Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More Football Previews

A few more football team previews out there:

Xtra Point Football has a solid preview of the team, despite calling Dan Hutchins one of Pitt's top 2011 draft prospects.  They also pick Pitt to win the Big East:
Season Prediction

Big East Champions
The Panthers enter 2010 with loads of expectations. Dion Lewis is a Heisman candidate and several players are expected to produce All-American caliber seasons including those at key positions (Lewis, Jonathan Baldwin, Jason Pinkston, Greg Romeus, Dom DeCicco, etc.). The defense led the nation in sacks a season ago and returns what could be the nation's top pass rushing duo in Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard. Both starting cornerbacks are gone, but a talented secondary will be expected to contain the Big East's more talented quarterbacks.

The offense will run the football with Lewis and Ray Graham in their backfield, but Tino Sunseri won't get the 'yeah, but he's new' treatment with Jonathan Baldwin and Mike Shanahan as targets. Sunseri's development will be eased a bit, as the duo of Lewis and Graham can carry the load quite effectively. However, he'll be sink or swim early on with matchups against Utah and Miami in September and senior Pat Bostick on the sidelines ready to take over.

The Panthers had the opportunity to take the conference with a win over Cincinnati in the regular season finale, but saw their chances at a BCS bowl game evaporate when Tony Pike hit Armon Binns for a late touchdown with under a minute remaining. The December 4 rematch may again prove the de facto Big East championship game.
And has their Blue Ribbon preview up on Pitt (you've got to be an Insider to view it).

And So It Continues

Penn State's renewal of their series with Syracuse means that they likely won't be playing Pitt anytime soon. By now, we all know the reasons for Penn State scheduling Syracuse.  Joe Pa's bitterness is probably at the top followed closely by a cupcake opponent.  A new stadium also supposedly has a hand in it:

"We are thrilled about the opportunity to play Syracuse at the New Meadowlands Stadium to open the 2013 season," Penn State director of athletics Tim Curley said. "I was very impressed when I visited the complex earlier this year and it will quickly be recognized as one of the nation's premier sports facilities. We have had a long relationship with Syracuse and the Meadowlands and are excited about playing the Orange and returning to the site of many memorable Penn State games."
Sorry, Timmy - not buying it.  When Penn State canceled the Pitt series after the 12-0 shutout, Pitt was moving into Heinz Field, a new stadium in 2001.  No, Pittsburgh is not New York.  But you'd think the chance to play in a brand new pro stadium would mean something - at least if Penn State claims that playing in the new Meadowlands is a factor.

Look, I've long since gotten over Penn State's refusal to man up and play a one-for-one series with Pitt.  It's alomst like the old WCW Hulk Hogan / Sting rivalry where Hogan had beaten down Sting so many times he said he was moving on.  It's like beating a dead horse.  Penn State clearly doesn't want to play Pitt and while it would be nice, it really isn't all that big of a deal.  Pitt needs to focus on winning the Big East conference on at least a semi-regular basis and getting to BCS games.  A game against Penn State is secondary at this point.  The truth is, Penn State is a fine football team that would rather have the security of games against Syracuse and Temple.  If they would rather not play Pitt, that's okay.

And if Pitt really wanted to force Penn State's hand, they'd drop the thoughts of selling tickets to customers only willing to buy full season tickets.  Season tickets don't sell out now, so what's a better option - not selling out and not playing Penn State or not selling out and playing Penn State?

One thing I find consistently annoying is Joe Pa's insistence that there just isn't room on Penn State's schedule for Pitt.  Right.  After all, there's no way they can give up those games against Youngstown State and Akron.  Don't hold your breath, kiddos - likely not happening anytime soon.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Insert Plug Here

Shameless plug for the SB Nation Pittsburgh regional website - I've got a small feature up on Dante Taylor.  We'll be rotating the features for the most part and mine is now up there.  Check it out as well as some of the other Pittsburgh stuff.

Rutgers Begs...Please. Just. Go. Away.

Pitt was all over the New Jersey territory yet again, landing somewhat of a mystery recruit in DT Marquise Wright, out of Paramus Catholic.  I say 'mystery' because the major scouting sites are pretty far apart in rating him.

Scout lists him as the 21st best DT in the nation and gives him a three-star.  Rivals, meanwhile, is much higher on him, calling him the 4th best DT and a four-star.  So with that said, it's kind of hard to say where he should rank.  But when schools such as Penn State, WVU, Georgia, Florida State, Oklahoma and about ten others all offered scholarships, I'll lean towards the Rivals ranking.

No need for me to go into the whole ranking debate right now - we all know how meaningless they can be.  But beating out quality D-I programs is promising at the very least.

Here's a brief interview with Marquise apparently from ESPN (camera work not so good).  By the way, ESPN spells his name here without the 'E' on the end, even though everywhere else I've seen it, it's spelled with the 'E'.  Meanwhile, here's a highlight video on as well (need an Insider subscription to view it) and it's spelled with the 'E' here.  Way to stay on top of things there, Ess-Pen.

Seriously, though.  Someone needs to get Jeff Hafley and Pitt the heck away from New Jersey.  Dude is killing it there, landing Bill Belton, Gary Nova, and now Wright.  Plus he's got about a dozen more recruits (including some more four-stars) on his hit list - all from the Garden State.  As a matter of fact, ALL of his recruits since coming to Pitt have been from New Jersey, so he's got a pretty good hold on that area.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Big East Impact On The NBA Draft

While Pitt didn't have any draftees in the 2010 NBA Draft, there was plenty of news regarding Big East prospects:

Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks of West Virginia slipped into the 2nd round.  Butler was a senior and his injury undoubtedly hurt him.  However, Ebanks was a sophomore and his relatively modest 2009-10 numbers (12 points / 8 rebounds per game) likely helped contribute to his slide.  He could have opted to come back and work on his game and this decision could hurt him as he fell out of first-round guaranteed money.

