beasley. Marquette is 2nd on this list and even Providence (yes, THAT Providence) managed to land two ESPNU Top 100 players and ranks ahead of Pitt.

Now it's not as if Pitt has gotten chopped liver. Over the past four years, ESPN has ranked them in the top 25 three times. But they've had no top 15 classes and only one McDonald's All-American in the past ten years.

How much do these rankings mean? In reality, not all that much. DeJuan Blair was ranked somewhere around 50th, but was one of the best players in college basketball as a sophomore. Devin Ebanks of West Virginia was rated below Truck Bryant and Kevin Jones, but is the only one leaving early for the NBA. But for Pitt to not be able to land more top ranked players is kind of a head scratcher to me. Look at the factors:

1. They've put together nearly a solid decade of winning basketball with several Sweet 16 appearances and an Elite 8. Not among the best of the best, but certainly in that next tier. Record-wise, Pitt has been one of the nation's best.

2. Pitt has great facilities and plays in a new building.

3. The Oakland Zoo provides one of the best atmospheres in all of college basketball.

4. Pitt regularly plays on national TV.

5. It's also a very solid academic school.

When I see teams that have not even had a sniff of Pitt's recent success recruiting higher ranked players, I've got to admit I just don't get it. And I'm not so sure the argument of Pitt not allowing star players to 'showcase' themselves applies. To the contrary, I think Pitt would be a school a top recruit could look to and see himself leading an already good team to a championship.

Part of it is due to location - I get that. Great players staying close to home. But what this should really tell you how much of a factor relationships can play into recruiting.

All Pitt can really do is keep plugging away and the more they develop a reputation for sending players the NBA, the better things should get. Pitt has sent four players to the NBA in the past five seasons (DeJuan Blair, Sam Young, Aaron Gray, and Chris Taft) and Brandin Knight had a sniff appearing in one game in 2004-05 with the Rockets. If Gil Brown ever gets this consistency thing down, perhaps he'll get a look and you've got to think Dante Taylor can get there.

Pitt has had a lot of success, which is why their lack of top recruits is all the more puzzling.

Miscellaneous Notes

Found a fairly long, but inconsequential interview with Charles Smith by the other day. There's a few good things in here, but like half of it is dedicated to a game-by-game breakdown of international competition. Kind of a slow read. I did find this interesting, however:
JT: In 1987 you said you were "80% sure" that you would turn pro, but you chose to return to school. Why were you going to turn pro, and why did you end up changing your mind?

CS: My academic advisor asked me what I was going to do, and when I told her I was thinking about going pro, she told me to come in and talk to her. We talked about the opportunity to graduate and enjoy my senior year. My major was Communications, and she said it made sense for me to get my degree; she was a deciding factor. It worked out well for me, as I was the 1st one in my family to graduate from college.
Man, I wonder what the chances are now that an academic advisor could talk a kid out of going pro. I'm guessing somewhere in between slim and none.

DeJuan Blair was back in town. And oh, what a difference a year makes:
"My favorite part of my first season was just making it," Blair said. "I didn't think I was going to make it at all. I went through all of that stuff, my name not being called [in the first round]. I had some doubts. I definitely had some doubts."
Last year, those doubts didn't seem to surface - at least in public. I'll admit I was one who thought he would be better served coming back to college and working on a jumpshot I thought he would need against taller players.

In the immortal words of Fred Savage in Wonder Years, wrongo.

Little did I know he would simply outwork everyone on the next level. I've got nothing but praise for him.

And Shady was back in his hometown for the first ever "Shady's Community Day." Far from me to knock a charity event (especially for a worthy cause, which this one is) but if ever something were in need of a name change, this might be it.

Mel Kiper has some sort of top five list for college football juniors (must be an Insider to view) out there. It's a top five list, but not really a top five list. Color me confused. At any rate, he's got several Pitt players in there.

And Brian Bennett at has several updates out there including his Big East rankings for defensive line (Pitt is first) and offensive line (Pitt is 4th). He also gives a video preview of sorts for Pitt in 2010.

Big East Blogger Roundtable

Pico over at The East Coast Bias graciously put together another Big East roundtable. This one takes a look at recaps for each basketball team. I offered my thoughts and you can also find other Big East bloggers, including Chas over at Pitt Blather, on there offering their two cents.

All five question/answer sessions aren't up yet, but the first one is.

Be sure to check back there for the other answers once they're posted.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Top 100 Prospects of 2011

Tom Lemming has a look at the top 100 football prospects of 2011. It's still really early, but nearly 40 have committed verbally and no Big East school has landed even one.

At some point, you've got to wonder if the Big Ten expansion issue is going to negatively affect recruiting. I think it would be foolish to say that it wouldn't.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Obligatory Expansion Update

As I've said before, trying to steer clear of this for the most part because it's still in the rumors stage. That said, it's been a while since I took a look around the Big Ten stuff, so here's some thoughts on the stuff that's out there.

Okay, so we all know Big Ten expansion is likely coming. Right? Well, while the talk has focused on it happening, it's easy to forget that maybe it won't.

I know, I don't believe it won't, either.

The talk is of course not dying down and Brian Bennett of looks at some teams the Big East may consider admitting if the conference is purged. As we all know, the options aren't all that attractive. Not terrible once you bypass the name value, just not great. Brian gives his top five, but I outlined a few other options before.

The Trib had an article today about the Big Ten expanding its footprint. Again, nothing new here and there's the usual stuff about Pitt bringing nothing new to the table.

Jay Paterno thinks rivalries will be hurt by expansion. I guess that's true to a degree, but come on. How would playing Pitt instead of Indiana be a bad thing? And Penn State has already been playing Syracuse pretty regularly. I have a hard time believing missing out on someone like Minnesota would be really all that big of a deal. Illinois? Northwestern? I don't know if they're strong rivalries for Penn State. If the league expands to 14 or 16, you might lose 1-2 fairly solid rivalry games with teams like Wisconsin, Michigan State, or Iowa. But you'd still be gaining new rivalries, so I don't know if necessarily buy his argument.

I do, however, think he has a point about what to do with the big three of Penn State, Michigan, and Ohio State. You can't realistically put them all in one division unless you really brought in some heavy hitters on the other side such as a Notre Dame or to lesser degrees Nebraska and Pitt.

Meanwhile, could it be true that the Big East isn't the only conference that should have concerns about survival? Here's a writer who thinks the Big East isn't the answer for the Big Ten:
In my opinion the Big East is not a threat; if I were running the Big Ten I would want them to stay intact. They have some very good football programs and some great basketball universities, but why would I want to break them up?

