Tag Archives: Pitt

Proposal For a New Conference

traditionConference realignment, you thought that discussion was over for a while. Well, rumors are circulating that the Big 12 is looking to expand. More specifically, they are looking eastward and that East Carolina is in the mix. I have no insight or information that the rumors are true, only that they are out there.
However, the rumors give me an open door for why there should be conference realignment, but not one where ECU goes to the Big 12. Conferences should be geographically compact, on an equal footing in the strength of their teams and have similar athletic goals and traditions. As far as East Carolina, the conference would consist of East Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Marshall, West Virginia, Georgia Tech and Pitt.
This is an improvement for all of the schools in terms of travel. The AAC spans from Texas, Louisiana and Florida to Connecticut. The ACC has Miami and Boston in its fold. West Virginia is a Big 12 member and travels to Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa for its conference games. Those are long road trips for Mountaineer fans.
East Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Marshall, West Virginia, Georgia Tech and Pitt are football schools. Basketball, for the most part, is something you do because it is too cold to play football. All of the schools have a passionate fan base. Admittedly, West Virginia might have a bigger stadium than Marshall, but their little brother is growing up and deserves a chance to compete on an even level. Arguably, East Carolina could not have beaten Clemson, West Virginia, or Georgia Tech on a regular basis in the past, but a new day has arrived in Greenville. The Pirates’ success this year is only part of a continued pattern of growth that has been occurring since the 1970’s. Pat Dye, Ed Emory, Bill Lewis, Steve Logan, Skip Holtz and now Ruffin McNeill have all lead ECU to a new level in football.
A fair question is why would North Carolina State, Clemson, West Virginia and Georgia Tech leave established conferences with lucrative television deals to start a new conference. There are three reasons. First, the conference would be more geographically compact. Second, other than the SEC, the new conference would be best college football played in the east, other than the Southeastern Conference. Third, the schools in the new conference are without major scandals. It is my contention, that college football must bring order to its house and the aforementioned schools are not front page violators.
There is a basis for a North Carolina centric conference since there are six FBS schools within the borders of North Carolina, yet only ECU and NC State are a fit for the new conference with the other schools that I would place in the conference.
Appalachian is only in its first year of competition in the FBS, but does have a strong tradition in football. They are not ready competitively, but the question can be revisited in the coming years.
Wake Forest and Duke are basketball schools and do not have a history of continued success in football. David Cutcliffe, Duke’s head coach, is an outstanding coach and got Duke to the ACC Championship game in 2013. However, Cutcliffe is the exception at Duke, and even he has not been able to build strong fan support based on attendance at Duke’s home games. This year the average attendance at Duke’s home games is only 25,537. When Cutcliffe leaves, so will Duke’s football success.
Wake Forest has similar issues. They had an excellent coach in Jim Grobe and some success. However, Grobe could only use chicken wire and duct-tape for so long before the Wake Forest program descended in the number of wins they produced. I do not mean to disparage Duke or Wake; but they simply have not produced a winning tradition in football.
Then there is UNC. I remember as a child in the 1960’s coming to understand that football at UNC was mediocre. However, that was okay because UNC, and the ACC, were about academics and integrity. If maintaining standards meant a so-so football team, then it meant a so-so football team.
Unfortunately, UNC is now about no show classes, drug dealers providing cars for a UNC athlete and inappropriate contact with sports agents and much more. However, the football is still mediocre.
On a side note, as a proud North Carolinian, I wish leadership that was provided by people like William Friday in the 1950’s and 60’s was still present at UNC. Friday was the President of UNC when a cheating scandal arose at the popular Dixie Classic Basketball Tournament; he cancelled the tournament. William Friday’s name was synonymous with integrity and education.
I am an ECU fan and to borrow the cliché, “I bleed purple and gold”. However, as a North Carolinian, I am pulling for UNC to make the in-depth reforms that are needed so that the university can return to its once honored position in college athletics and as a worthy opponent. I think we all know what William Friday would do; the question remains, does the current leadership at UNC have the courage to do what is needed. The death penalty was imposed on SMU athletics by the NCAA. Perhaps, UNC should examine the record and do what William Friday had the courage to do and not wait for the NCAA.
I am ready for a conference that plays quality football and still understands college football is not a business. It has to be responsible and pay its bills, but consistently shipping kids across the country to play a game is of questionable financial value, and it is not good for the academic success of the athletes. Also, college football has to stand for something more than money and the win-loss record.

