Tag:Pittsburgh
Posted on: September 6, 2011 11:12 pm
  •  
 

Big East poll reactions, Week 1

Posted by Chip Patterson

Predictably, the preseason polls did not have much of a Big East presence. The preseason Associated Press poll only opened the door for West Virginia to sneak in at No. 24. But on Saturday South Florida made quite the statement to the voters, pulling off the upset win over Notre Dame in South Bend. Now the conference gets to revel in two teams represented in the polls, with one more collecting votes.

19. West Virginia - Dana Holgorsen's debut in Morgantown was far from normal as the Mountaineers collected their first victory in a game called for lightning. The new offensive scheme under the direction of quarterback Geno Smith sputtered at first, but by the time the game was called the offense had scored five times on eight offensive drives - something that Holgorsen singled out on Monday as "pretty good." Next the Mountaineers will host Norfolk State before traveling to College Park and face Maryland in Byrd Stadium.

22. South Florida - Skip Holtz said before the season that his team had some momentum coming off the Bulls' dramatic late season victories over Miami and Clemson in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. That momentum off those two close wins carried over to South Bend on Saturday with the 23-20 victory over the then-ranked Irish. The Bulls' defense was opportunistic, and BJ Daniels was able to orchestrate enough scoring drives (granted, field goals) in the first half to put the game out of reach by the time the Irish made the quarterback switch. The Bulls now have three winnable games ahead with the possibilities of traveling to Pittsburgh 4-0. After that begins the brutal road journey through the Big East that includes four away games in five weeks.

Other Receiving Votes 38. Pittsburgh - The Panthers' "high-octane" offense took a while to get going against Buffalo, and it is clear the Panthers are sell getting used to operating at Todd Graham's preferred speed in a game situation. Luckily Pitt welcomes Maine to town on Saturday for one more test-run before taking Graham's "high-octane" show on the road to face the Hawkeyes in Iowa on Sept. 17.
Posted on: September 4, 2011 2:57 am
Edited on: September 4, 2011 3:07 am
 

What I learned from the Big East (Sept. 3)

Posted by Chip Patterson

1) Connecticut finally has an answer at running back. Connecticut does not have a clear-cut answer for quarterback. That was obvious with head coach Paul Pasqualoni's use of Johnny McEntee, Michael Nebrich, and Scott McCummings during the Huskies opener against Fordham. However, the game might have answered the team's concerns about replacing 2010 Big East Player of the Year Jordan Todman. Senior transfer D.J. Shoemate was replaced last minute by redshirt freshman Lyle McCombs because Shoemate got "banged up" in practice late in the week.

The switch could end up having an effect on the Huskies season, because McCombs certainly looked like the best choice possible for starting tailback on Saturday. It was the first collegiate appearance for the Staten Island native, and he made the most of every opportunity. By the time all the damage was done McCombs racked up 141 yards on 24 carries with four touchdowns. Regardless of opponent, those are impressive numbers for anyone's NCAA debut. If McCombs can keep it up, Pasqualoni may have found a great building block for this new chapter of his seasoned career.

2) It's not always pretty, but the Orange get it done. Doug Marrone was celebrated by the Syracuse football community for returning to his alma mater and bringing them back to the postseason. The Orange's 8-win season was considered by many to be a sign of things to come for a once-storied program. However peeling back the shiny reviews of last season reveal a grimy, hard-nosed battle through the regular season. Syracuse simply found ways to win, and most of the time it was not pretty.

With only 20 letterman and over half of his defensive starters gone from that team, the gritty "find a way to win" style appears very much a part of Syracuse football. Wake Forest appeared to have Thursday's game won, and even fans in the Carrier Dome agreed and were heading for the exits as the Orange trailed by 15 points in the 4th quarter. But the fans that stayed got see Ryan Nassib and Antwon Bailey lead the Syracuse offense to 22 straight points in the final quarter + overtime to pull off the win over the visiting Demon Deacons. The Orange may have been slowly reversing the trend of their home struggles, but certainly not the one of winning ugly.

3) USF made a statement to the conference with upset of Notre Dame. Skip Holtz was forced to spend most of his time with the media this past week answering questions about playing at his alma mater and the school where his father spent 11 years as the head coach. But the story of the game ended up being mother nature, with two different delays due to storms in the area. But more than six hours after kickoff, a statement was made with South Florida's 23-20 victory over No. 16 Notre Dame. The Bulls, who have pulled off five straight 8+ win seasons, are ready to compete for a Bit East title.