It is not like The Northeast is a College Football hotbed, it is an area dominated by pro sports. Especially in the NYC area. WV and Pitt are very good programs but WV is not a member of the AAU, and the market share Pitt could bring is mostly held by Penn State. The only thing going for that area is TV sets, but nothing that really drives the needle, Rutgers really? I believe Delany should only threaten the demise of the Big East to force ND into the fold.
Personally, I think he's really naive about the NY/NJ market issue. That's perhaps the largest issue at hand in this whole expansion thing and he seemingly brushes it under the rug.

Gregg Doyel over at thinks that the Big Ten needs to essentially 'go big or go home':
Anything less than Notre Dame or Texas, and the Big Ten would be expanding, and demolishing the NCAA infrastructure, for no good reason
I really like Doyel, and there's something to that. But again, he's another example of perhaps missing the issue at hand - the New York and New Jersey market. It comes down to how can the Big Ten expand its reach and that market is something I think they heavily covet. Further, Notre Dame isn't likely to join and Texas would be a travel nightmare for teams like Penn State or Rutgers.

Pat Forde of lays out his opinions on expansion and says the best thing to do would be to simply add one team:
So that leaves the 12-team option, Jim. Not the sexiest or the boldest move. But the best move. Go grab one school and get yourself on even footing with the other power brokers in college sports.

Missouri offers proximity and two large TV markets (St. Louis and Kansas City). Rutgers offers the window into New York City, and something of an Eastern ally to Penn State. Nebraska offers the most football cachet.
This would obviously be the best thing the Big East could hope for. And while 16 teams may be the best thing for Pitt, it might not necessarily be a good thing for the Big Ten.

The Big Ten fans, of course, have mixed feelings.

Then there's the ugly issue of teams being left out. Could it be that Cincinnati may be one of those, due to Ohio State?

Whatever happens, I just wish it would happen.

Heading into the Big East Tournament

Pitt baseball is headed into the Big East tournament as a three-seed and will get Rutgers in the first round. After a hot start, they ended with losing five of their last eight.

Jeremy Mills, Big East blogger at, thinks Pitt will still land in the NCAA tournament.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

J.J. Moore set to Appear in Charity Tournament

Pitt basketball recruit J.J. Moore will play in the upcoming Frankie Williams Classic. The event will be on June 3rd in Greenburgh, NY if you're in the area. Cost is $10.00 ($5.00 for children).

Also appearing at the game is former Pitt target Sterling Gibbs, brother of Ashton.

More Basketball Thoughts on the Big Ten

On the basketball side, Jamie Dixon continues to express his thoughts about joining the Big Ten:
“I think tomorrow we’ll be in the Big East,” he said. “That’s what I believe. Do I think it will be the same for the next 100 years? Probably not. It’s probably going to change somewhat. We’re going to be in a great situation. Looking at our situation academically, the university where it stands as an AAU institution, as a highly ranked academic university, where our athletic programs are, and our commitment by our administration, I know we’re going to be in a good situation in a good conference, in a power conference, and we’re going to continue to be a power player in the NCAA.

“I can’t tell you exactly what teams will be on our schedule five years from now, but we’ll be playing some pretty good teams,” he said.

Dixon won’t be leading the campaign to leave the Big East.

“We’re in the best conference in the country for basketball, and our conference in football is getting better and better,” he said. “There’s not a lot of complaints coming from us. If there’s changes, there’s changes. We have the administration in the background to make the adjustments, and we will.”
Meanwhile, voice of the Panthers, Bill Hillgrove, weighs in:
“They should accept the invitation,” Hillgrove said. “But we don’t know where it’s coming from. Will it come from the Big Ten? Will it come from the ACC? Or will they stay in the Big East and will it survive? I hope they stay, because the Big East this past year proved itself as the best basketball conference ever. And football has proven the fact that it can survive even the escapes of the Miamis, Boston Colleges and Virginia Techs. Can they survive this next earthquake? That’s the question.”
So is he saying they should stay or go? Color me confused.

But back to Dixon. I understand Dixon's concerns and I think they're genuine. Pitt, in my opinion, would likely lose at least a little in recruiting and would need to start from scratch to develop new rivalries. Gone would be the games at MSG.

But would it be all bad?

Of course not.

The Big Ten is not the Big East in terms of basketball, but teams like Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan, Purdue, etc. make it a very good league. Now add Pitt and perhaps a Syracuse or Missouri to the mix and it may turn into the best league during some seasons.

Plus, Pitt is far enough east that it could have the best of both worlds to some degree. They have a long history in NYC and the east coast and could still recruit there, while also recruiting in the midwest to kids that would want to play in the Big Ten. Eventually, I think the pipelines to the east may disappear, but Pitt's history should keep them open for at least a bit. If Pitt is able to take that next step and get to a Final Four, then that can only help.

And of course, there's the money. More money doesn't just mean that football will benefit. All programs would. That means more money to pay Dixon and more to pay assistants.

Then to a much lesser degree, you've got the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, which could Pitt in some great matchups against teams such as North Carolina and Duke.

I understand Dixon's concerns, but a move wouldn't be all bad for basketball.

Joe Leonard up for Another Award

Pitt baseball star Joe Leonard is up for another award - the Dick Howser Award, given to collegiate baseball's best player.

Leonard is one of 25 semifinalists for the award.

With its regular season now concluded, Pitt will look to the the Big East Championships which begin Wednesday.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Final Word on the New Recruits

Despite all the rumors swirling, Gary Nova wasn't scared off by the whole Big Ten Expansion issue and how it might affect Pitt:
"Pitt is a great school and a great program," Nova said. "We can compete with anybody, whether it is in the Big Ten or Big East or anywhere else so, really, Pitt will be fine no matter what happens. I'm not really worried about that at all."
This is precisely what I've been saying time and again. While it's nice to stir ourselves into a panic, and while Pitt may be financially better off with a move to the Big Ten, I really think they will be fine no matter what. Pitt brings enough to the table that they will land somewhere in a major conference. Of course Pitt wants to place itself in the best possible position, but I don't see a scenario where they can't get into a BCS conference.

And I love his attitude and the fact that he comes from a winning program:
The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder passed for 1,668 yards with 23 touchdowns and three interceptions as a junior in leading New Jersey powerhouse Don Bosco Prep to an undefeated season and 12th state championship.

"I'm a leader, and I find a way to make plays," Nova said. "I can run. I can throw. The most important thing is to find a way to win games. You can have the strongest arm or be the fastest, but if you don't win games, it doesn't matter."
Meanwhile, Artie Rowell discusses his height, or lack thereof, for the position:
"His credentials are exceptional, with his NFL experience," said Rowell, a three-year starter on both sides of the ball who has a 3.7 grade-point average. "A lot of schools turned me down because I'm 6-2, but he embraced that. He's won with guys my size. He tells me it's not how tall you are but how good you can block people.