Statement, Redemption, Questions, and a Joke

Week #2 in the ACC Coastal was a week for redemption, continuing questions, and one big statement.
Virginia Tech headlined week 2 in the ACC coastal with a road win at Ohio St. There are a several conclusions we can draw from this game. First, Bud Foster remains a most capable defensive coordinator whose defenses are the foundation of Virginia Tech success. Virginia Tech’s defense was expected to be the key to success in 2014 and the Ohio St game did nothing to alter that expectation. The Hokie defense played fast and smart for 4 quarters with few breakdowns. Second, it is also clear from the Ohio St game that Kendall Fuller will be a multi-year, 1st team all-ACC performer before he graduates. On the offensive side of the ball, it looks like the Hokies will finally have a consistent passing attack led by gutty transfer QB Michael Brewer. However, before we crown Virginia Tech the champs of the coastal, a couple of other things were also clear from Saturday’s game. After struggling to put away Navy last week and losing at home this week, there is little doubt that Ohio St is not a top 10 team with or without Braxton Miller. Also, while Big 10 programs are working desperately to upgrade their team speed to compete on the national stage, it was evident that Ohio St does not have top 10 speed on either side of the ball. When the brute force offense of Ohio St matched up against the fast and well schemed defense of Virginia Tech, the result was a big statement win for the Hokies, an embarrassing home loss for Ohio St, and the 3rd high profile loss of the day for the Big10.
Following the trend of teams that appear to be on an upswing, Pitt followed a ridiculous drubbing of Delaware with a solid road win against Boston College. No one will ever confuse the BC home field advantage with Death Valley or The Swamp, but a road win against a potentially solid Boston College team was a confirming win for a Pitt program striving to establish an identity in the ACC. James Connor and Tyler Boyd made statements against the Eagles that they are top tier offensive threats who can carry the Pitt offense and create matchup headaches for the most adroit defensive coordinators. Quarterback Chad Voytic was an efficient game manager against better competition this week and showed flashes of upside throughout the game.  The Pitt defense was impressive as it held Boston College under 300 total yards for the game. After what should be a tune-up against Florida International next week, Pitt can make a statement that they are Coastal contenders in week 4 when they host Iowa.
North Carolina’s performance against San Diego St was a confirmation win as well. The Tar Heels confirmed that their pre-season expectations may have been a tad aggressive. The Aztecs gained over 500 yards against a UNC defense that was equally unimpressive last week against FCS Liberty. Were it not for a late 4th quarter, game-saving interception in the end-zone, Carolina would have entered their early season bye-week with a 1-1 record.
Virginia followed up a strong performance in a losing effort against UCLA with a convincing win over a well coached but over-matched Richmond team. While Virginia fans were pleased with a second week of strong defensive production (7 turnovers and 4 sacks) the Wahoos are going to have to deliver more consistent production on offense to contend for the division crown. In what may be a blessing as well as a curse, both quarterbacks Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns played well for the Cavaliers and a QB rotation may be in the offing for a critical matchup with Louisville this weekend.
For the second week in a row Georgia Tech was underwhelming in victory. This week’s struggle against Tulane was little solace to the GT faithful looking for improved play after a lackluster win against Wofford.
Miami took care of business as expected against Florida A&M dominating all phases of the game. Al Golden’s Hurricane’s did exactly what they needed to do against  a struggling FAMU team. Miami needed a convincing win to rediscover a bit of the Miami swagger which they delivered in spades. A week four matchup against Nebraska in Lincoln will give Miami a chance to make a statement for the 2014 season.
It is hard to make any credible commentary about the 2014 Duke football team. Unfortunately that will continue to be the case for the next two weeks. Head Coach David Cutcliffe’s results at Duke are nothing short of miraculous. However, the 2014 Duke schedule is laughable and sinks the concept of scheduling for success to new depths. The first four opponents for the defending coastal champions are Elon, Troy, Kansas, and Tulane. Every program feasts on cupcakes early in the season, but this cornucopia would give Augustus Gloop a stomachache. The reality is that Duke will be 4-0 after it’s first 4 games yet we will have no idea what kind of football team they have. Maybe next year Duke can save some travel money and schedule all of their out-of-conference games against Southern Conference opponents.
With the exception of Virginia, which plays host to Louisville in what may be the most important game on their schedule, next week’s ACC coastal schedule compares favorably with a yawning festival. We look forward to weeks hence when coastal versus coastal matchups will begin to shake out the division hierarchy for 2014.