The Fighting Irish had plenty of internal issues, including a mid-game quarterback switch during one of the delays, but USF showed up unintimidated and prepared. Holtz seemed excited about his defense heading into the season, and Saturday's performance legitimized his sentiments. The Bulls defense forced five Irish turnovers, and found a way to turn them into enough of a lead to secure a huge confidence-booster for a program looking to break through to the elite. Next for the Bulls will be three more non-conference games before kicking off the conference schedule with one of the most difficult challenges on the slate: a road test against Pittsburgh

4.) What the Dana Holgorsen era looks like at West Virginia. We will find this one out Sunday afternoon when the Mountaineers face in-state rival Marshall. Kickoff at 3:30 p.m., check back after the game because this is something we definitely want to learn.
Posted on: August 31, 2011 4:40 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2011 4:46 pm
 

Panthers' defense getting notes from Steelers DC

Posted by Chip Patterson

Pittsburgh has adapted the "high octane" moniker of new head coach Todd Graham, who is well-known for his no-huddle hurry-up offenses. But throughout the fall camp Graham and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson have insisted that the offense won't be the only high-octane aspect of the Panthers this season.

Patterson is installing a new 3-4 defense that will utilize a fourth "Panther linebacker" at times - a hybrid between a defensive end and outside linebacker. Pittsburgh will show all kinds of movement and different looks before the snap with their four linebackers, and use zone blitzes to try and throw off opposing quarterbacks. Patterson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about reaching out to one of the best zone blitz minds in the game of football this offseason.

Luckily, the Panthers' defensive coordinator didn't have to go far for advice.

Patterson said he sat down with the current Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive coordinator, the legendary Dick LeBeau, several times this offseason to learn even more about the defense he was preparing to install in fall camp.

"To have the opportunity to sit with him and ask him questions, was really special," Patterson explained. "And some of the things he said reaffirmed what we were doing and some showed me we were missing the boat.

"But the little attention to details of it was amazing. Anyone can run a certain blitz or pressure, but he spoke of the intricacies, the details, some techniques or an alignment, and that is where he really helped us. So I am going to continue to rely on him as resource, and he's the best guy in the business at what he does, so that's huge for us."

Best in the business is right. In 2010 the AFC Champion Steeler defense gave up fewer points and the second-fewest yards of anyone in the NFL. Outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley terrorized quarterbacks and combined for 20.5 sacks on the season. There has been talk that defensive end Brandon Lindsey will move to that Panther linebacker position in some packages, unleashing the defensive end who totaled 10 sacks (2nd in the Big East) in 2010.

Expecting Steelers-esque performance from the start is asking a bit much from the Panthers, but there is no doubt that Keith Patterson is using a good model for his new scheme. Pittsburgh has been picked to finish right near the top of the conference, likely battling Backyard Brawl Rival West Virginia for the title once again. Their campaign kicks off Saturday when they play host to Buffalo at 6 p.m..
Posted on: August 18, 2011 6:33 pm
Edited on: August 20, 2011 8:58 pm
 

PODCAST: Big East season preview

Posted by Chip Patterson

The Big East gets criticized often on the national level for being the one of the weaker BCS conferences, but with new coaches and high-octane offenses 2011 could be a bounce back year for the league. I join Adam Aizer to sort through the many story lines in the Big East and try to make sense of a league that has had 5 different teams win a share of the conference championship since 2005.

Subscribe to the CBSSports.com College Football Podcast on iTunes

If you are having trouble seeing the player, you can download the MP3 HERE

Posted on: August 17, 2011 2:30 pm
Edited on: August 17, 2011 2:42 pm
 

CBSSports.com Preseason All-Big East Team

Posted by Chip Patterson

As part of CBSSports.com's season preview, we offer this blogger's selections for the Preseason All-Big East Team.

Offense


QUARTERBACK

Zach Collaros, Sr., Cincinnati - Even with a questionable knee and even more questionable offensive line, Colarros led the Big East in in passing yards (2,902 yards) last season. The talented quarterback who first broke out as a backup to Tony Pike enters the season looking to bounce back from last year's dismal 4-8 record. The senior signal-caller is armed with a stable of skill position players (you will find many of them below on this team) and looking to return the Bearcats to the postseason after missing a bowl for the first time since 2005. He was a unanimous All-Big East first team selection a year ago and still remains atop this list until someone shows him up.

Also watch for: One person with plenty of potential to show him up is West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. Smith has been a popular choice by some outlets for all-conference teams because of his unique skill set and how well it matches Dana Holgorsen's offensive system. Smith, who threw for 24 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions in 2010, will be the point guard of the Mountaineer attack - making quick decisions to get the ball in the hands of the playmakers. Pittsburgh's Tino Sunseri should also benefit from moving back into the shotgun with Todd Graham, and BJ Daniels is one to watch down at South Florida.

