Tag:Pittsburgh Panthers
Posted on: October 27, 2011 3:37 pm
 

Pitt loses 3 for season, including RB Graham

The Pittsburgh Panthers got back into the Big East race with an impressive win over Connecticut Wednesday night, but in doing so they lost three players for the season, including junior running back Ray Graham, the conference's leading rusher.

Graham went down to an injury to his right leg on Pittsburgh's opening drive. On Thursday, head coach Todd Graham (no relation) informed the media that Graham's injury was indeed season-ending.

Graham, a 5-09, 195 pound junior had been enjoying yet another spectacular season. Overshadowed the past two seasons by Dion Lewis (now with the Philadelphia Eagles), Graham had nonetheless rushed for a combined 1,273 yards, scoring 12 touchdowns. 

This season Graham was leading the Big East with an average of 134 rushing yards per game. Through eight games this season (including Connecticut) Graham had rushed for a career high 958 yards and scored nine touchdowns. He also caught a career high 30 passes for 200 yards. 

Prior to the injury Graham was considered a potential early entry into the 2012 draft. NFLDraftScout.com had Graham rated as the No. 8 running back and 95th rated player, overall.   

Graham could still elect to leave school early and pursue his NFL dream, though the seriousness of his injury may keep him from working out for pro scouts until after the April draft. As such, it would appear likely at this time that Graham would elect to have the corrective surgery, rehabilitate and return to Pittsburgh to play next season.

While Graham is certainly the most well-known of the trio of Pittsburgh players injured Wednesday night, the Panthers also will be hurt with the loss of junior wide receiver Cameron Sadler (broken sternum) and freshman offensive lineman Matt Rotheram (fractured ankle), each of whose injuries will end their seasons prematurely.   

Posted on: September 30, 2011 3:50 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 3:51 pm
 

Pitt, South Florida prospects flash NFL skills

Last night provided fans and scouts alike with an interesting Big East showdown between the Pittsburgh Panthers and the South Florida Bulls. For many fans, the fact that Pitt easily beat up on the No. 16 rated Bulls was the main story line. For those of us watching the game with an eye towards several of these prospects playing for NFL teams in the future, the final score (Pittsburgh won 44-17) was just a side note.

The star of the game was Pittsburgh running back Ray Graham, who rushed for 226 yards and two touchdowns in the rout. Pitt's big, physical offensive line certainly aided in the production from the 5-09, 195 pound junior tailback, but Graham's vision and agility helped turn several 3-4 yard carries into 10-15 yard scampers. Most importantly, it was clear that the Pitt coaching staff trusted Graham as the game went into the second half. Though the final score argues otherwise, this was a close game early. Pitt went into halftime ahead only 20-17. Considering the success of recent Pitt running backs LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis -- each of whom left school early -- it is wise to keep Graham in mind when considering the underclassmen at this position who may test the NFL waters.

One of reasons why Graham found the running easy was due to the play of Panther offensive guard Lucas Nix. The 6-5, 310 pounder is rated NFLDraftScout.com's No. 4 offensive guard for the 2012 draft and demonstrated why throughout this contest, routinely blasting holes in the front line and showing the agility to block at the second level, as well.

On the defensive side of the ball, Panthers' pass rusher Brandon Lindsey enjoyed a solid, but unspectacular game. He was credited with four tackles, including a sack in the third quarter, but didn't show the explosivness I expected from a prospect I'd just included as part of my newest mock draft. Lindsey was often a beat late off the ball and relied mostly on his speed outside to cross the face of the tackle on his way to the quarterback. I'd like to see improved hand play and a quicker inside spin to compliment his outside rush.

On the South Florida side, I was intrigued by the play of senior cornerback Quenton Washington. The 5-10, 195 pounder has been reported to boast legitimate 4.3 speed. Though I would have estimated him at 4.45 based on last night's game, Washington did show an impressive burst to close, knocking away two passes that otherwise would have been caught. He also posted two tackles, including a tackle for loss. I would have liked to have seen Washington turn his second PBU into an interception, however, as he read the play, broke on it quickly and was in position to snatch the Tino Sunseri pass and perhaps take it back for a touchdown. Instead, the ball dropped to the ground in what was a microcosm of the opportunity South Florida lost in this nationally televised contest.