Cupcakes For Most in ACC Coastal

When you serve cupcakes for desert, you generally get a lot of fluff and sugar. When the 5 of the 7 teams in the ACC Coastal begin their seasons with FCS schools, there aren’t going to be a lot of surprises. The first week of the season in the ACC Coastal didn’t raise many questions, but it did begin the conversation towards answering a couple. What did we learn in week #1? We certainly learned that ACC Coastal teams can dominate the FCS.
The Pitt Panthers absolutely drilled a Delaware program that has been down the last couple of years. Pitt dominated on both sides of the ball and led 42-0 at halftime. Pitt or any other team in the ACC coastal should have a big day playing Delaware, but this was off the charts. Pitt held Delaware held under 100 total yards on offense and gained over 500 yards against the Blue Hens’ defense. Is this a function of a resurgent Pitt program or a subpar Delaware team that mailed it in when the roof caved in? 61-0 is a big win no matter who you play. We likely won’t know if Pitt is a force in the Coastal until they host Iowa in week 4.
Virginia Tech struggled early in a tune up for their trip to Columbus next week. Little is expected from William & Mary in the CAA this year, but they gave the Hokies a good fight for a half. The Hokies look like they found a quarterback in Michael Brewer who had a very solid, workman-like outing. Freshmen Shai McKenzie and Isaiah Ford looked flashy in their debuts, but I suspect the Buckeyes will be a better gauge of Brewer’s effectiveness and the freshmen will see a defense much bigger, faster, and stronger than the Tribe. If there was a surprise in this game it’s that the Virginia Tech lead was only 17-6 at halftime, but a highly touted VT defense delivered as expected keeping the Tribe out of the endzone in what may be the on-going story for the coming Hokie season.
Duke hammered a badly overmatched Elon team in what was one of the bigger mismatches on paper that yielded the expected results on the field.
The biggest surprise of the cupcake games was likely Georgia Tech vs. Wofford. The Jackets never ran away from what should have been a terribly overmatched Wofford team. In a bigger surprise the Jackets threw for 2 touchdowns. However, it’s not time to declare that Georgia Tech is going “West Coast.” Maybe GT just used the Wofford game to practice a diversified attack for 2014.
North Carolina probably played the toughest of the FCS games against a scrappy Liberty team. As is the case with many FBS vs. FCS games, Liberty was competitive for a half before succumbing to a more talented UNC team. Marquise Williams and Elijah Hood were exciting players before the Liberty game and they did nothing to quell the high expectations for 2014. A capable Liberty offense was surprisingly able to score 29 points against a UNC defense that will need to improve if the Tar Heels are going to live up to their pre-season expectations.
The Coastal teams that did not dine on cupcakes this past weekend were Virginia and Miami. Both teams may wish they played FCS teams to open their seasons with wins, but they didn’t and both stand at 0-1 after one week of play. While Miami played a solid but rebuilding Louisville team, Virginia opened with the #7 ranked ULCA Bruins.
Miami demonstrated that Al Golden still has a lot of work ahead to bring college football glory back to south Florida. Miami hasn’t played in the championship since they joined the ACC. If the Miami defense does not improve dramatically and quickly, 2014 won’t break the championship drought. Miami also showed that winning with a true freshman QB is a tall order. While clearly very talented, Brad Kaaya frequently looked overwhelmed and posted modest results as the ‘Canes fell hard to a better Louisville team.
Virginia UCLA
Virginia provided the most intriguing results of the weekend and may have begun the answer to the burning question of whether or not Mike London can win enough games to return in 2015. While Virginia fell to UCLA 28-20, the Cavaliers outplayed the Bruins for the better part of the game. Frankly, this was a game that Virginia played well enough to win and score a national upset. The Virginia defense led by ACC linebacker of the week Henry Coley held Brett Hundley in check as the potent Bruin offense scored but one touchdown all day. Virginia held UCLA to 7 for18 on 3rd down conversions and 0 for2 on fourth down. One game does not a dominant defense make, but the UCLA game began the conversation about how good the UVa defense can be. If Cavalier the defense continues to play this well, they can keep Virginia in every game on the schedule with the exception of  an away game with Florida State. The offense on the other hand surrendered 21 points and lost the game for the Cavaliers. As bad as that sounds, all was not lost for the UVa offense. The Cavaliers outgained the Bruins in both rushing and passing by small margins and an overhauled offensive line did not yield a sack to a fast and experienced UCLA defense. A flukey scoop and score and bad break on tipped pass were Virginia’s undoing in this game. Is Virginia going to challenge for the coastal crown in 2014? We don’t know. Until the Cavaliers learn to convert well played games into wins, smart money says they will not. However smart money might not bet on the Cavs to finish last either.