RUNNING BACK

Ray Graham, Jr., Pittsburgh - Under Todd Graham's watch, Tulsa had one of the most prolific offenses in football. The Golden Hurricanes ran 1006 offensive plays in 2010, ranking them seventh nationally. More than half of those (537) were rushing plays, which means you can expect Graham will get his fair share of touches. The high-octane system Pittsburgh plans to run is based on speed rather than a pass-first spread. Graham is just the type of strong and shifty back that fits this offense perfectly.

Isaiah Pead, Sr., Cincinnati - Pead rushed for 1,029 yards and six touchdowns in 2010, and is the conference's top returning rusher. Even though the Bearcats have some questions to answer on the offensive line, there are enough weapons on the field for Pead to get some space to operate. After being a part of back-to-back conference title teams, Pead will want to finish his career by bouncing back from 2010's 4-win season.

Also watch for: Louisville running back Victor Anderson broke out as a freshman in 2008 before being slowed by injuries the past two seasons. If he can repeat the types of performances that won him Big East Rookie of the Year, it would be a huge boost to a Cardinals team with questions on offense. Connecticut running back D.J. Shoemate is another one to watch, as he will try to step out from Jordan Todman's long shadow in Storrs.

WIDE RECEIVER

Tavon Austin, Jr., West Virginia - Austin's move to wide receiver is one that will benefit the talented playmaker in Dana Holgorsen's offensive scheme. He is a weapon that West Virginia plans to use in multiple ways, and will not be lacking in touches or targets in 2011. Spreading the field will give Austin several chances to take advantage of one-on-one coverage, and I imagine he will take advantage.

DJ Woods, Sr., Cincinnati - Woods won't be able to take advantage of lining up opposite 1,000 yard receiver Armon Binns anymore, but if JUCO transfer Kenbrell Thompkins pans out he will certainly get plenty of opportunities to at least match 2010's numbers (57 catches for 898 yards and 8 touchdowns).

Also watch for:Syracuse returns Van Chew, Marcus Sales, and Alec Lemon, but they all need to show more consistency before laying claim to all-conference honors. Rutgers wideout Mohamed Sanu has also gotten a lot of attention, and could be a threat if Chas Dodd is given enough time to throw.

OFFENSIVE LINE

C Moe Petrus, Sr., Connecticut - Petrus helped pave the way for All-Big East running back Jordan Todman a year ago, and now his role is more important than ever. With a new running back and new quarterback, the senior lineman much anchor the unit to give the Huskies a chance at recapturing the momentum that led to a Fiesta Bowl bid in 2010.

OG Justin Pugh, Jr., Syracuse - Pugh started all 13 games for the Orange last season, and is one of four returning starters along the offensive line. A second team All-Big East selection, Pugh is expected to repeat his strong performance protecting Ryan Nassib.

OG Chaz Hine, Sr., South Florida - With only two returning starters on the offensive line, Hine's experience (25 starts) makes him an the most valuable piece of the Bulls offensive line.

OT Don Barclay, Sr., West Virginia - With 27 career starts, the 305-pound left tackle has been a leader along the offensive line in the transition under Dana Holgorsen. Holgorsen has been concerned with the depth along the offensive line, but repeatedly compliments Barclay's bounce back from spring injuries.

OT Lucas Nix, Sr., Pittsburgh - While new head coach Todd Graham continues to hold competition along the Panthers' offensive line, it seems that one of the only positions set in stone is Nix at right tackle.

Also watch for: Connecticut's All-Big East first team tackle Mike Ryan could easily have a spot on this list, as could West Virginia center Joe Madsen.

TIGHT END

Ryan Griffin, Jr., Connecticut - The Huskies did not throw the ball much in 2010, but Griffin was the third leading receiver with 31 receptions for 245 yards and a touchdown. Tight end is not a particularly strong position in this conference with all the odd schemes, but whichever unproven quarterback is under center for Connecticut will likely rely on Griffin to get out of tight spots.

Also watch for:Syracuse tight end Nick Provo has been getting some praise heading into the season, and I'm interested to see how Pittsburgh H-back Hubie Graham gets used in the new Panthers offense..

Defense


DEFENSIVE LINE

DE Bruce Irvin, Sr., West Virginia - Irvin was a monster pass rusher in 2010, finishing second in the nation with 14.0 sacks on the season - in a reserve role. Now the talented end is in the starting lineup and should create havoc for offensive lines, particularly playing opposite Julian Miller.