NFLDraftScout.com does not rank Washington as a draftable commodity at this time (he's ranked 52nd currently), but with his athleticism, he's certainly one I am keeping my eye on as a potential riser as the draft nears.



Posted on: September 27, 2011 1:43 pm
 

Pitt loses "good guy" OG Jacobson for year

The Pittsburgh Panthers suffered quite a loss Saturday with redshirt senior left guard Chris Jacobson, one of the most respected members of the team and a legitimate NFL prospect, suffering a season-ending injury to his left knee.

Jacobson has been overshadowed throughout much of his career, as the Panthers boast one of the top guard prospects in the entire country in Lucas Nix. The team sent left tackle Jason Pinkston to the NFL last April (Cleveland Browns' fifth round pick).

Despite the relative lack of national name recognition, the Pittsburgh coaching staff was mourning the loss of their co-captain.

Jerry DiPaolo of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review was on hand to record Pittsburgh head coach Todd Graham's comments:

"Chris Jacobson is one of the most respected people in our program,” Graham said, “and I know every player and coach feels disappointment for him that he’ll miss the rest of the year. Fortunately, we feel optimistic about his chances to receive sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA.” It’s a bad break for a good guy, but Jacobson would be the first to tell you, “That’s football.”

Jacobson is expected to undergo surgery on the knee soon, perhaps as early as this week. This is the second catastrophic knee injury. Jacobson missed the entire 2007 season after tearing the ACL in his right knee during fall camp. According to DiPaulo, Graham is hopeful the NCAA will grant Jacobson a rare sixth year of eligibility.

Jacobson currently ranks as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 14 guard for the 2011 draft. Nix ranks fourth.
Posted on: April 29, 2011 3:51 am
 

Baldwin to KC the head-scratcher of 1st round

Each year plenty of draft picks are panned by us in the draft analysis business and wind up proving (surprise, surprise) that NFL teams know more about their prospects than we do.

Perhaps that will be the case with Kansas City's selection of former Pitt Panther wideout Jon Baldwin with the No. 26 overall selection.

But I believe Baldwin was the most surprising selection of the first round.

It isn't just that I'm lower on Baldwin that most. I certainly acknowledge his unique combination of size, speed, leaping ability and body control. He proved to be a big play threat while with the Panthers and is entering an ideal situation with the Chiefs due to the fact that they already have a legitimate No. 1 target in Dwayne Bowe to take the pressure off of the rookie.

However, despite the fact that the 6-4 (3/8), 228 pound Baldwin has the size to intimidate, he isn't a particularly physical receiver. In fact, when defenders pressed him at the line of scrimmage, he struggled.

It is also important to note that this is the same Baldwin who questioned former Pitt head coach Dave Wannestadt and his offensive staff when he told NFLDraftScout.com's Chris Steuber of his intention to leave the Panthers early for the NFL. (Baldwin later recanted, before re-announcing the decision.)

Given the rarity that Scott Pioli invested a first round pick in a wide receiver previously and these questions about Baldwin's physicality and maturity, I was stunned by the selection -- especially considering the number of highly touted offensive and defensive linemen still available. These positions, of course, were thought to be Kansas City's focus heading up to the draft.

Pioli's track record speaks for itself and Baldwin is a terrifically gifted player. Had you asked me prior to the draft to pinpoint one of the least likely pairings in the first round, however, I just might have picked this combination.
Posted on: December 8, 2010 11:32 am
Edited on: December 8, 2010 11:34 am
 

Steuber: Pitt Jr WR Baldin going pro

NFLDraftScout.com analyst Chris Steuber is reporting that Pittsburgh junior wide receiver Jon Baldwin will be foregoing his senior season and entering the 2011 NFL draft.

Steuber and Baldwin exchanged text messages shortly after Panthers head coach Dave Wannestadt announced his resignation from the position.