Another player who might have been better served by waiting an extra year was Cincinnati freshman Lance Stephenson, who also fell to the second round being drafted by the Indiana Pacers at 40th overall.  After the draft, Lance had all the right things to say:
"It is great to have Indiana pick me up," said Stephenson, who worked out for 10 teams including Indiana. "I think I fit in great. Danny Granger is a great player and they got players that are good so I am going to try and fit in and try to be a team player."
Stephenson was also fairly confident in his abilities after working out with the Knicks, who passed him over with consecutive picks at #38 and #39, opting for a pair of seniors (one of which was Syracuse guard Andy Rautins) instead:

"It would be better for the Knicks in a lot of ways," Stephenson said. "I would draw a lot more people to the games."
I'm not going to go as far as say that these were major gaffes after DeJuan Blair and Sam Young both proved productive players can come out of the second round.  But you better be sure you can stick as a second round player.  DeJuan Blair simply outworks everyone else, but neither Ebanks or Stephenson appear to have that trait.  Neither was dominant in college and it's safe to say that one or both might have a hard time sticking.

Next up in the "Step Right Up To Your NBA Future" Challenge is DePaul junior Mac Koshwal.  Koshwal left school early for a chance at the NBA, but even with a legitimate NBA body at 6'10" / 250 pounds and solid Big East stats (16 points/10 rebounds per game), he couldn't even crack the draft and was not selected.

Tricky game this NBA Draft stuff is.  Some players have legitimate reasons for leaving.  As a 22-year old junior, Koshwal was getting up in age and maybe he figured it was now or never.  Still, to me, you've got to be absolutely sure that if you're not selected in the first-round, you can make it as a legitimate second rounder.  This doesn't apply to players who don't figure to be NBA players and simply want to go play overseas or in a pro league for money.  But guys like Koshwal and Stephenson don't fall into that group.  Hopefully they make it and go on to long careers.

Still, the Big East had plenty of representation in the draft.  First-rounders included top ten picks Wes Johnson and Greg Monroe as well as late rounders Dominique Jones and Lazar Haywood.  In addition to Stephenson, Ebanks, Butler, and Rautins, Luke Harangody, Hamady Ndiaye, and Stanley Robinson were all taken in the second round.  11 NBA Draft picks in one season ain't bad.

Women's Team Back On Track?

I don't normally mention women's basketball recruiting, but 6'2" center Chyyna Golden committing to Pitt is big for two reasons.

First, she's one of the top basketball prospects in the country.  She ranks at #79 in ESPN U's top 100 recruits on (must be an insider to view).

Second, the program has been on a downward spiral since the season ended.  The team lost two assistants to other coaching jobs and their entire sophomore class.  This move shows that Agnus Berenato is still able to lure top recruits to the school and maybe the program isn't in the dire situation as it appeared to be a few months ago.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Pitts To Pitt

Pitt received another verbal for its 2011 class - Woodland Hills star Lafayette Pitts.  Pitts plays running back and cornerback in high school while returning kicks on the side, but he'll be lining up on defense for the Panthers:
"I bring a little bit of toughness to the cornerback spot because I like to press," Pitts said. "I want to stay close to home and they all feel like family here."
Pitts is currently rated as a three-star recruit by both Rivals and Scout.  His offers included WVU, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Buffalo, and Kent State, but Pitt was the first school to offer him a scholarship.  Last month, he reported that Pitt was at the top of his list, so it wasn't that big of a surprise.  Still nice to see that he has kick return skills - something Pitt needs.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Todd Thomas To Start At WR

Dave Wannstedt confirmed that there was some debate about where incoming freshman Todd Thomas would play, but in the end, it looks like he's starting out at wide receiver:
Although Wannstedt doesn't expect many of his incoming freshman to make an immediate impact this fall, he left the door open for former Beaver Falls star Todd Thomas to make his mark, surprisingly enough, on offense.
"I wasn't sure where we were going to put him," Wannstedt said. "We've got him playing wide receiver and the guy is a playmaker. We were thinking about playing him at safety or linebacker, but the plays he's making on offense right now I think we're going to leave him at wide receiver."
I previously said that I had hoped Thomas would start out on defense and I still feel that way.  Next year, Pitt has All-American candidate Jonathan Baldwin starting at WR.  He'll be joined by Mike Shanahan who should be very productive and converted ex-QB Greg Cross.  After that, you've still got potential playmakers in Cameron Saddler, Devin Street.  From there, you've got some lower tier guys like Ed Tinker or Aundre Wright.  Next year, you've got super athlete Bill Belton coming in.

And that's not even factoring in the tight end position, which Pitt will hopefully utilize as a key part of the offense.

I don't have a major problem with this because Pitt will likely get production from him no matter where he plays.  And after this year, Pitt doesn't have a guaranteed superstar at that position as Baldwin is likely NFL-bound.

Still, I think there is more of a pressing need in the secondary and his services would be better utilized there.

Pitt Headed To Ireland

The Pitt basketball team is traveling to Ireland this Summer to participate in several games against national teams. They'll also be meeting up with Ireland ambassador Dan Rooney in the process. Perhaps the most important aspect for Pitt fans to look at is that the team will play six games over eight days. It's really going to be a grind and it will be interesting to see how they fare. This should be a great tuneup for the season. Here's the full itinerary and it's loaded.

Apparently incoming freshmen J.J. Moore and Cameron Wright will be able to participate as long as they pass three credit hours over the Summer term. Since that's only the equivalent of one standard class, I'm assuming it won't be a problem.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

NBA Draft Parallel Universe

Last year, Pitt watched DeJuan Blair and Sam Young go from projected first-round NBA picks to slipping into the second round.  Tonight, it was WVU's turn as Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks fell to nearly the middle of the second round.

Watching the draft tonight, I couldn't help but notice the similarities:

1. All four players were/are projected as NBA forwards
2. All four were projected to go higher (at least Butler was before his injury)
3. One player from each team had injury concerns
4. One player from each team was a sophomore and the other was a senior
5. Both players from each team were drafted back to back
    It's really unbelievable if you think about it.

    Both Young and Blair had fairly successful first seasons in the NBA.  I don't know if Butler and Ebanks will duplicate that success, but it's fair to say they probably could have gone higher.

    In other conference news regarding early entrants, Lance Stephenson also saw himself slip into the 2nd round and Mac Koshwal and Samardo Samuels weren't drafted at all. Ouch.

    Dante Taylor Strong Again

    I'm not going to comment too much on the results from the second round of Greentree summer basketball league games.  You can check out recaps of the games here and also see the top performers of the night.