The Key to Pitt’s Success

The lynchpin for the Pitt Panthers in 2014 is quarterback Chad Voytik. Yes I realize that is the case with most teams from Pop Warner to the NFL but with Pitt is will ultimately define whether they contend in the weak Coastal Division in the ACC or fight to make .500.
Sophomore quarterback Chad Voytik is replacing now Houston Texan Tom Savage. Voytik played in 4 games last year with his most on field time being in the Little Ceasar’s Bowl victory over Bowling Green, so if nothing else Voytik and the coaches got a glimpse of the future and realized more than ever what his strengths and weaknesses are.
Voytik is very athletic which will help when the offensive line breaks coverage but by the say token it hinders his progress when staying in the pocket and going through his progressions. His arm strength is suspect as is his accuracy. His arm strength may always be an issue but as his reps increase his accuracy will increase as well. The greatest strength for Voytik is Pitt’s overall strength in fellow standout sophomores Tyler Boyd and James Conner. Boyd will make passing easier for Voytik as he is a great receiver already with good hands, range and a nose for the ball. Conner is a football player plain and simple and his running style will wear down defenses unfortunately Conner will also wear down because he will also be playing defense.
Voytik will be developing right along with his offensive line who will need to gel in a hurry in camp for Voytik to be able to concentrate on his passing skills and not rely on his feet. The line is young and inexperienced and was erratic at best last year but if they get any consistent play especially from their tackles, Voytik will be able to relax and focus on the game down the field.
I have a very good feeling at Voytik and the progress he will make this year. I think his mobility will help save the offensive line as well force defenses to keep a spy on him opening up more lanes for Conner to run and Boyd to exploit in the slot.
Pitt head coach Paul Chryst is now in his third season but his previous job was offensive coordinator at Wisconsin where he helped another athletic quarterback with suspect arm strength and accuracy, his name: Russell Wilson. I am not comparing Voytik to Wilson but just be aware that Chryst knows what he’s doing with quarterbacks.