DE Brandon Lindsey, Sr., Pittsburgh - Lindsey has also proven himself as a dangerous threat getting into offensive backfields. After picking up 10 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss a season ago, defensive coordinator Keith Patterson says they will use Lindsey in some 3-4 looks as a "Panther linebacker." The flexibility of the down linebacker will allow the senior to get loose and try to use his instincts to make big stops.

DT Chas Alecxhi, Sr., Pittsburgh - Replacing Big East Defensive Player of the Year Jabaal Sheard is no easy task, but his 2010 teammate Alecxhi is ready to try and become the fourth straight Panther to be named to the same honor.

DT Kendall Reyes, Sr., Connecticut - Reyes is the anchor in the middle for one of the better defensive lines in the conference. He was an All-Big East first team selection a year ago, totaling 7.5 tackles for loss charging up the middle.

Also watch for:Reyes' Connecticut teammate Jesse Joseph and West Virginia's Julian Miller could easily pull in these same honors. Cincinnati's Derek Wolfe is one below the radar name to keep an eye on.

LINEBACKERS

Sio Moore, Jr., Connecticut - Moore got his first chance in the starting lineup in 2010 and made the most of it, finishing fifth in the Big East with 110 tackles. He is the only returning starter of the group, but should get plenty of playmaking opportunities behind a solid defensive line.

JK Schaeffer, Sr., Cincinnati - After finishing his second straight season with at least 100 tackles, Schaeffer was named to the All-Big East second team in 2010. Unfortunately the personal success was overlooked by a Bearcats defense that ranked near the bottom of the conference in many categories. Schaeffer has been outspoken in regards to the unit's improvement, and will likely be making a statement for the team on the field.

DeDe Lattimore, Soph., South Florida - Lattimore finished second on the team in tackles as a freshman, earning him some attention on the national level. The Bulls have some holes to fill on the defensive line, but Lattimore and fellow linebacker Sam Barrington have Skip Holtz feeling good about the back seven.

Also watch for: Syracuse linebacker Marquis Spruill has a tall order moving to middle linebacker and replacing Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue. If he is able to lead the new unit to a successful season, he will certainly be deserving of some postseason honors.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

CB Keith Tandy, Sr., West Virginia - In addition to being an All-Big East first team selection in 2010, Tandy led the conference in interceptions and recorded 11 pass break ups. With many starters missing from last year's dominating defense, Tandy will be one of the few "sure things" at the start of the season.

CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Jr., Connecticut - In addition to being a great playmaker and the team's third third leading returning tackler, Wreh-Wilson will benefit from playing alongside three other returning starters in the secondary. With few blatant weaknesses, it will be hard to avoid the cornerback and he'll get plenty of chances to have an impact on the field.

S Hakeem Smith, Soph., Louisville - Louisville is faced with the challenge of replacing two talented cornerbacks in the secondary. Luckily, there is a proven underclassman ready to step up in Smith. He was the 2010 Big East Defensive Rookie of the Year and finished 10th in the conference in tackles. He ball-hawking safety will be a key component in maintaining a defense that ranked among the best in the nation a year ago.

S Jarred Holley, Jr., Pittsburgh - Holley finished one pick behind Tandy in the Big East last year, and was named to the All-Big East second team. With the Panthers' front seven applying pressure on the quarterback, it will be Holley's job to make them pay after mental mistakes.

Also watch for: Syracuse safety Phillip Thomas will be a crucial part of the Orange's back seven once he recovers from a broken jaw and South Florida cornerback Quinton Washington is the third leading tackler on the Bulls' defense.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K Ross Krautman, Soph., Syracuse

P Cole Wagner, Soph., Connecticut

KR/PR Lindsey Lamar, Jr., South Florida

Also watch for: Connecticut's Dave Teggart and South Florida's Maikon Bonani both had impressive seasons in 2010 and should be just as consistent this year. But no one in the conference compared to Krautman's 18 for 19 (94.7%, a Big East single-season record) performance, including a 48 yard field goal in a 13-10 win at Rutgers.

As always, let us know what you the think about the selections in the comment section below. Also be sure to click on over to the Conference Preview for more coverage on the Big East
Posted on: August 9, 2011 9:42 pm
 

Ted Hendricks Watch List released

Posted by Chip Patterson

The Watch List season has mostly wound down, but on Tuesday one more individual award announced their watch list for the 2011 season. The Ted Hendricks Award is given annually to the defensive end of the year. Ted Hendricks was a defensive end at Miami, where he was college football's first three-time first-team All-American.

Last season's winner was Clemson defensive end Da'quan Bowers, who led the nation with 15.0 sacks. Other notable recent winners include Brian Orakpo (Texas, 2008), LaMarr Woodley (Michigan, 2006), and Elvis Dumervil, (Louisville, 2005).