    But I did want to briefly mention that Dante Taylor had another strong game going for 21 and 7.  It's important to note that his 21 points came on 9-12 shooting - and one of those shots was a desperation attempt at the end of the game.  As mentioned before, the competition may not be Big East quality, but these are games against legitimate college (and in some cases, professional players).  Good to see him off to a great start so far.

    Men's Basketball Big East Schedule Released. Sort Of.

    Pitt has released it's 2010-11 men's basketball conference least in terms of teams.  Dates and times will be announced later.

    The Panthers will double up with WVU, Villanova, and South Florida, playing a home/away series with each.  For those local to Pittsburgh, home games include the UCONN, Syracuse, Nova, WVU, Notre Dame, Marquette, Cincinnati, Seton Hall, and South Florida.  Road opponents are: WVU, Nova, Georgetown, Louisville, Rutgers, Providence, St. John's, South Florida, and DePaul.

    Frankly, I think this is fairly manageable despite the tone of the article.  They only have to play UCONN and Syracuse once.  Getting Nova twice is no picnic, but WVU likely won't be as good as last year and South Florida isn't a major threat.  In addition, fiive of the nine road games are against the bottom teams in the conference.

    Don't get me wrong - this is no cupcake schedule.  But being in the Big East, you're never going to have one of those.  Eyeballing it, I don't see this schedule as any tougher than last year's.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010

    Greentree Summer League Up And Running

    The annual summer basketball league has begun and Pitt players saw action last night.  Each team had two Pitt players and here's a rundown of how each player did.

    You can't look to these types of games as an indication of what each player is capable of.  The games are in a fairly informal atmosphere and don't include high pressure situations.  Further, besides each other, the level of competition isn't always the greatest.

    That said.

    It was still encouraging to see Dante Taylor's 19 point / 13 rebound effort in the first game on Monday night.  His play this year will help determine how far Pitt is able to go.  If he doesn't improve much, the frontcourt will again be fairly weak against some bigger teams.  But if he's able to show up to the tune of 20 and 10 some nights, Pitt could really be in position to do something special.  For now, I'm picking the team to do pretty much what they did last year.  But that all changes if Taylor hits his stride and gets more aggressive.

    Taylor was pleased with his effort:

    “For the first time, I thought I played pretty good — rebounded, ran the floor,” Taylor said. “I just tried to come out and play the game — not do too much. I tried to come in and incorporate the things that I did, the things that I worked on.”
    And surprisingly, in Taylor's game, Gilbert Brown managed to throw up 26 shots (only making 6).  Even Kobe's game seven effort of the NBA Finals thinks that's playing out of control.

    Freshmen Cameron Wright (16 points/6 rebounds) and JJ Moore (13 points) also played pretty well.  The third member of this year's class, Isaiah Epps, wasn't there and apparently won't be enrolling until August.  It would have been nice to see him gain some experience by playing against other college players - particularly because he's a point guard and will need to get to used to his teammates.

    More On Moore

    With the news that J.J. Moore has academically qualified, he's already looking to make an impact this season:

    Of the incoming freshmen, Moore is the player who has the best chance of cracking a rotation that has seven of the top eight scorers from last season returning. He is looking forward to the opportunity of living up to his advanced billing.
    "I'm just going to show them that I am a top 10 player," Moore said Monday night. "I never in my life would have dreamed that I would be top 10 material. Now I'm just going to show them that I've gone up to that level."
    And the similarities between he and Gilbert Brown have officially begun:

    Moore and Brown share a lot in common. They both attended South Kent Prep and play similar games.
    "It's a big opportunity for me to learn from him," Moore said. "A lot of people say we play alike. We have the same athletic body and same athletic skills. I can look at him and see how he plays with his past experience here."
    So does that mean that he'll score 22 in his debut followed by 3 in the next game?  All kidding aside, while Pitt could be relying on Moore a bit this year, it's hard to tell just how many minutes he'll be playing.  Part of that might be dependent on how much 6'5" guard/forward Lamar Patterson can contribute.
    And since Moore has been able to enroll early, he's participating in the famed Greentree summer league this year.  He made his debut last night scoring 13 points - more on the league games a bit later.

    Your Chance To Be A Star

    Step right up and sign up to be an extra in Pitt's 2010 football commercial. Here's your chance to kick off a successful acting career...or make a complete idiot of yourself. One or the other. No opposing teams' gear is allowed, so no word on if the 500 people sure to show up in Steelers jerseys will be admitted.

    It will be shot down at Heinz Field this Sunday, June 27th and you've got to complete the form on the website in the attached link.

    Pinkston and Romeus Added to Watch Lists

    Pitt football players Jason Pinkston and Greg Romeus have been added to watch lists for the 2010 season.

    Pinkston has been added to the watch list for the Outland Trophy, presented to the top interior lineman in college football. The list includes 63 players right now and only three are from the Big East. Romeus was added to the list for the Nagurski Trophy, given to the nation's best defensive player. That list includes 74 players including five in the Big East.

    Monday, June 21, 2010

    Dwight Miller Update

    Ray Fittipaldo of the Post-Gazette says that all three of Pitt's incoming recruits, Isaiah Epps, Cameron Wright, and J.J. Moore) have qualified academically.  That means a move must be made and Dwight Miller is transferring to Midland Junior College (TX).  As he attended high school in Texas, it's not a surprise that he headed to a school near home.

    Miller saw action in most of the team's non-conference games, but his minutes shrunk considerably once Big East play began.  He shot only 27% from the field and 14% from three-point range.  With a slight emergence by JJ Richardson, that essentially made him the odd man out.  Hopefully he can get a fresh start somewhere.

    SB Nation Pittsburgh Now Online

    When you have a minute, head on over to the new SB Nation Pittsburgh regional website at  As I mentioned before, I'll be contributing to the site as the Pitt blogger on a fairly regular basis.  The site will include coverage of Pitt along with the Pirates, Steelers, Penguins, Penn State and WVU.  There are different writers for each sport and I believe all conributors have blogs for the team they'll be covering.
    Check it out early and often as it should be updated often.

    And if you're local to Pittsburgh, head on down to the regional meetup on Monday the 21st at Carson City Saloon over in the south side from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

    Pitt Recruits Struggle Until Late In Big 33 Game

    Pitt had several recruits playing in the Big 33 game over the weekend that pits Pennsylvania vs. Ohio.