Bring Back the Backyard Brawl

Pittsburgh v West Virginia
College fans are gearing up around the country for the start of camp. Most fans have two dates circled on their calendars, the first game and the rival game, but what if you don’t have a rival, or you ‘ended’ your rivalry what’s next. This is case for the University of Pittsburgh Pitt Panthers and their fans.
The Panthers are looking forward to their 2014 season and home opener against the Delaware Blue Hens and no rival to set their sights on since their long time rival West Virginia is no longer on the schedule now or for the future. The “Backyard Brawl” was one of the oldest and greatest football rivals around (go ahead talk about the Michigan vs. Ohio State or Auburn vs. Alabama or even The Game with Harvard vs. Yale) but for my money and the level of hatred the brawl is unbeatable.
backyard brawl logo
The rival lasted through 104 meetings starting in 1895 and ending in 2011 with Pitt moving to the ACC and West Virginia moving to the Big 12. The schools were separated by only 70 miles but the distance and hatred between the fan bases was so intense and amazing and the games were electric in either venue. I attended several Brawls and was swept up in the excitement and am sad that the game is no more.
As I look through the Panther schedule I am hard presses to find an every year opponent to fill the void. I just don’t see how old Big East rivals like Syracuse could fill in, maybe going back a few years to when Virginia Tech and Miami were Big East rivals which would be OK, but Virginia Tech has Virginia and Miami has the other Florida schools. The other ACC Coastal Division members have rivals, Duke and North Carolina, Georgia Tech has Georgia.
Pitt and Penn State have scheduled a few games starting in 2017 but that is rival just isn’t the same as the Brawl. The possibility of the schools re-upping seems farfetched with each school needed to schedule nine conference games a year, but with West Virginia already floundering in the Big 12 and their fans disgruntled and the Panthers always at a disadvantaged competing against the Steelers for loyalty, maybe the schools should just do what’s right for them and their fans and invariably their wallets with attendance and merchandising sales going through the roof. That last part may be cynical but it is realistic and hitting a university in the pocketbook will get things done, so I say bring back the Brawl asap. It makes college football better.