"I have good feet, and I think I play exceptionally hard. I go to the whistle. I get after it. That's what fits me with Pitt. That's how their offensive line plays. They're a bunch of hard-nosed football players, and that's the way I am."
But back to that attitude of Nova:
"If you perform at the level we play at, you’re going to get better," Nova said. "And I’ve gotten better because that’s all I’m focused on. Like [Don Bosco coach Greg Toal] says, you can get better every five seconds you play. You’ve got to want to get better and do everything to get there. I did that and I’m still doing that."
Love it.

He's also going to be joining up with some former teammates at Pitt:
"I built a good relationship with the coaching staff, and after a tour of the city [last month], I just fell in love with the place," said Nova, whose current Don Bosco teammates Bryan Murphy and Brandon Sacco signed with Pittsburgh in February. "I feel like I fit perfectly into what they do with their offense.
As Brian Bennett points out, Pitt has indeed done exceptional job reaching out into the New Jersey area and has been rewarded:
Pitt has really stepped up its recruiting efforts in New Jersey, an area where assistant coach Jeff Hafley has found tremendous success in the past couple of years. The Panthers' recent pickups from the Garden State include defensive end T.J. Clemmings, running back Ray Graham and athlete Jason Hendricks.
You can also add the biggest fish of all, Dion Lewis, to that list who attended Blair Academy in New Jersey.

Football Notes

Tino Sunseri gets a nice piece on Rivals. For whatever reason, I really like this kid's attitude. I think he's obviously got it right when he points to the offensive line as the key to Pitt's success:
"I don't know if so much depends on me," Tino said. "It's about our team as a whole. The offensive line is a huge part. They have to open lanes for Dion and provide protection for me so Jonathan and our other receivers can run downfield. If it happens that we lose containment, I need to make plays on my feet to extend the play and make a throw downfield. We just have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best on every play."
And we've heard this before, but his dad says he's a tough kid:
"He has the toughness of a linebacker playing quarterback," Sal said. "He understands the toughness of the game, mentally and physically. He understands the importance of taking care of the football and managing the game. He understands that sometimes you're going to get hit and you've got to get up. He doesn't mind blocking, either."

There was a time when Sal thought his oldest son would be blocking all the time.

"When he was little, he was thicker, and I thought he'd be an offensive lineman," Sal said.
And I love what his dad says about if Pitt and Alabama found themselves lining up against each other: If the Panthers and Tide met, the only protection Tino would get from blitzing linebackers would come from Pitt's offensive line.

"You always have love for your child," Sal Sunseri said. "But if that would ever happen, he'd better be prepared."
Gotta love it.

Brian Bennett of is now up to the running back rankings and it should be surprise to anyone that Pitt is #1:
1. Pittsburgh: The Panthers have the Big East's offensive player of the year returning in Dion Lewis, who rushed for 1,799 yards and 17 scores a year ago. Backup Ray Graham, who averaged 5.7 yards per carry, could start for most teams. Henry Hynoski should be the best fullback in the league this year. That's enough to merit the No. 1 spot here.
Heck, when you factor in Graham and to a lesser degree, Hynoski, Pitt may not only be #1 in the Big East, but #1 in the country.

Brian also picks out some key rivalries for Big East members that need to start up again. Of course Pitt/Penn State heads this list.

And on the pro side of things, former Pitt cornerback Darrelle Revis is looking to be the NFL's highest-paid player at his position. Revis is refuting reports that he's asking for $20 million per season:
"I don't know where the $20 million came from," Revis said. "I never told you guys that. Don't know who brought that up but I'm sure it is not going to be up in that area. That's insane. That would be great. Who wouldn't want $20 million? But that is a high price."
I don't know if any corner is worth that.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

More on Artie Roswell

Pitt's other recruit today was Center Artie Rowell out of Central Dauphin in Harrisburg. Other than Pitt, he apparently had offers from only Temple and Northwestern. But had also drawn interest from schools like Penn State, Michigan State, and Rutgers.

Scout rates him as a three-star and calls him the 12th best center, which is somewhat encouraging as that's clearly a position of need. Rivals has no rating on him.

Like Gary Nova won a QB MVP award at a recent Nike camp (as mentioned in the post below), Roswell won an MVP award for offensive linemen at one.

More on Gary Nova

So Pitt landed a QB for 2011 in Gary Nova of Don Bosco prep in New Jersey. Last year as a junior, he threw for 1,668 yards with 23 touchdowns. But my favorite stat is his three interceptions. That's more than a 7/1 TD/INT ratio - not bad.

Rivals doesn't have him rated while Scout has him as a three-star.

Personally, I wouldn't go so far as to call him one of the top recruits in the country. He's seemingly only scratching the surface, at least by the recruiting boards. Plus, the only schools to have offered him so far were Boston College, Rutgers, Vanderbilt, and Virginia (though Penn State, Colorado, and Maryland showed interest). That seems like homerism to the Nth degree. But we'll see how he develops.

Just recently, he won QB MVP honors at a Nike Training camp. And Tom Luginbill of had some good things to say about him a couple of weeks ago:
One of the toughest, run-oriented teams in all of high school football has got themselves a guy in Gary Nova (Ramsey, N.J./Don Bosco) who can throw the ball with effortless, fluid motion and he reminds me of former Elite 11 pocket passer Andrew Maxwell in terms of delivery mechanics. He has good height on a lean, wiry build and is a late bloomer who still might grow some height-wise. Having worked from under center for the most part in his high school career, he was very well groomed in terms of footwork and timing in the short and intermediate passing game.
Long way to go, but could be a solid pickup.

Two More Recruits

Nothing like a little recruiting news to stir things up a bit during the offseason. Today Pitt got good news from two recruits - QB Gary Nova and Center Artie Roswell. More on these both in a little bit.

Minor Basketball Notes

Two quick basketball notes:

Pitt recruit J.J. Moore burst into ESPNU's top 100 prospects (must be an Insider to view). He comes in at #77 now in the list that was updated on May 6th. I believe he was previously not ranked in the top 100, but I could be wrong.

Also of note was that PG recruit Isaiah Epps was not in the list. I believe he previously was, but is no more appearing in it.

Recruiting rankings are fickle and can be determined based on a few bad games in high school. Still, I like to keep track of them.

Also of note in the Big East was the dismissal of Jamine Peterson from Providence. Clear reasons weren't given, but it doesn't sound good:
The incident involving Peterson, which PC has refused to detail, involved improper activity with a group of teenagers who play basketball for the top AAU program in Boston, the Boston Amateur Basketball Club. The BABC 15-year old team was in Providence playing in an elite tournament at Rhode Island College from April 23-24. An incident unfolded on the PC campus in which Peterson was present, according to BABC officials.

“There was an unfortunate incident involving some of the kids on our 15-year-old team in a dorm room” at PC, said BABC founder and Boston Celtics assistant executive director of basketball operations Leo Papile. “We’ve taken measures on our end with our staff so that something like this would never happen again. We also quickly informed the Providence (coaching) staff of what occurred.”