    Anthony Gonzalez and Andrew Carswell of PA played pitch and catch on a 65-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.  Fellow Pitt recruit, QB Mark Myers then led Ohio down the field on a 75-yard drive (at least 70 yards were through the air) in only 23 seconds, then converted a two-point conversion giving Ohio an 18-15 win.

    Neither QB was particularly effective - Myers was 8-16 for 127 yards and two interceptions while Gonzalez was 6-19 for 146 yards and one TD / two interceptions.

    Over the years, more than 100 NFL players have participated in the Big 33 game.

    Friday, June 18, 2010

    Dickie V's Preseason Top 40

    Dick Vitale weighs in with his preseason NCAA Basketball Top 40 list.  The surprising part to me wasn't seeing Pitt at #12, it was finding Pitt behind both Syracuse and Villanova.

    Syracuse lost their big three of Wes Johnson, Andy Rautins, and Arinze Onuaku.  They have an excellent recruiting class coming in, but will be a very young team.  Villanova didn't lose as much, but they will be without their best player from last year, Scottie Reynolds, and starter Reggie Redding.

    This has been rehashed over and over, but Pitt only loses Jermaine Dixon.  A loss to be sure, especially on the defensive end.  But Pitt always plays strong team defense and between Travon Woodall and incoming guards Isaiah Epps and Cameron Wright, I don't think Pitt will have a problem making up his offense.

    I'm still not sure how high I'd rank Pitt yet, but I do think they're the preseason favorite in the Big East.  Vitale's colleagues, Andy Katz and Pat Forde agree.

    As the Expansion Carousel Turns

    Well, despite the addition of Utah to the Pac-10 today, the complete destruction to college football's landscape appears to be on hold.  This is bad news for the Mountain West, which had a strong case for a BCS bid with the recent addition of Boise State.  However, by getting Boise, the conference is still better off than it was.  A swap of Boise for Utah is better for the conference, at least in terms of football.  And the conference still has a pretty decent case to get a BCS bid.

    But back to the issue at hand for Pitt fans.  What does this mean for the Big East?

    Well, by the Big 12 appears to be happy, despite losing two teams and their conference championship game.

    The Pac-10 appears to be satisfied with 12 teams and the Big Ten now has 12 teams and can have its desired championship game.  With things slowing down, I think that the Big Ten will play nice and not go to a full blown 16 teams right away.

    So with that said, the Big East could be safe for now.  But even if the Big Ten goes to 16, adding four more teams, Pitt would have a good chance to be one of those teams.  The Big Ten already has Nebraska and Texas is staying put.  There are other options left, but the chances of Pitt being included, should the Big Ten expand, likely have gone up.

    But assuming things stay the same, the Big East cannot afford to sit back and rest.  I don't think they will and the rumors of Memphis and Central Florida being invited are surfacing.  Do they add anything to the Big East?  Not really.  You could even make the argument that by adding two more basketball teams, a purge of the non-football playing members would need to happen.


    The Big East needs to do something.  Now, I believe that that something needs to be focusing on trying to secure a conference network.  Get a network and you've got leverage.  Lots of it.  But in the meantime, the conference needs to focus on adding at least two schools to fight off a potential raid in the future.  The Big East is kind of stuck because many desirable non-BCS schools are out west.  So the likes of Memphis and UCF might be all that's left.  And even though their football programs leave much to be desired, the Big East could pick up two decent markets in Orlando and Memphis.

    But going back to a purge of the non-football schools for a minute - there are two glaring reasons I don't think you can do that if you have hopes of creating a network.  First, because basketball would be a huge part of any TV deal.  Cable companies wouldn't want a network with Big East football, but Big East basketball would be more desirable.  Second, by dumping the non-football schools, you'd lose several key markets such as Philadelphia (Nova), D.C. (Georgetown), and Chicago (DePaul).

    All in all, Pitt comes out of this on slightly more stable ground - for now.

    Thursday, June 17, 2010

    Catching up with Dorin Dickerson

    So it seems that Dorin's new position is indeed wide receiver and he's officially gotten his first instructions.  Lose weight:
    The transition hasn't been easy. Dickerson has been eating salads to shave 8-10 pounds off his 6-foot-2, 230-pound frame. Lunching on lettuce after sweating through hours of practice in the Houston heat and humidity has been difficult, but he's sticking to it to reach his goal.
    Coach Gary Kubiak said the weight loss is necessary to increase his stamina so he can compete with Houston's other receivers.
    "His conditioning level is not good enough to play at our level right now," Kubiak said. "I don't think that's his fault. We're trying to catch him up. He's got to lose about 10 pounds and just get to where he can run all day."
    Even though this is Dorin's fourth position in five years, somehow I don't think he'll have a problem with this one if it keeps him in the NFL.  And about that draft snub?  Yeah, that's not forgotten:
    "I was supposed to go pretty high in the draft and I ended up not," he said. "So that's life. But I still want to prove something. I have a chip on my shoulder now and I want to show everybody I wasn't a seventh-round pick and hopefully help this team win."
    Head coach Gary Kubiak is offering him probably the best advice he can at this point:
    On Dorin Dickerson: "He's played a little bit of everything. He's a project but he'll be a wide receiver. We told him to just follow Andre Johnson around and do what he does."
    And even with nine wide receivers in camp, the Texans are still sniffing around for potential free agents.  Those nine wideouts include veterans Andre Johnson, Andre Davis, and Kevin Walter.  Throw in TE Owen Daniels and with the position change, it's hard to envision Dickerson playing anything but the most minor of roles in his first season.  But he's a freak athlete and could turn into something down the line.

    Dickerson is not yet signed, but then again, not many rookies are.

    More Shameless Promotion

    With server issues resolved, here's a repost about the SB Nation Regional Pittsburgh Event coming up on Monday:

    SB Nation is creating a regional Pittsburgh blog site.  The site will include coverage for all of the area's sports teams.  Yours truly has been asked to serve as the contributor for Pitt football and basketball.  The site will launch on Monday, June 21st and I'll provide more information, including the site link, at that time.  In the meantime, you can check out the entire list of all of the regional sites as well as their launch dates.  Some of the sites are now up and you can check them out to get an idea of what the Pittsburgh site will look like.