When asked if he'd be returning or going pro, Baldwin responded with "...Heck yeah, I'm leaving. It can only get worse. They had me running a lot of deep routes (this year) and yards were hard to come by. I barely ran intermediate routes; it felt like they were purposely trying to disrupt my draft stock."

While pro teams may have a problem with Baldwin's publicly questioning the motives of Wannestadt, offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti and perhaps the talent of quarterback Tino Sunseri, they have to acknowledge Baldwin's unique physical ability.

Baldwin, 6-5 and 230 pounds, is a matchup nightmare. While not explosive, he possesses good build-up speed, excellent body control and good hands.

Baldwin led the Panthers with 52 receptions for 810 yards and 5 touchdowns this season. He averaged a career-low 15.6 yards per reception, down from 19.4 in a breakout sophomore season that saw him catch only five more passes but for 301 more yards and another three scores. Baldwin has caught 127 passes for 2,325 yards and 16 touchdowns over his career for Pitt.

Baldwin is NFLDraftScout.com's sixth-rated junior receiver but could be drafted ahead of any senior prospect at the position -- a testament to his own ability and that of his extraordinary 2012 draft class that includes the likes of Georgia's A.J. Green, Alabama's Julio Jones, and Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles, among others.




Posted on: November 30, 2010 10:22 pm
 

WVU CB Hogan earns Prospect of the Week

West Virginia cornerback Brandon Hogan had perhaps the best game of his collegiate career last weekend as his Mountaineers beat the favored Pitt Panthers and in doing so put themselves in position to win the Big East.

Hogan, matched up most of the day against Pittsburgh's 6-5, 230 pound Jonathan Baldwin, finished the game with six tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Hogan's interception came on Pittsburgh's first drive of the game and helped set the tone for this contest. Hogan, reading Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri's eyes, snagged an interception between two Panther receivers and wound his way down the top sideline for 53 yards to the Panther 2-yard line, setting up WVU's first touchdown. They'd never trail in this contest.

More impressive than his instincts, ball skills, agility and speed on the return, however, was the 5-10 190 pound Hogan's coverage of the behemoth Baldwin.

Hogan helped limit Baldwin to five catches for 76 yards. They were a very quiet 76 yards despite the fact that Baldwin was targeted often early. Baldwin was clamped down for most of this game by Hogan, catching his first four passes for a combined 28 yards before Baldwin beat him for a 48 yard reception in the 3rd quarter. At that point WVU was ahead 21-7. Hogan did not allow another reception to the Panthers' star receiver the rest of the game despite the fact that Pitt was throwing the ball in an attempt to get back into the game.

For his efforts Hogan was recognized as the Big East's Defensive Player of the Week.

Hogan, who earned First Team All-Big East accolades as a junior, has played well enough to repeat this season. His on-field exploits, however, have at times been overshadowed by his off-field mistakes.

Hogan was arrested last April for disorderly conduct and public urination. He was again arrested in September - this time for a DUI citation after being stopped for driving the wrong way down a Morgantown street.

As is annually proven, however, NFL teams are willing to invest draft picks in talented prospects who have made off-field mistakes. The Denver Broncos drafted former Oklahoma State cornerback Perrish Cox in the fifth round despite multiple off-field issues that ultimately resulted in his being suspended from the Cowboys. Cox, perhaps not surprisingly (as he was graded a top 50 talent by many clubs), has flashed this season for the Broncos. Cox has started seven of 10 games for the Broncos and has 37 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble on the season. His 10 passes broken up this year rank third among all NFL rookies. 
Posted on: November 15, 2010 8:18 pm
 

Romeus out for season with torn ACL

In his first game back after undergoing surgery to repair a disk in his spinal column, Pittsburgh defensive end Greg Romeus tore the ACL in his right knee.

His 2010 season is over. Due to the fact that he redshirted in 2006, his collegiate career may be over, as well.