Clemson's Andre Branch will try to follow in Bowers' footsteps, while West Virginia's Bruce Irvin and Troy's Jonathan Massaquoi will be trying to repeat impressive 2010 campaigns.

Here is the full watch list for the 2011 season. Players may be added or deleted from the list based on performance until the final watch list is issued in November. The winner will be announced on Dec. 7.



Who is your pick to win? Feel like anyone got left out? Let us know in the comment section below.
Posted on: August 9, 2011 12:18 pm
Edited on: August 9, 2011 12:20 pm
 

Graham expects Pitt to run 80+ plays a game

Posted by Chip Patterson

Picked in the top two of the Big East by most preseason polls, it is fair to say there are some high expectations of Todd Graham's first year as the Pittsburgh head coach. The school has made the former Tulsa coach the new face of the football program, even using his "high-octane" theme to market the football team at http://www.highoctanefootball.com.

So what exactly does Graham expect from his "high-octane" football?

"Our goal is to run 81 or 82 plays per game, and I believe that as long as we protect the ball, we're going to be able to do that," Graham said as the Panthers opened camp on Monday.

In 2010, West Virginia led the Big East averaging 69.8 plays per game and the Panthers were fifth averaging just under 64. If the new no-huddle attack does produce 81 or 82 plays per game, it would rank them among the top offenses in the nation - where Graham's Tulsa team was a year ago.

There is no reason to think that the Panthers can't achieve their goal with the personnel on the field. Junior quarterback Tino Sunseri, son of Alabama linebackers coach Sal Sunseri, is a fast learner and has reportedly improved with the move to a shotgun formation. All-conference receiver Jon Baldwin may be gone, but Mike Shanahan (43 catches, 589 yards in 2010) and 6-foot-4 sophomore Devin Street will serve as the perfect compliment to the speedy return man Cameron Saddler - who will likely takeover the "Z receiver" position in the spread.

Ray Graham returns after a breakout 2010 that earned him 3rd Team All-Big East honors while sharing the load with Dion Lewis. The high play count will mean that some of the other running backs will need to step up, but there is no doubting Graham's playmaking ability on the field.

The Big East is filled with multiple looks on offense and defense, with no clear cut trend across the league. Seeing how the Panthers "high-octane" system matches up against different defenses will be just one of the story lines to keep an eye on in the upcoming Big East season.
Posted on: August 4, 2011 3:12 pm
Edited on: August 4, 2011 3:56 pm
 

Preseason Coaches Poll Reactions: Big East

Posted by Chip Patterson

The first official preseason poll was released on Thursday, with USA Today announcing the results of the Coaches Poll. Much to the dismay of Big East football fans, there was not a single representative from the conference in the initial poll. It should not come as a complete shock, as not a single Big East team finished ranked in 2010's final coaches poll either. West Virginia was the only vote-getting team down the stretch of last season, but after a 23-7 loss to N.C. State in the Champ Sports Bowl the Mountaineers fell from the rankings.

With only three teams receiving any Top 25 votes from the coaches, we will look to the "Other Receiving Votes" to find our Big East contenders.  (No. 25 Penn State received 161 points in the poll)

West Virginia, 149 points, No. 27 - The Mountaineers fall just short of the Top 25 after being named the preseason favorite to win the Big East. Dana Holgorsen is looking forward to a challenging non-conference schedule that will include playing LSU and facing Maryland in College Park. In order to be taken seriously on a national level, West Virginia needs to win one of those September matchups. Unless something drastic changes, being first in the Big East standings won't be enough to get you invited to the party.

South Florida, 9 points, No. 38 - Skip Holtz's squad enters the season predicted to be one of the top three teams in the conference. Despite five straight 8+ win seasons, the Bulls haven't finished higher than third in the conference since joining the Big East. Many believe that this season could be the year USF breaks through. They finished the 2010 season with emotional wins over Miami and Clemson, creating what Holtz is calling a "snowball effect" of excitement around the football program. They'll have a chance to show that newfound excitement early, kicking off the season against No. 18 Notre Dame in South Bend.

Pittsburgh, 3 points, No. 47 - The Panthers return eight starters from the eighth-best defense in 2010, and add a new high-octane offensive scheme brought by new head coach Todd Graham. It is not shocking to see Pittsburgh failing to collect Top 25 votes, but they seem to have an advantage when compared to many of the other teams around them. The Panthers will get a chance to prove themselves against Iowa, Notre Dame, and Utah. If they have a squad that deserves to be in the rankings, we will know by the middle of October.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com