    As part of the site's launch, SB Nation will be hosting a meetup that Monday the 21st from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at the Carson City Saloon over on the south side of Pittsburgh (1401 E. Carson Street).  I believe several of the site's writers (including myself) will try to be there.  Much more importantly is that there will be food and drink specials as well as some free stuff/giveaways.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010

    Tickets Anyone? Anyone? released a fairly interesting article about ticket prices in college football.  I knew Pitt was near the bottom, but was surprised how far down they were.  Out of the BCS schools, Pitt comes in at third from the bottom at $87.00.  These prices are for the least expensive season tickets.  South Florida was at the very bottom at only $75.00, giving the Big East two of the bottom slots.

    Pitt was even lower than some non-BCS schools such as Navy ($145), Louisiana Tech ($130), and East Carolina ($150).  Sure, you can make the argument that many schools are the only ticket in town.  But that argument doesn't particularly hold water as even schools like Houston ($120) and Buffalo ($108) are more expensive.  Heck, just about everyone is more expensive.

    Pitt is doing a much better job of selling tickets to games, but the market just isn't there.  Pitt would really need to string together several 10-win seasons to start selling out Heinz Field.  Just look at the Cincinnati game last year.  It represented a chance for Pitt to win the conference and get to a BCS bowl with only two losses.  Pitt either didn't sell out that game or sold it out late...I can't remember.  Fact is, this is a town that is pro first.  Many in the area have time for college teams only when it's convenient.  I know plenty of grads in the area that would much rather go to a Steelers game than a Pitt game.  Fact of life.  Yes, basketball is a tremendous success, but the arena only seats 12,500 and since there's no pro basketball in the area, people don't mind going to those games.  The Steelers give local fans their fill of football and that takes priority.

    Some schools have ridiculously high qualifying donation levels (i.e. last year it cost a donation of more than $4,000 (that number was a whopping $10,000+ in 2008) just to qualify to purchase season tickets for the Georgia Bulldogs) and still sell out.  Factor in that Pitt has thousands of seats requiring no seat donation requirement, many of which they STILL can't sell, and you can get a good idea why there's such a revenue disparity between Pitt and other schools in BCS conferences.

    News and Notes

    I normally don't comment on recruiting misses, but just a brief note here.  Pitt lost out to Alabama for Vinnie Sunseri - brother of Tino and son of Sal, who's a coach at Alabama.

    You know you've hit it big when the gambling sites are tabbing you to win your conference.

    Brian Bennett of matches up Dion Lewis against Noel Devine and Chris Low of the same site pits Lewis against Mark Ingram.

    Agnus Berenato and the women's basketball staff are hosting day camps and their first ever 'Elite' camp.  My favorite part is that it is open to 'any and all participants.'  There are so many directions I could go with this.

    And a former Pitt basketball walk-on Pat Cavanaugh has opened up his own line of clothing.  Seriously.  But the thing that caught my eye was the article is written by Sean Brown - apparently by the Twitter profile, the same Sean Brown that was a walk on at Pitt.  Looks like he's now writing for SLAM.

    Darrelle Revis Sulking

    Darrelle Revis has taken his sulking about a new contract to a whole new level:

    Darrelle Revis' contract dispute with the New York Jets took a sharp turn toward ugly Monday, when the All-Pro cornerback admitted he reoved himself from a minicamp practice as a form of protest.

    "Sat out for a little bit just to let them know I can play or I can't play," said Revis, who escalated the one-sided war of words by claiming the Jets' latest contract proposal was an "insult" because it contained no guaranteed money.

    Initially, Revis mentioned lightheadedness and a pulled hamstring as the reasons for his decision to take a seat, but it was clear that he wasn't serious. He said he informed secondary coach Dennis Thurman that it was contract related, but that message never got to coach Rex Ryan, who was caught off-guard when asked by reporters about Revis' protest.
    Let me say that I don't completely blame Revis.  Since owners can break contracts and cut players who are underperforming, I think it's perfectly reasonable for players to ask for restructured deals when they are clearly outperforming a contract.  Particularly in a sport as violent as football where a player's career is, generally, significantly shorter than say baseball or basketball.  The problem doesn't lie with management OR players - rather, it lies in the system of non-guaranteed deals.

    That said, showing up at OTAs then bailing out when the rest of your teammates are working hard is flat out wrong.  Darrelle is one of Pitt's most recent success stories.  With Larry Fitzgerald, Lesean McCoy, H.B. Blades, Clint Session, Larod Stephens-Howlings, and Jeff Otah, he's part of that next wave of Pitt players in the NFL.  Please don't turn into a jerk, Darrelle.  After all, Mike Greenberg would be disappointed.

    Sunday, June 13, 2010

    Jermaine Dixon Update

    It's been widely assumed that Pitt will not miss a beat next year with the departure of Jermaine Dixon, likely its best defensive player.  That's yet to be determined, but is there an NBA career in his future? The chances are probably against him and he likely won't be drafted. But he's at least getting into pre-draft workouts - starting with one for the Milwaukee Bucks:
    Babbitt was in Milwaukee on Thursday to work out along with Pittsburgh's Jermaine Dixon, Hawaii's Roderick Flemings, Milwaukee's Ricky Franklin, St. John's Anthony Mason Jr., and Michigan State's Raymar Morgan.
    He might not get selected, but I could see him getting into someone's camp after the draft. My guess is that he'll be overseas or possibly sneak onto an NBDL team.  Dixon said he needs to work on his long-range shots and passing the most and also commented on his workout for the Bucks' website afterwards:
    It was good. It was something like I expected. You have to be in shape when you go into these workouts, but it went well. This was my first one, getting my feet up under me and getting ready for the next ones that I have.”
    The Rookie Wall caught up with Dixon lately.  Among other things, he discusses working on his point guard skills, already switching agents, and planning on working out for Denver and some other teams.  I was a bit shocked to find him discussing how the system negatively hurt his numbers:
    TRW: Do you think that playing in the Pitt system hurt your ability to score more points and shine individually as a player, or did it not really affect you?