Papile refused to disclose any details of the incident, citing concern for his players and their families. Asked if Peterson was involved, Papile said “Greedy was present, as were kids from a few other AAU programs.”
This guy was an absolute beast for them last year, averaging about 20 and 10. It will be interesting to see where he ends up. Yet another big name to leave the Big East this year.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Daily Football Notes

I doubt this will become a daily thing, but here is a small group of football articles for the day - nothing much going on out there and my Big Ten expansion holdout is still intact:

You can vote for Pittsburgh as the Ultimate Sports City. Right now, we are head to head with New York City and the voting is going, well, as expected.

Brian Bennett at has moved onto conference wide receiver team rankings. He puts Pitt second behind Cincinnati. Hard to argue with this - after Jonathan Baldwin, Pitt's depth will be a question (though I think someone will step up).

This one's a bit old, but Dennis Dodd ranks Pitt at 20th in his post-Spring poll. I think that might be the lowest I've seen them in all these preseason polls. He also puts them behind Penn State - haven't seen that one yet, either. Still, Pitt is his first ranked Big East team followed by Cincinnati and West Virginia a couple of spots down.

And speaking of Penn State, a Centre Daily Times writer wants the rivalry renewed.

Final Women's Coach Hired

Pitt added one final assistant to its women's basketball staff. Khadija Head, most recently of Middle Tennessee State, is the hire. She also previously coached at Arkansas.

Here is her bio.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Football Notes

Don't know about you, but I'd never heard of the Pittsburgh Minor Pro Football Hall of Fame. But Pitt announcer, Bill Hillgrove, will apparently be a part of it. Not for his work with the Panthers, but...the Ironmen?
Before Bill Hillgrove became the voice of Pitt basketball and football, long before he did play-by-play for Steelers games, he could be heard doing games for the Pittsburgh Ironmen -- a local semiprofessional football team -- in the mid-1960s.
A couple of writers at think Dion Lewis will lead the league in rushing.

You've heard of Linebacker U - What about Pitt as 'Superstar U?'

And there's news from the South Side about Big Ten expansion. Oh wait, no there's not.

Another Preseason Basketball Ranking

A few days in between posts. Nice weather, two days of seemingly continuous grilling, gardening, and life will cause that. Just now getting around to some of these pre-season basketball rankings.

Gary Parrish over at brings Pitt in at #6 for the 2010-11 season in his top 25:
6. Pittsburgh: The top three scorers -- and seven of the top eight -- return from a 25-win team, including Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wannamaker and Gilbert Brown. The roster still doesn't seem imposing from an individual-talent perspective. But it's basically the same roster Jamie Dixon used to tear through the Big East last season. There's no reason to believe he won't do similar things next season.
I don't know, I think I've mentioned this before - I'm skeptical when it comes to seeing Pitt as significantly better than last season. Everyone will be a year better and that's huge. However, Pitt will still be without the go to player they desperately need, unless someone like Ashton Gibbs, Gil Brown, or Dante Taylor can step up and turn into that player. The good news for Pitt is that they will have depth. Quality depth. The team could easily go ten deep in its regular rotation.

Pitt will be very good, but I don't know if I'd put them in the Final Four discussion just yet.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Football Notes

The blog has a story about defensive line top recruit and redshirt freshman Jack Lippert's move to center to provide the position with some depth:
Lippert made the move during the Panthers' spring practice sessions after some concerted lobbying by the Pittsburgh offensive line coaches.

“[It was] because of a need,'' Wannstedt said.

“He has progressed extremely well. I think he's going to be a heckuva player for us on the offensive line. You know, he's smart, he's tough, he's athletic.''

“We were looking [for] some depth at center,'' Wannstedt continued.
Brian Bennett at ranks Pitt's QBs as the Big East's third-best group and says Pitt is a slam dunk to play in its third straight bowl game.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, discussing the Big Ten, really likes Notre Dame as an independent. On a related note, one writer doesn't think Pitt is a fit for the Big Ten. Again, I've stayed away from the latest Big Ten talk because it's all been just continued speculation.

Former Pitt standout and NFL All-World CB Darrelle Revis is seeking a contract extension. Or more specifically, a contract renegotiation with a pay raise:
Revis, due to make $1 million for the coming season, told that the Jets promised him a new contract by the start of the regular season. That seems curious, considering they own Revis' rights through 2012. It can create a slippery slope when a team makes a promise like that, and the Jets have been accused in the past of reneging with other players.

"That's their word. That's what they said," said Revis, standing by his locker. "If you go back on your word, it's a problem."
Revis didn't guarantee that he would be in camp if he wasn't granted his wish.

And one gambling site lists Pitt has a 3-point underdog for their season opener vs. Utah.

Minor Basketball Notes

A few very random basketball pieces out there:

To start, there are a lot of preseason rankings out there. I've followed a few, but there are getting to be too many to keep up with. Chas over at Pitt Blather has a good rundown of the ones out there.

Pat Forde at thinks Pitt is a contender for next season and possibly the best team in the Big East:
4. Pittsburgh: The Panthers overachieved last season, winning 25 games with only a single senior playing a major role. Expect more next season from a program still trying to shatter the Elite Eight ceiling that has hovered above it in recent years. In a Big East that has lost a lot of sizzle, Pitt could be the clear preseason favorite.
Former Pitt standout Charles Smith has been advising Seton Hall's Herb Pope and says he should be able to make a full recovery from his recent health issues that helped force him out of the NBA Draft.

And Jamie Dixon apparently helped, at least somewhat, in Robert Morris' hiring of assistant coach Andrew Toole.

Brandin Knight Stays?

Maybe I just missed the boat on this one, but I hadn't heard Brandin Knight was being considered for an opening on Mike Rice's staff at Rutgers.

Thankfully he's staying put.

That would have given me yet another reason to root for Rice. But more importantly, it could have cost Pitt big time. Knight is coming into his own as a recruiter and was instrumental in getting New Jersey PG Isaiah Epps into the fold. Plus, Pitt is still trying to fill the vacancy from Tom Herrion's exit.

Pitt has groomed Knight since his playing days ended and his role should get bigger as time goes on. Glad he's sticking around for now.

Todd Thomas Arrives

Highly-regarded prep star Todd Thomas has officially made it onto campus after finally qualifying academically. Despite the fact that Pitt could probably use him in a questionable secondary, he seems to think that he's headed towards the offensive side of the ball:
Thomas gets the feeling that coach Dave Wannstedt and his offensive coaches prefer that he play wide receiver. So that’s where he’ll likely start out as a freshman.

Advertisement But if it were Thomas’ choice, he’ll play safety. That was his position at Milford.

“(The Pitt coaches) want me to play receiver. But I want to play safety,” said Thomas, who played linebacker, safety, running and wide receiver during his scholastic career at Beaver Falls.
I'm kind of torn as to where I'd like to see him play, but if I had to pick, it would probably be defense. Pitt will be fine at wide receiver for at least this next year and the already questionable secondary lost Aaron Berry to graduation this year. I would have liked to see them add another quality player back there.