A 6-5, 265 pound senior defensive end, entered the year among the highest touted defensive ends in the country. It isn't difficult to see why. Despite having only played one year of high school football, Romeus earned all-conference honors each of his three starting seasons with the Panthers, averaging 45 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks during that time. Romeus earned the 2009 Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year with 42 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception despite often being double-teamed.

Romeus was clearly not himself in Pittsburgh's season-opener against Utah and had surgery on his lower back a week later. He triumphantly returned to the field last week against Connecticut and suffered the injury while rushing the passer.

The full extent of his new injury was only released today.

Romeus is expected to consult with several other doctors to gain other opinions before making a decision as to when he'll undergo surgery to repair the torn ligament.

Romeus may elect to try and get a rare sixth year of eligibility and return to Pittsburgh next season. There is precedence for the NCAA granting a sixth season due to medical hardships.

He also may elect to simply enter the draft. In this case, Romeus' final stock won't be determined until NFL doctors get a chance to review his knee at the Combine and in the medical re-check that occurs in the final weeks prior to the draft.
Posted on: November 11, 2010 3:55 pm
Edited on: November 11, 2010 3:58 pm
 

Don't have NFL Network? Scout Pitt-UConn w/ me

As most football fans know, the slate of Thursday games on NFL Network begins later today with a potential Super Bowl preview between the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons. Each club is riding high at 6-2 and in first place in their respective divisions.

Those fans that don't have NFL Network, however, needn't be wanting for good football on this Veteran's Day holiday. ESPN is offering an key Big East conference matchup between first place Pittsburgh and Connecticut.

Pitt's underclassmen talent at wide receiver (Jon Baldwin ) and running back (Ray Graham, Dion Lewis ) will get much of the media attention, but for scouts the real focus in this game will lie along the Panthers' defensive line.

There is a possibility that reigning Co-Defensive Player of the Year Greg Romeus will make his way back onto the field for the first time since the season opener. The 6-5, 268 pound Romeus entered the season among the nation's top-rated defensive ends and a likely first round prospect, but a back injury and resulting surgery to correct a lower disk problem has kept him sidelined.

In his absence, Pitt has received stellar play from their "other" defensive ends. Scouts knew all about senior Jabaal Sheard , who had played well opposite Romeus in the past and has elevated his play since Romeus went down. Sheard, in fact, has emerged as one of the nation's best pass rushers. He leads the Big East with nine sacks and as Pitt head coach Dave Wannestadt noted recently, his tenacity is one of the characteristics that is boosting Sheard's stock with scouts.

"Jabaal Sheard is having a phenomenal year. You have to really appreciate what he is going through to get to the passer. He just keeps coming and coming. He's rushing the passer as good as any defensive end in the country. "

As I mentioned in a previous post detailing the news of Romeus' impending return , the Panthers don't have to force their star back onto the field early. Junior Brandon Lindsey has done a great job of replacing Romeus (eight sacks, 12 tackles for loss so far).

Pitt's talented defensive line is arguably the biggest reason why the Panthers sit atop the Big East.

Baldwin and, most notably, Lewis, haven't been as dominant this season as perhaps some had expected, but with turnover along the offensive line and at quarterback from last year, it simply has taken them a little while to get rolling. Lewis, who entered the year as the favorite to be the Big East Offensive Player of the Year, has actually been overtaken by the sophomore Graham, himself a future NFL prospect. The Pitt offense has been playing well recently, however.

One bright spot along the Pitt offensive line is left tackle Jason Pinkston , a potential top 75 prospect for the 2011 draft, whose pro future may lie inside at guard.

Connecticut entered the season as a trendy pick to win the Big East and offers some interesting Day Three talent at linebacker and running back. Outside linebacker Lawrence Wilson is the headlining prospect on a senior-laden group in the middle. Junior running back Jordan Todman has emerged as the next big play runner from Randy Edsall's offense. Todman is helped with the blocking by fullback Anthony Sherman , who quietly rates as one of the better all-around senior prospects at the position in the entire country.

As always, those who would like to scout "alongside" me can follow my thoughts on this game (as well as the Ravens-Falcons contest) on Twitter. Follow me there @RobRang.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com