    JD: Yea, you know, Coach Dixon’s system is a grind it out defense and slow it down on the offensive end, and that’s not the way I play. So, I wasn’t able to do a lot of the things that I’m capable of and I guess you could say my numbers weren’t great. Coach Dixon is about winning and even though I wasn’t able to do the things that I know I was capable of doing, I just wanted to win. It kind of took away from it, but my ultimate goal was winning.
    While I think he has a point to a degree, he still had more than his fair share of opportunities.  Despite not being a player known for his offensive abilities, he still averaged more than ten shots per game - the only Pitt player to do that besides Ashton Gibbs.  He also didn't make the most of those shots, shooting under 39% from the field and just over 20% from three-point land. 

    The system may have hurt him slightly, but Pitt also focuses on taking good shots and being patient on offense.  So that should, in theory, lead to better shots.  I would also argue that he transferred to Pitt, already knowing their style of play.  But to his credit, he said it was all about winning and he certainly helped Pitt do that.

    His defensive ability should give him a look this summer in someone's camp.

    Saturday, June 12, 2010

    Now This Is Going Overboard

    I've just created a Facebook page for Cardiac Hill - please consider becoming a fan by visiting it here. Short posts and quick hitters will be posted up there during the day, especially when news breaks out and I can't get to a full post on the blog site.

    Insert end of shameless plug here.

    SB National Pittsburgh Regional Kickoff Meetup

    I mentioned this on the old Eye of a Panther blog, but for those of you who found the site elsewhere, I'll make this brief announcement again.

    SB Nation is creating a regional Pittsburgh blog site.  The site will include coverage for all of the area's sports teams.  Yours truly has been asked to serve as the contributor for Pitt football and basketball.  The site will launch on Monday, June 21st and I'll provide more information, including the site link, at that time.  In the meantime, you can check out the entire list of all of the regional sites as well as their launch dates.  Some of the sites are now up and you can check them out to get an idea of what the Pittsburgh site will look like.

    As part of the site's launch, SB Nation will be hosting a meetup that Monday the 21st from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at the Carson City Saloon over on the south side of Pittsburgh (1401 E. Carson Street).  I believe several of the site's writers (including myself) will try to be there.  Much more importantly is that there will be food and drink specials as well as some free stuff/giveaways.

    A Little More On Justin Olack

    Lost in the expansion talk and commitment from Bill Belton, was the second commitment Pitt received from wide receiver Justin Olack.

    Turns out he had a few more offers than I initially mentioned.  Illinois, Marshall, and Ohio also offered him in addition to the list I posted yesterday.  And I found this page out there yesterday, that listed the schools he was interested in.  I believe Pitt and Indiana were the only ones on his list that had offered scholarships. 

    Olack didn't want to wait around with the offer on the table:

    “I didn’t want to make the mistake of trying to wait it out and try to get more schools, and then this opportunity just goes away,” Olack said Friday evening. “I didn’t want to pass it up.”
    His 2009 numbers were fairly modest, but that could be partially due to a transition he made from quarterback to wide receiver and an injury:

    “Overall, I thought it was pretty easy,” Olack said. “I used to play a little bit of receiver, but mainly I was just a quarterback. Everybody, coming up through middle school and everything, thought I should be a receiver. The hardest thing was probably just getting the routes down good. Over the season and over the winter, my speed has increased a lot throughout track and it should get better this season.”
    Not to mention an injury:

    “It felt like I could run better routes and just find a better hole to get open,” Olack said. “Even though, after the first McKinley game, I played those last games with cracked ribs.”
    The jury is still out on him to a degree and it will be interesting to see what kind of senior season he has this year.  I do think the position change and injury hindered his numbers and he could be in for a breakout season this year.

    A Little More On Bill Belton

    Bill Belton was a wanted man. Pitt recruits well, but is many times beaten out by more prominent schools. But in the case of Belton, they were able to land one of the better athletes available for 2011.  His coach was one of those who last year noted that he would be a prized recruit:
    “He’ll be one of those big recruits. He’ll be in that type of water,’’ McBride said. “People will come from all over.

    “The possibilities are endless, and he’s a great kid. He’s very unassuming, very humble. I’ve been around a long time. The great ones are real unassuming. They run around and practice like any other kid. But he is as good as I’ve been around.’’
    And opposing coaches also are impressed:

    After watching Belton rush for two scores and throw for another in a 48-42 win over his Renegades, Gushue said: “He’s a high school Michael Vick. It was a frustrating day for me, I was so impressed. He could take off the rest of the season, not play next year, and some college would still give him a scholarship. That’s how impressed I was.’’
    Belton is also a four-star recruit as rated by and is currently an ESPNU 150 recruit (must be an insider to view) as of the latest update today.

    Then comes the tricky decision of position.  Pitt is pretty well off at QB next year with Tino Sunseri, Mark Myers, new recruit Gary Nova, and potentially Anthony Gonzalez.  He could also play corner, but the bet here is that it will be wide receiver.  With the potential loss of Jonathan Baldwin to the NFL Draft next year, Belton could fit in nicely there.  This blogger also projects him there as well.

    Wherever he lands, this appears to be a strong 'get' for Pitt.

    Joe Leonard Named Player of the Year

    Former Pitt standout and recent MLB third-round draft pick, Joe Leonard, was named as the NCBWA (National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association) District 1 Player of the Year

    District 1 includes Pennsylvania, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

    In 2010, Leonard broke single-season school records for saves, hits, RBI, and doubles.

    Friday, June 11, 2010

    Four-Star Bill Belton Commits to Pitt

    Consensus four-star athlete as rated by Rivals and Scout, Bill Belton has been seen as a prized recruit.  Offered by some heavy hitters including Florida, Penn State, Oregon, West Virginia, Nebraska and about 15 other schools, today Belton chose Pitt.  They once again raided New Jersey to do so and you start to wonder, at what point does Rutgers start losing it.

    As a quarterback last season, he passed for 2,200 yards and rushed for 700 more.  Belton is rated as the 13th best wide receiver by Rivals and the 28th best athlete by Scout and whenever you start beating out schools such as Florida for recruits, you're doing something right.  Assuming he holds to his commitment throughout the year, with plenty of quality offers, I'm sure Pitt will be sweating it out on signing day.

    Pitt also secured a verbal commitment from wide receiver Justin Olack out of Massillon, Ohio.  Last season, he had 49 catches for 765 yards.  Olack is a two-star recruit according to Scout and a three-star recruit as rated by Rivals.  His other offers were from Miami (OH), Toledo, Ball State, and Indiana.