Plus, I like the fact that he enjoys playing defense:
“I just love using my athleticism to run around and make plays,” said Thomas, who’s 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds. “I’m more of an animal on defense. I’m more menacing on the defensive side of the ball. I just think that’s the position that fits me best. That’s just how I feel.”

Last year while playing safety at Milford, Thomas intercepted four passes and was named the Falcons’ most valuable defensive player.
But then again, if Baldwin leaves next year, they will need another big-play wideout. So it's hard to complain too loudly about this move.

Wherever he ends up, though, I'm sure I speak for most Pitt fans when I say I hope it doesn't turn into a Dorin Dickerson situation.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pitt's NFL Impact recently had a bracket to determine a 'champion' for the NCAA school best at getting quality players to the NFL. Pitt not only made the list of 16, but got into the Final Four.

Apparently, Mark Schlabach thought that Pitt was a bit overrated in this field:
Based on recent history, it’s a surprise the Panthers are still standing.

Next to college football’s teams of the 1980s (Miami), 1990s (FSU) and 2000s (USC), the Panthers stick out as much as Lane Kiffin sitting at a table of Hall of Fame coaches.

But here’s a brief history lesson to bring you up to speed on Pittsburgh football:

In the early 1980s, there probably wasn’t a better NFL factory than the Steel City’s university. Quarterback Dan Marino played there, along with fellow Pro Football Hall of Famers Russ Grimm and Rickey Jackson.

Who can forget Pitt’s stellar offensive linemen like Mark May, Jimbo Covert, Ruben Brown and Bill Fralic or its menacing defensive linemen such as Hugh Green, Chris Doleman and Sean Gilbert? Former NFL running backs Curtis Martin and Craig “Iron Head” Heyward played for the Panthers. More recently, Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald and cornerback Darrelle Revis starred at Pitt.

But if the survey were based on the last 10 to 15 years -- instead of the last three decades -- the Panthers wouldn’t have a seat at the front table.
Um, maybe so. However, the survey was based on the past 30 years, so that's kind of a silly point. Mr. Schlabach, normally a pretty bright guy, will play the role of town idiot today.

Let's take a look at Pitt's past 15 years since that's what Schlabach seems to take exception with.

- Curtis Martin was an All-Pro and with 14,000+ yards, will be a Hall of Famer.

- Larry Fitzgerald is a good pick for best receiver in the game right now and by all indications, should be a Hall of Famer assuming he stays healthy.

- Ruben Brown is a nine-time Pro Bowler and one of the best offensive linemen in the 90s. Fringe Hall of Fame type player.

- Darrelle Revis is young, but regarded by many as the best cover corner in the NFL today. He has already been an All-Pro and Pro Bowler. Way too young to declare him a Hall of Famer, but being the best in your position in only your third season is a nice way to start.

- Andy Lee is also young, but an All-Pro punter and two-time Pro Bowler already.

- Kevan Barlow was a 1,000 yard rusher.

- Antonio Bryant was a 1,000 yard receiver.

- Recent high-round draft picks are already Lesean McCoy and Jeff Otah should be very good players in the years to come.

- Plus some draft boards are projecting 2-4 FIRST ROUND picks for Pitt next year alone. The future is bright for the school.

- In addition, Pitt has had numerous very productive NFL players in recent memory such as H.B. Blades, Gerald Hayes, Clint Session, Hank Poteat, Torrie Cox, Lousaka Polite, and Shawntae Spencer. I would expect that at least some of those guys will get to the Pro Bowl during their career.

- Then you've got guys like Kris Wilson, Anthony Dorsett, Jr., Nick Goings, and Tom Tumulty that have had fairly long careers including playing as starters for at least a full season.

And if you even just go back to 1990, you see that Pitt had eight guys with careers of ten years of more. Pro Bowlers Sean Gilbert, Bill Maas, and Jeff Christy along with other good players such as Tony Siragusa.

That's not even counting guys with nice careers like Keith Hamilton and Alex Van Pelt.

I think Schlabach is way off base in saying that Pitt has no business in this argument. There may be a few schools that have been better, but to say Pitt sticks out like a sore thumb is just foolish. This is a perfect example of someone looking at a team like Pitt who hasn't competed for a National Championship in recent memory and somehow extrapolating that and concluding that the school couldn't possibly be producing quality NFL talent.

I'd be interested to know how many other schools can boast not only the amount of flat out stars, but also the type of quality depth throughout.

All-American Accolades for Lewis and Romeus

Brian Bennett of had the notice out that Dion Lewis and Greg Romeus made the Lindy's First-Team All-American list.

I dug around a little and was able to find the complete list. Pitt's two players were tied for the most on the list.

Joe Leonard Gets A Nomination

Pitt baseball standout Joe Leonard picked up an award nomination - the John Olerud two-way Player of the Year Award. Not only have I never heard of this award, I never knew John Olerud was a pitcher. Leonard is continuing a pretty good year:
On the year, Leonard holds a .452 batting average in a 186 at-bats. He has accumulated 57 RBI’s, seven home runs and 20 doubles, along with a 3.60 ERA and seven saves.
I'm sorry, but everytime I hear John Olerud's name, the first thing I think of is the old Rickey Henderson story. It may not be true, but I still laugh out loud every time I hear it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Pitt Women's Team Adds Coach

Small note on Pitt women's basketball - they've added a former WNBA coach, Patty Coyle, to replace the departed Yolett McPhee-McCuin.

Still haven't seen any comment about all the departures from head coach Agnus Berenato.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Catching up with Bill Stull and Aaron Berry

Bill Stull is taking all the snaps in the Chiefs rookie mini-camp. Not so much because he's highly regarded, but, well, because he's the only QB there.

In a Q&A on the Chiefs' site, coach Todd Haley thinks a few tryout players might be signed:
Q: When it comes to tryout guys, is there any chance you might sign any of them?

HALEY: “I would say there is a chance. Maybe a couple, three maybe?”
But at least one Chiefs blogger doesn't think one of those players will be Stull.

Meanwhile, Aaron Berry appears to making at least small waves in Detroit. On the very first day of camp, he picked off two passes and really impressed his head coach, Jim Schwartz:
"He's got really good foot quickness. He's a two-time All-Big East player. There were some corners that were drafted that were only one time there," Schwartz said of Berry. "He's got good credentials. He's played in a NFL defensive scheme at Pittsburgh. Dave Wannstedt there runs a very similar scheme that he ran with the Cowboys and the Dolphins, so he's been well trained and he's been well schooled. He's quick. He's not very big (5-10, 180), but he plays without fear, so to speak. He did a nice job today."
But he's also been bit by the injury bug - something that can definitely hurt when you're trying to make an impression as an undrafted rookie. Although, from the sound of it, it appears to not be serious:
“We had about three or four guys that didn’t practice, and it was all sort of being cautious,” Schwartz said.
Here's one site that thinks he could make the team and also see some time as a punt returner.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Joe Thomas Gets Tryout

I don't think I'd seen this yet, but the undrafted Joe Thomas apparently had a tryout with the Packers. He's listed on this roster provided by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Big East Network?