    Expansion Madness Continues


    The expansion story got ratcheted up a notch with more confirmed moves today. To show you just how far things have gone, Boise State, made a move to the Mountain West Conference.  The second move of the day was much more expected - Nebraska announced it is going to the Big Ten.

    "We are pleased and excited to welcome Boise State University to the Mountain West Conference," commissioner Craig Thompson said in the news release. "Since our inception just 11 short years ago, the Mountain West has experienced tremendous success, and the addition of Boise State will further enhance that strength. The MWC continues to strategize regarding potential membership scenarios and bringing Boise State into the Conference is an important part of that evolution."
    I've got to be honest.  If everything stayed as it currently is, the Mountain West should have a real good argument about getting an automatic BCS bid.  A conference with TCU, Utah, BYU, and now Boise State could match up well many years against the Big East or the ACC.  I think they're still a small step behind, but the gap is not significant.  Next up, Nebraska became the second Big 12 school to exit in as many days:

    The Big Ten's board of presidents and chancellors unanimously welcomed Nebraska to the club on Friday, just a few hours after the school formally disclosed its interest. The move takes effect July 1, 2011.
    Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said the Big Ten offers stability "that the Big 12 simply cannot offer."
    This is likely just the beginning.  The more I think about it, the more it will take some getting used to.  I'm sure that some schools, such as Nebraska, will seek to keep some rivalry matchups as non-conference games.  But honestly, how do you think a school such as Kansas, who may be left out in the cold, will receive an invitation to play Nebraska?  Think Boston College Vs. Big East.
    The question is, does the Big Ten stop here with 12 teams, or does it seek and destroy, opting for as many as 16?  Only time will tell.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010

    The First Expansion Bomb Goes Off

    As I've said countless times, I've really tried to stay away from all of the expansion stuff. I'm not aloof to all of the talk/rumors out there, but frankly, I don't have to time to cover all of them. Chas over at Pitt Blather has been doing a great job with it, so head over there and have at it if you want all the latest on rumors and speculation.

    However, I will be checking in once actual things happen or when there are some direct rumors directly regarding Pitt.

    The first domino fell today when the Pac-10 announced that Colorado has accepted an invitation to join the Pac-10:
    The Pac-10 announced Thursday that the University of Colorado has agreed to leave the Big 12 to join its conference.

    "This is an historic moment for the conference, as the Pac-10 is poised for tremendous growth," commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement.

    "The University of Colorado is a great fit for the conference both academically and athletically and we are incredibly excited to welcome Colorado to the Pac-10."
    I have to admit to being taken aback by the Pac-10 stuff that started a couple of weeks or so ago. For so long, only the Big Ten was being discussed seriously and now, out of the blue, the entire landscape of college football is being changed.

    The most intriguing aspect out there to me is the thought of the 16-team Pac-10 league. We keep hearing about schools only expanding so far geographically due to travel and such, but the Pac-10 seems to have that issue figured out:
    With Nebraska reportedly headed to the Big Ten, the Pac-10 is poised to extend offers to six current Big 12 members, ramping up its numbers to 16.

    Pac-10 officials declined to talk about the deal on the record because of the sensative nature of negotiations, but one with knowledge of the plan said, "It's locked and loaded."

    Joining the Pac-10 in 2012 would be Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Colorado.
    The new Pac-16 would divide into divisions, with the original Pac-8 schools aligned in one division and Arizona and Arizona State joining the six Big 12 schools in the other division.
    So it sounds like essentially there would be a Pac-10 West and Pac-10 East and they would play teams mostly (if not completely) within their division. That of course begs the question, would we see conference remnants align themselves together to create a large divisional conference - say a retooled Big East and a retooled Big 12?

    I don't know - that's likely a reach. All of the talk out there is that even the Big 12 is already conceding that losing Nebraska would likely mean the end of the conference. Still, I think it's an option for conferences that may get swallowed up. What's to say there couldn't be a new conference combining the Big 12 (with some lesser schools in the midwest/west) and the Big East (with some lesser schools like East Carolina, Marshall, etc). Not likely, again, just thoughts.

    This is exactly why I haven't been posting on this. Things are far from settled and likely won't be for at least a little while longer.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010

    Non-Conference Basketball Tests

    Pitt confirmed some non-conference basketball opponents recently.

    The Panthers will face Tennessee on December 11th in the SEC/Big East Invitational. The game will take place in the new Consol Energy Center on ESPN. The arena will also host Rutgers vs. Auburn that same night. That game will be shown on ESPN2.

    Here is the official website of the tournament.

    Pitt will also host the opening rounds of the Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic, playing games against Rhode Island and Illinois-Chicago. From there, they will head to Madison Square Garden to faceoff against some combination of Texas, Illinois, and Maryland.

    Two More Baseball Draft Picks

    After Joe Leonard was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the third round, Pitt saw two more players taken in the MLB Draft. Senior catcher Cory Brownstein was drafted in the 15th round, also by the Braves, while Senior shortstop Danny Lopez was picked by the Seattle Mariners in the 17th round.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    Light Football News

    Just a few quick hitters here:

    Phil Steele named Pitt's schedule the toughest in the Big East and 28th in all of college football. of the Gainesville Sun previews Pitt football and ranks them at #21 in their top 25. previews Pitt's potential NFL players in next year's draft including Jason Pinkston, Greg Romeus, Jabaal Sheard, Dom DeCicco, and Jonathan Baldwin. No Dion Lewis.

    And the NCAA may be limiting the number of coaches allowed on staffs. Nick Carparelli of the Big East weighs in:
    "We are very concerned about the cost of this kind of proliferation and whether it's necessary to … putting our teams in the field of play," said Petrina Long, senior associate athletics director at UCLA and chair of the NCAA Division I Recruiting and Athletics Personnel Issues Cabinet. "The consensus is there are a lot of people involved who may not necessarily need to be involved."

    Added Nick Carparelli, Big East senior associate commissioner and chair of the NCAA's Football Issues Committee: "There's a unanimous position (among Big East coaches) that football staffing positions need to be regulated. There are just too many. The Big East coaches feel that there are some schools that have staffs that are so big that it raises the question of what these people can be doing within the rules."

    Ben Kline Commits

    Pitt landed its second 2011 linebacker recruit in the past few days - this one is Ben Kline out of York, PA. He thinks he could compete playing time right away:
    "It seems like a good situation during my visit," Kline said. "The coaches were all great, and I'm confident they'll give me an opportunity to compete for playing time my first year."
    Perhaps, but that may be a tough order with Max Gruder, Tristan Roberts, and Dan Mason among others in front of him.

    Coach Wannstedt learned of the commit during the Tony Dorsett Celebrity Golf Classic.

    He reportedly had offers from West Virginia, Michigan, Maryland, UCONN, Rutgers, Boston College, and Vanderbilt.

    Kline was a three-star from both Scout and Rivals.

    Joe Leonard Drafted

    Pitt star Joe Leonard was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the third round of today's MLB Draft:
    "I knew I had a good season and everything really worked out for me," Leonard said. "I was just sitting at home with my family and my girlfriend and my name popped up on the computer screen. I was so happy. It was a great moment."
    He was the highest draft pick under head coach Joe Jordano, who has been around for 17 years. In the school's history, Pitt has only had eight players drafted in the first ten rounds, but Leonard is the school's fourth in the past five years.

    Jordano sees big things for him:
    "Right now, he might not put up the power numbers that the pro guys are looking for, but the power is in there," Jordano said. "At the next level ... they'll probably get him to lift the ball a little more. Then, he'll hit the ball out of every park in the country. He's going to be a monster."
    And Tony DeMacio, the Braves scout who found Chipper Jones 20 years ago, thinks they've got a great player as well:
    In Leonard, a 6-foot-5, 220-pounder, the Braves believe they’ve found a power bat. The 2010 Big East player of the year hit .433 in 55 games as a junior and set school records in hits (104), at-bats (240), doubles (23) and RBIs (71). He hit eight home runs, and that’s while playing for a Pitt team that focused on using the opposite field.

    “They don’t teach guys to pull up there,” DeMacio said. “Everything he hits is the other way. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s got a great body to develop yet, and he’s a very good defensive player, too, for his size.”
    Finally, a Braves blogger thinks he will sign quickly if offered slot money for his round - even if he can't get the name of the school right:
    A solid pick for Atlanta, as they take a polished defender at the hot corner with a good bat. He still needs to develop more power in his swing, but the intangibles are there, especially the 6'5" 220 lbs. frame. A college Junior from Pittsburgh University (my emphasis), he is rated as the top prospect in Pennsylvania, and is the son of a former first round pick. He doesn't have any truly plus-plus skills (maybe his defense), but he is a well-rounded player who should be competitive at the next level. He is said to be willing to sign quickly for slot money.

    Saturday, June 5, 2010

    Quinton Alston Commits

    Pitt landed its fourth recruit for the 2011 season - linebacker Quinton Alston. Pitt continued its commitment of finding New Jersey area recruits as Alston hails from Sicklerville, NJ.

    Scout has him as a three-star while Rivals does not currently have him ranked.

    Alston had more than 20 offers from schools including West Virginia, Wisconsin, Boston College, Iowa, Purdue, Louisville, and South Florida.

    Last season as a junior, he registered 80 tackles and four sacks.

    Here's a nice highlight film.

    Pitt Radio Broadcasts on the Move

    Pitt's football and basketball radio broadcasts, will be moved from Clear Channel's 94.5 FM to Pittsburgh's new FM sports talk radio station, 93.7 The Fan. Apparently, the move is not yet official.

    Bill Hillgrove will apparently remain the play-by-play broadcaster for both sports.

    One thing that Bob correctly notes is that as this is The Fan's only major Pittsburgh broadcasting contract to date, Pitt will receive their full attention. The station's hosts already talk a decent amount of Pitt sports, but that will probably increase. The move should really benefit Pitt fans in the area who tune into sports talk radio, hoping to hear/discuss the teams.

    Thursday, June 3, 2010

    Joe Leonard - The All-American American

    Sorry, pro wrestling flash.

    Pitt has its second Baseball All-American in as many years with the news of Joe Leonard being named to Louisville Slugger's All-American team. He made the third team.

    That seems a little low for someone who was the Big East Player of the Year and is a semi-finalist for the Dick Howser award - an award for the nation's best player. But then again I know next to nothing about college baseball.

    Last season, Chris Sedon made the team. Pitt has four in the past decade alone.

    Wednesday, June 2, 2010

    News and Notes

    Nothing major out there today, but a few things to mention before things pile up:

    Tom Herrion gets a nice piece discussing his opportunity at Marshall, some of his past coaching experience, and, of course, the quarter:
    Making the quick drive from his old job to his new one, Tom Herrion stopped to grab a bite to eat in Morgantown, W.Va.

    While Herrion finished up his meal, a gentleman slid out of his nearby booth and came over to Herrion's table.

    "Excuse me, weren't you the assistant at Pitt?" the man said.

    And when Herrion admitted that, indeed, he was the assistant coach made famous after getting pegged by a flying coin during a Panthers game at West Virginia, the man took a quarter out of his pocket and set it on the table.

    "Not all West Virginia people are bad," he said and walked off.
    Former Pitt recruit and Seton Hall standout Herb Pope, meanwhile, is still recovering and is back in Pittsburgh. It's unclear if he will play next season at Seton Hall.

    Brian Bennett at wraps up his Big East position rankings. Pitt ranked fourth in the secondary and fifth at Tight End.

    Just a quick note on the tight ends. I've mentioned this before, but I really believe this position will be more productive than expected. With the loss of Dorin Dickerson and Nate Byham, I'm sure many fans are looking for a large decrease in production there. But I believe that Offensive Coordinator Frank Cignetti will again find ways to get the tight ends involved. And with a new quarterback and retooled offensive line, you can look for some short, safe passes this year to the tight end 'security blanket.' I think fans will be pleasantly surprised, even though it's almost a guarantee that there will be a decrease in production at that spot.

    And Dion Lewis was called college football's most productive runner and a top five Heisman candidate by the Sporting News. The publication also ranked Pitt 19th and named Lewis, Jason Pinkston, Jonathan Baldwin, and Greg Romeus to its All American teams.