So I saw this nugget out there today:
Those involved in the possible Big Ten expansion and those potentially affected by it understand what's driving the study. It also has them thinking.

"Why couldn't we do more with television, and have a Big East television network?'' Big East commissioner John Marinatto has asked.

Good question. And it's a question those in the Big East office on Thursday said probably would be studied.

"John Marinatto and Paul Tagliabue have both said it's something they are starting to explore to see what's involved,'' Mike Parsons, WVU's deputy director of athletics, said. Tagliabue, the former NFL commissioner, has been hired by the Big East as a special adviser for strategic planning.
Personally, I never got the whole reason why other conferences hadn't been trying to do this. Sure the Big Ten beat everybody to it, but if they can pull it off, what about the football-hungry SEC? Or, yes, the basketball-hungry Big East?

I don't know. I'm sure some TV exec in the loop could spend an hour giving me reason after reason why it couldn't work. But one argument I've heard against it that doesn't hold water with me is that there has to be a demand for it. As a Comcast subscriber, I believe my rate went up, albeit slightly, when the Big Ten Network came out. Comcast passed that fee, or part of that fee, onto subscribers. I didn't have a say in it and I certainly don't care if I get it or not. So while there may be the customary outrage by some who wouldn't want the package, you can't tell me that it's impossible to get done if the cable networks want to genuinely do it.

Yes there was significant opposition by Comcast and others who didn't want to pay for the channel, but that passed. And now that it's been done for one, the floodgates are open. I have a hard time believing the Big Ten is more appealing to cable subscribers than SEC football.

The Big Ten covers many geographic areas across the country and obviously isn't strictly in the markets where its schools are. So the argument that the Big East has more teams, and thus more reach, doesn't necessarily hold water. But having more teams in its league can't be a bad thing.

And assuming a Big East Network could gain support in at least its own member school territories, they've got a pretty good basis to get started:

- Philadelphia
- New York
- New Jersey
- Chicago
- Washington, D.C.
- Tampa
- Pittsburgh
- Cincinnati
- Louisville

Definitely a reasonable start there as far as getting into some nice sized markets. The real question would be if the Big East can get enough interest by the cable companies out in the western part of the U.S., or even the midwest.

I'm not sure the Big East will pull this off or even attempt to pull it off. But with the type of money out there (approx. $22 million per Big Ten school with the Big Ten Network), I think we'll be seeing other major conferences doing this fairly soon.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Catching up with Dorin Dickerson

So the drafting of Dorin Dickerson (along with other tight ends on the roster) already has some folks thinking current Titans tight end, Owen Daniels, may be in danger of losing a job. I don't see it that way even with his injury last year - especially with the type of numbers Daniels puts up. He's one of the best receiving tight ends in the league hands down. And speaking of that tight end position, the Texans are stocking up there, which could mean a move for Dickerson. He wasn't even the only tight end they took in the draft. Many sources, including this Houston Chronicle article, have quoted that Dickerson is bound to be moved to wide receiver.

Anyway, Fox Sports seems puzzled by Dickerson and Houston's entire draft.

And recently, a few people here locally had wondered why the Steelers didn't take a chance on Dickerson since he slipped so far. Jerry Micco gives a brief explanation in one of his PG chats:
The Steelers were not a good fit for Dickerson. He's a tweener WR/TE and they need a blocking TE. Byham might have been a better choice for them as far as Pitt TEs go. I was surprised by Dickerson's fall, but I think his size and being a tweener hurt him in a draft that was fairly deep. Still, he has a chance in Houston let's see what he makes of it.
And while I think Dickerson can be good, I think calling him potentially the best athlete in the draft is, well, nonsense.

Also, here's another Bleacher Report list that ranks Dickerson #89 out of all the rookies. But they also claim his only asset is his speed. You're right, his hands had nothing to do with the dozen or so TD passes he caught last year.

Meanwhile, a writer for a slightly more reputable source, is high on Dickerson, calling him his favorite pick in the Texans draft:
Favorite pick: TE Dorin Dickerson, Round Seven. I hear they are going to make him into a big receiver. I think the kid will make it. They have a ton of tight ends anyway and could use a sturdy backup to Andre Johnson. Every time I looked up at Senior Bowl practices, this guy was making a nice catch. He could be a good catch so late for the Texans.
Finally, one Houston Chronicle writer doesn't see Dickerson playing a big role this year.

Lots of varied opinions. Personally, I think to get Dickerson that late was a steal. Not sure what type of pro he'll turn into, but he's an above-average athlete and should be able to play somewhere, whether it's halfback, tight end, or wide receiver.

Catching up with Nate Byham

Nate Byham and Dorin Dickerson are getting ready to begin their pro careers and with the draft recently completed, are both starting to get some press.

To start, Byham talks a little about his family issues growing up:
Like fellow rookie Anthony Dixon, Byham also had to deal with a less-than-idyllic childhood, and was raised by his grandfather. “I've never met my father and my mom has had a lot of drug and alcohol issues and a lot of personal issues throughout my life,” he revealed. “I've been in and out of a lot of houses and a lot of close friends have helped me out. I've always been with my grandfather and he's been a rock and taken care of me.”
Meanwhile, when discussing Byham's on-field strengths, the common theme among articles out there seems to be focusing on his toughness. Coach Mike Singletary sounds sold and even has some plans to possibly move him from tight end from time to time:
I talked to Dave Wannstedt early on in the offseason and he told me a lot about this young man and his ability to really be a physical guy, and really give us some added protection there at the tight end position. I really feel good about what he’s doing. He can also give us some flexibility as an H-back. He can line up and play fullback and go downhill and go and dig out a linebacker.
The Bleacher Report isn't a great news source in my opinion, but some of their lists are pretty interesting. They call out potential dark horse rookies for each team and name Nate Byham as the 49ers pick.

And of course, Byham's role will focus on blocking:
The 233-pound Dixon led the Southeastern Conference in rushing last season at Mississippi State, and the 264-pound Byham was considered one of the nation's top blocking tight ends at the University of Pittsburgh.

Both fit well with the team's new persona. Byham will be used like a third tackle in some situations and Dixon adds size to the backfield in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
But then again, Sacramento Bee blogger Matt Barrows likes what he sees of Byham's receiving skills in minicamp:
I don't want to jinx him, but tight end Nate Byham seems to have underrated hands. He caught everything thrown his way for the second straight practice, including a poorly thrown dart by Brown that was at Byham's ankles.
And if that's not enough, special teams could be in his future.

Leonard Breaks Hits Record

Pitt baseball standout, Joe Leonard, broke the school's single-season hit record - with plenty of games to spare by the way. Pitt still has 12 games left to play in its regular season.

A home run, his 85th hit of the season, broke the record of 84 held by Ben Copeland, who is now in the San Francisco Giants farm system in AAA.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Football Notes

Dave Wannstedt teamed up with the enemy, Joe Pa, today to discuss high school spring football practice. Wannstedt was mum on expansion issues:
"There are a lot of rumors out there as far as I'm concerned," he said. "I don't have any comment on that. That is for the chancellor [Mark Nordenberg] and the higher ups to discuss."
And, well, so was Paterno:
"This is not about Penn State or Pitt, it's about Pennsylvania high school football," Paterno said.
Anyway, both were all for allowing high schools to hold Spring football practices:
"Anything we can do to help the high school coaches, we'll do," Paterno said.

Wannstedt previously has coached in Florida, Texas and Oklahoma, three states that had spring practice. He said players from those states were farther ahead skill-wise than players from Pennsylvania.

"We all know how many repetitions it takes for a young man to develop a skill," Wannstedt said. "The more he can get an opportunity to do that, the better opportunity he has to improve his skills, the better his opportunity to go onto college somewhere."
Personally, I'm not so sure that between part-time jobs, schoolwork, other activities, and just being a kid that high school students need yet another commitment. But I understand both sides of it.

Brian Bennett of has a Pitt Spring wrap-up and looks ahead to some of the league's stars in 2010.

Meanwhile, on the NFL front, D-Line coach, Greg Gattuso, thinks Mick Williams can play in the NFL but could be moved from the line:
"You could see his talent the last two years," he said. "He was a great football player the last two years. He fit our system well because we emphasize speed and athleticism. We don't want big tackes."

Gattuso feels Williams' size of 6-0, 275 pounds may create a position change in the pros.

"They want tackles in the 330-pound range so he could be switched to defensive end or linebacker," he said. "He's a great pass rusher. I thought someone like Chicago, Indianapolis or Tampa Bay would give him a shot."
I was a little surprised the Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year couldn't slip into even a late round pick, but we'll see what happens.

And the ridiculously uncredible Bleacher Report thinks Dave Wannstedt could be fired if he doesn't win the Big East this year. I can't see any scenario where Wannstedt isn't back next year. He's had two successful seasons in a row now and the university really seems pleased with him. I don't think an 8-4 season gets him canned. No chance.

The Art of Scheduling

I guess you could say it all started with the beginning of the 'New' Golden Era of Pitt basketball, back in the early part of the decade. In 2001-02, the first year of this new era, Pitt went 25-4 and was disrespected with a 3-seed. They went 26-4 the next season, winning the Big East Championship, and still only ended up with a 2-seed. And by the time 2003-04 rolled around when they were 29-4 and a 3-seed, one level lower than UCONN who had six losses, something had to be done.

Enter, the scheduling change. Out with the cupcakes and in with legitimate non-conference foes, many of whom make the NCAA tournament.

It took a few years to get it exactly right, but Pitt has been reaping the benefits. Heck, in retrospect, Pitt may have been slightly overseeded this year, though I felt at the time they deserved the 3-seed. But that's what happens when you schedule the right way.

Jamie Dixon makes no secret of what his goal is each year when it comes to scheduling:
"Our ultimate goal is to attempt to get the toughest schedule in the country," Dixon says.
All you've got to do is look back at the past few years of non-conference scheduling:

2009-10: Texas, Robert Morris, and Wofford were NCAA tournament teams. Wichita State (25-10), Eastern Kentucky, Kent State, and Ohio were all good teams - several making the NIT.

2008-09: Siena, Florida State, Akron, and Robert Morris were all NCAA tournament teams and Belmont, Vermont, and Duquesne were quality teams.

2007-08: Duke was a high NCAA Tournament seed and Dayton, Duquesne, Oklahoma State, and Washington were all solid.

I've made this point before, but it's easy for a casual fan to look at some of these names and think nothing of them. But many of the smaller teams like Wofford, Siena, Vermont, et al, have been league champions and are very good. Sometimes I gripe about making the schedule TOO tough because of the league they're in. But the fact is that in some of those early years, the Big East was very good and Pitt was getting shorted on the seeding. So it's clear that they're doing things the right way.

Kiper Early Big Board

Mel Kiper of ESPN has his first Big Board out for the year and Jonathan Baldwin is in it. That's all I'll reveal as it's an Insider feature.

It will be interesting to track if/when Dion Lewis starts to show up in some of these. I expect once more word gets out about his eligibility and if he starts off the same way he ended last year, he might start appearing in a few.

Greg Romeus is also the other potential first-rounder being discussed the most.

And as Kiper points out, his big board is about who he considers the best value as a player, not where he believes they will be drafted.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Highest Ranking Yet

Yet another website I've never heard of gets a brief mention, strictly for their ranking of Pitt in their preseason top 25. gets a shout out for placing Pitt eighth in their top 25.

That's probably the highest ranking I've seen for Pitt so far. Not sure if I'd place them that high in my top 25, but I won't complain. This kind of stuff, no matter on how small a scale, is good for the school.

Plus, any poll that doesn't have Penn State ranked is alright by me.

MORE Spring Football Notes

Another preseason football poll is out and Pitt is again ranked in the top 20, coming in at #16 in SI's post-Spring poll. They name Dan Mason as their Spring star in the process and point to Pitt's heavy hitters:
Mason, who started two games at middle linebacker last year in place of injured Adam Gunn, could be the next star on a team loaded with them. The Panthers don't bring back a ton of starters, but some of the players they do return are elite. Romeus was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in 2009, and Lewis and Baldwin might be the nation's best back/receiver tandem.
Brian Bennett at names Pitt as one of the Big East's most impressive teams in the Spring along with a surprise team:
Based purely on what I saw on the field, Pitt and Connecticut were the two most impressive teams. They were the deepest and most well-rounded clubs.
UCONN gave Pitt all it could handle last year and has to face them on the road in one of those types of games in which you can't pencil in an automatic win.

Bennett also gives us his Post-Spring Big East Power Rankings, placing Pitt at the top, also citing the stars:
The Panthers have some questions, notably on the interior offensive line. But they've also got Dion Lewis, Greg Romeus and Jonathan Baldwin and more answers on both sides of the ball than any other Big East squad.
Sticking with the Spring theme, the Sporting News declares Pitt cornerback Antwuan Reed as one of the players who helped himself the most in the Spring. Reed will be needed big time this Fall.

Pitt Baseball Still on the Move

After going 2-1 last week, Pitt baseball is still on the move, climbing up to #20 in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll just out yesterday. The team remains unranked in the ESPN/USA Today and Baseball America polls. The #20 ranking is the highest in school history.

Also in baseball-related stuff, head coach Joe Jordano is headed to the...wait for it...Erie Hall of Fame. He ranks second in school history with 359 wins and with another good season next year, could catch the all-time leader, Bobby Lewis, who has 402. As one of the top teams in the Big East, he could be up for his second conference Coach of the Year award this year. Like most, I don't follow the baseball program all that closely. Still, great to see the school really starting to excel in several sports.

Pitt's best player? That would be Joe Leonard.

And if you can believe it, ESPN actually runs a baseball version of Bracketology. Seriously. Pitt is projected to make the tournament in the regional with #1 overall seed Texas.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Dion Vs. Jonathan

So Pitt has one of those 'good' problems on their hands - who to promote for the Heisman? Dion Lewis or Jonathan Baldwin? Personally, I expect them to start off promoting both. Lewis appears to be the clear true candidate, but Pitt won't want to have egg on its face by only promoting him if Lewis would go down with an injury or if Baldwin should step up and really become a viable contender.

Frankly, I don't believe Baldwin is really the candidate some may make him out to be. He had 57 catches, 1,111 receiving yards and eight TDs last year. Good, but not great. Heck, Fitz couldn't get the Heisman with numbers that dwarfed Baldwin's (92, 1,672, and 22 TDs).

Being a wideout puts him at a huge disadvantage. There have only been four wideouts that won the Heisman in the award's 75-year history. The biggest thing of note is that they've all played other positions as well. Charles Woodson was also a DB and Tim Brown, Desmond Howard, and Johnny Rodgers were also kickoff and punt return specialists. To win as strictly a wideout, you'd need to put up incredible numbers or at the very least, put up great numbers on an incredible team.

Let's break down the numbers of the two players a bit. Baldwin's 1,111 yards were only good for 19th in the country and because his numbers are dependent on the quarterback's ability to get him the ball, is prone to having games with low outputs. He had only 44 yards against Buffalo, 17 against Rutgers, and 5 yards against Syracuse. In most years, Heisman winners can't have large lapses in production like that.

Now look at the other player. Dion Lewis is a running back - a position which has won the Heisman more than 50% of the time in the award's history. He's coming off a year with 1,799 yards and was an All-American. He finished a close third in the nation in rushing yards and the two players ahead of him are now in the NFL. Perhaps even more important, he had huge games of 150+ yards in more than half of the games he played in. Plus, he's not dependent on the quarterback getting him the ball as a WR is. Finally, his 17 TDs beat Baldwin's last year and I'd expect him to top him again this year.

Dion Lewis is not only Pitt's best candidate, he's the school's only realistic candidate for the Heisman. I say promote him, and promote him alone.

Another Early Top 25

Pitt got another bid for a preseason Top 25 - this time by Mark Schlabach of He's got Pitt pegged at #13. The disturbing trend of 2010 I'm noticing is that everyone seems to be giving up on Cincinnati:
With former Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly moving to Notre Dame, Pittsburgh might be the team to beat in the Big East.
This isn't the first reference I've seen to Cincinnati's 'demise.' To his credit, he's not predicting a big fall for Cincinnati - he's got them ranked as well. But the loss of Brian Kelly doesn't necessarily make me think he's the reason the team won't win the conference next year. Not to mention, West Virginia is not going to be a pushover, either. I'm hoping the pundits are right, but I won't believe it until I see it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


So a few weeks ago, I posted a note about RMU head coach Mike Rice handling coaching changes/rumors exactly the way the should be handled. When he had interest in another job, he acknowledged that interest, interviewed, was not selected, and returned to his former job. Unlike some, *cough* Jamie Dixon *cough*, who played runaround until fans felt they'd just gotten off a Tilt-A-Whirl, he handled the situation without much of a cover up. It was a mere few weeks ago when there was the talk about making RMU a mid-major powerhouse and Rice said:
"The grass wasn't greener," he said. "This is the place where I want to be and the program that I want to build even further."

But that does not mean Rice will coach Robert Morris through the end of his contract. He said a job could open in the future that could compel him to leave.

"There may be a time or a place that makes it a no-brainer," Rice said. "But it's not right now."
Man, when will we ever learn.

He is now apparently a finalist for the newly-vacant Rutgers job:
The Mike Rice sweepstakes was supposed be over when the men's basketball coach signed an extension at Robert Morris last month. But that may not be the case.

Reports surfaced Saturday that Rice is a finalist for the vacant Rutgers job, a position the school is expected to fill this week. The Times confirmed that Rice did have an interview with Rutgers officials earlier this week.

Rice said simply, “No. That’s all I can say,” when asked if he was offered the job. Robert Morris athletic director Craig Coleman, when asked to confirm the report or if Rutgers had contacted him, said “No comment at this time.”
To Rice's credit, he wisely and honestly predicted that the time could come when he would move on. But there's no one who would have believed it would be not even a month later.

My beef is this - he just signed an extension. I mean, JUST, as in, like, you know, April. If you intend to potentially leave before the next year, why sign another extension? I know that's merely for recruiting purposes, but it's not like Rice was a lame duck coach. His prior contract ran through 2016. And heck, maybe it's not even the extension. When you throw around language effectively saying you want to be around, you want to build something special, etc., then leave immediately afterwards, you're not only disrespecting the university, you're disrespecting the fans. If you have your eye on a larger prize down the road, I've got no beef with that. But to leave weeks after you've virtually alleged your near-term allegiance? Come on.

To me, it's not if Rice gets the job or not at this point. He's interviewed and essentially flipped the university off, weeks after they've said they'll try to do what it takes to keep him. Whether it's extending a contract no one really believes he would finish out. Whether it's upgrading the facilities, which they've pledged to do. Whether it's giving him their blessing to interview for other jobs.

No, that apparently wasn't enough. By vowing to stay to help the school improve, then grabbing his 30 pieces of silver at the first opportunity, Rice has turned into every other backstabbing coach that says one thing then immediately does another.

Way to go, Mike. You truly deserve to inherit a Rutgers team that lost its best player, had several others transfer, and in the current makeup of the Big East, will have its hands full in trying to compete as even a middle-of-the-road team. You're just now one more coach to root against and it makes it all the more easier now that you're in the Big East.

Congratulations. I hope that 8-22 record next year doesn't hurt too much.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Preseason All-American Honors

Pitt had an NCAA best four players selected to's preseason All-American team for 2010. Jonathan Baldwin, Dion Lewis, Jason Pinkston, and Greg Romeus all made the squad.

I'm unfamiliar with this website, but I expect those names will be on a lot of preseason All-American lists.

Lombardi Watch List Adds Pitt Pair

OT Jason Pinkston and DE Greg Romeus were added to the preseason watch list for the Lombardi trophy. One of those awards that can go to an offensive or defensive player.

There are only two other Big East players on the 75-man list.