The Plays That Ended Dynasties

There are a number of outstanding plays from the BCS era that will be solidified in history as turning points for the teams that made them. Two immediately come to the top of my mind; Auburn’s field goal return touchdown against Alabama, and Boise State’s Statue of Liberty against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
But, naturally, with the good comes the equally bad. In some cases, equally bad can mean catastrophic.
I’ll say right here that what’s about to come in this article will physically hurt me to write. I’m going to bring up some dark memories that all West Virginia fans have been trying to lock away and never acknowledge again.
Before I go to that horrible place, I’ll bring up the first time I witnessed – live – a play that completely changed the trajectory of a program that had moved beyond promising and had reached near-powerhouse level.
In early 2004, Purdue found itself with a top five ranking and a Heisman favorite Kyle Orton at quarterback. They had a home matchup with top five ranked Wisconsin. Gameday made the trip. I remember seeing my brother on TV wearing a Purdue flag around his shoulders and his face painted black and gold.
The game lived up to the hype. It was close the entire way. But, there was a feeling in the stands that Purdue was in complete control. Kyle Orton looked the part of a Heisman winner. And then, one play changed Purdue’s entire destiny.
I don’t remember what down it was. I think third. Anyway, it was something and short. Purdue ran a bootleg, and Orton ran out of the pocket. There was no one near him. He took off and easily got the first down. All he had to do was slide.
He dove.
He dove, and fumbled.
He dove, fumbled, and Wisconsin recovered it and returned it for a touchdown.
The play was reviewed for what felt like an hour. We were convinced that the ball had been knocked loose by the ground. It was ruled a fumble, and from that moment on, Purdue football has been in the gutter. They had a few good years with Curtis Painter, who set a number of passing records, and even managed to beat Ohio State and Michigan one year, but they were never really a threat to win the Big 10. Now, they’re a perennial cellar dweller and are on their second coach since Tiller retired.
Now is when it starts to get closer to home. That Purdue play didn’t get to me all that much, because at the time I wasn’t a huge football fan. That part of me didn’t click until 2006 when I watched Pat White and Steve Slaton for the first time. The 2006 Sugar Bowl was the first WVU game that I watched, full attention, in its entirety. I’d been to a number of games during the Bulger and Marshall years, but I was so young at that point that I was just watching the clock on the scoreboard waiting for the game to be over.
Before I get into the plays that started the downturn of WVU football, I’ll mention the play that started the golden era. It was a few months before the Sugar Bowl, so I didn’t see it live, but I own the DVD of this game and have seen it plenty of times since then. The play against Louisville in 2005 when Adam Bednarik injured his ankle. It’s been a long time since I’ve watched that game, so from memory I can’t recall how it happened. All I know is that Bednarik limped off, Pat White trotted on, and one of the most explosive teams of the BCS Era was born.
I only missed two games from the 2006 season; Eastern Washington and Marshall. Living in Indiana, we didn’t get those kinds of WVU games and this was before I knew about online streaming. I was at full attention during those games, and by the middle of the season I was convinced that WVU was going to win a title.
Then came the Louisville game. I remember College Football Live talking about that game the Saturday before (the game was a Thursday night game). Kirk Herbstreit said, “The winner of West Virginia-Louisville, if they can stay undefeated, will be in the National Championship.”
I remember thinking, “We beat them with Pat White coming in the last minutes of the fourth quarter. There’s no way they beat us if he’s starting the whole game. We have this.”
I was so naïve.
At some point in the game, Steve Slaton injured his wrist. It might have even been injured in the weeks before. We don’t know. Regardless, the injury was a direct cause of the loss WVU was about to suffer. Early in the game, Steve ripped off a beautiful touchdown run up the middle. We thought it was going to be another Pat and Steve derby. Then, once again, we witnessed a team’s entire season come off the rails because of a fumble. Though this time instead of one, it was two.
I don’t remember the first fumble. Just that it happened in a very bad place on the field and led to points. I do remember the second one. Steve ran around to the left and got hit and went into the air into a crawling position. He fumbled. To this day I believe his knee hit the ground before the ball came out, but the refs ruled otherwise. The fumble was returned for a touchdown. The game wasn’t the same after that. Steve went to the sideline, and Pat and Owen Schmitt did what they could. They probably would have had a better chance – had Phil Brady not made the second biggest punting mistake in Rich Rod’s tenure (Miami being #1).
The punting unit went left. Brady’s punt went right. The punt was returned for a touchdown. That play sealed the deal. Slaton came back on the field late in the game to see what he could do. He didn’t fumble again, but he wasn’t the same player. WVU lost by 10. Two turnovers, and a bad punt. Had those plays not happened, WVU wins and jettisons to #1 in the country. They were playing #4 Louisville on the road. There’s no question they would have been considered the best team in the country, #2 behind Ohio State/Michigan at the lowest.
After that game, they were no longer playing for a title. Not only was the wind taken out of their sails, they took their sails down. They had a great offensive performance against Cincinnati the next week, but the attitude just wasn’t there. Even though Louisville was upset by Rutgers soon after, and WVU was in position to be in a second BCS bowl, it already felt like a lost season. However, WVU’s destiny hadn’t been altered yet.
After an impressive comeback in the Gator Bowl against Calvin Johnson’s Georgia Tech, WVU started 2007 ranked 3 in the AP poll. After a couple lackluster performances against Western Michigan, Marshall, and Maryland, they dropped to 5. But with the emergence of Noel Devine to pick up some of the slack caused by Slaton eyeing the NFL, WVU was still an offensive force to be reckoned with and it felt like no one could stop them.
Then, for the second year in a row, USF completely shut down the running game and sent WVU home with a loss. At the time, it was the lowest of lows. WVU had squandered their best starting ranking in years. The best to hope for was that USF would drop two so that WVU could at least make it back to a BCS bowl.
But after that game, it was as if the football gods opened the heavens and said, “This is WVU’s year.”
South Florida went on the road and beat #2 Auburn and USF moved up to 2 in the polls. They lost the next week. Stanford, who was nowhere close to the powerhouse they are today, upset #1 USC. Darren McFadden led Arkansas to a huge upset win over LSU. WVU was 2 in the polls behind Missouri.
All that stood in the way of WVU making it to its first BCS National Championship was a home game against 4-7 Pittsburgh. And this is where the article starts to hurt.
I overheard my brother talking to my dad, saying, “It’s only right that the game that will get us into the National Championship is Pittsburgh.”
We had just beaten UCONN 63 to 28 (or something like that) to clinch the Big East. The season before, we had run all over the field against Pittsburgh in a game where White and Slaton both reached 200 yards. There was no way Pitt stood a chance in Morgantown, on the last game of the season, with a National Championship berth on the line.
I remember the game vividly, but it’s too painful to go into too much detail, so here are the plays that changed WVU’s trajectory from through the roof to the cellar:

  1. Pat McAfee missed field goal
  2. Pat McAfee second missed field goal
  3. Pat White goes out with an injured thumb

There were turnovers in the game, but had the first two plays not happened, they wouldn’t have mattered. The refs were doing their damndest to get WVU out of the game with a win. There was a terrible pass interference call on Pittsburgh to keep a WVU drive alive at one point. Those field goals would have made it 13-13. Assuming that not missing those easy points gave WVU some momentum and take some away from Pittsburgh, it could have even been 27-13. Worst case, it’s 13-13 and WVU can kick a field goal at the end of the game instead of going for it on fourth down.
While the wound was still fresh from that game Rich Rod announced he was going to Michigan. It was all downhill from there. Everyone knows where WVU is now, coming off a 4-8 season following a disappointing 7-6 campaign that started 5-0 and ranked #5 and featured NFL players Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, and Stedman Bailey.
Here’s where they could have been had they beaten Pittsburgh, and Rich Rod had stayed:
I don’t know if this is true, but I’ve heard that Terrell Pryor was committed to WVU before Rod left. That’s possible. But assuming he was always going to Ohio State, here’s who else WVU could have had – Dennard Robinson.
That’s after, of course, Pat White plays his senior season in Rich Rod’s offense with Noel Devine taking full time starter duties. Slaton was gone either way. If WVU didn’t repeat that year (I have no doubt they beat OSU in the title in 08), they would have at least easily won the Big East and gone to yet another BCS bowl. The following year, Jarrett Brown would have taken the starting job with Noel as a junior. Once again, 10 wins would have been cake.
Then comes 2010. Devine’s original plan was to leave after his junior year. I think that had Jeff Mullen not ruined his career, he would have. He would have destroyed every WVU rushing record in Rod’s offense. There would have been no reason to come back.
So, Devine is replaced with…Tavon Austin. Who, as a running back in Rod’s system, would have made Devine’s records blush. His quarterback would have been Dennard Robinson, who probably ran the zone read as well if not better than Pat White. He was definitely faster. So imagine for a second that offense being run by Dennard Robinson and Tavon Austin. If you’re not getting the appropriate mental image here, I suggest you watch Tavon’s highlights against Oklahoma from 2012. It’s that over the course of 12 games, with a quarterback who, although not as shifty, was equally as fast. If not Robinson, perhaps Tajh Boyd stays committed. He would have added a throwing dimension to the offense that hadn’t been seen before. For those who don’t know, the reason Geno Smith isn’t being mentioned is because he only committed after WVU lost Boyd to Tennessee (and then Clemson).
While WVU might not have won multiple championships in that span, they would have been in the running every year. Instead, the team has reached a point where fans are considering a 7 win record in 2014 a success, and expecting 4 or less. That’s a huge drop off from a team that 7 years ago was about to play in a National Championship.

Switch Now, Don’t Wait

You are having the best game in your young college football career, running all over your opponent and then you get a tap on the shoulder and before you know it you are playing defensive end, in a bowl game no less, when you last played defense in high school. Seems strange, well its true just ask James Conner sophomore (then a freshman) at the University of Pittsburgh. The game was the Little Ceaser’s Bowl where Conner broke Tony Dorsett’s bowl game rushing record despite playing some downs on defense.

James Conner

I’m of the opinion that Conner will end up on defense this year coming year but will it happen at the beginning of the season or in the middle when Head Coach Paul Chryst realizes he desperately needs help on defense. Let me point out some factors that I think the coaching staff at Pitt is considering:

1)       Pitt returns just five starters on defense and very importantly they lost they two best defensive lineman (Aaron Donald was a first round pick)

2)      A couple of freshmen, Chris James and Qadree Ollison, will push incumbent Isaac Bennett for carries, so if they pan out like Conner did as a freshman who is getting all the carries

3)      Despite Conner’s bowl game record setting performance, he was very inconsistent throughout the year (i.e. Virginia 27 yards on 15 carries, Georgia Tech 3 yards on 8 carries

4)      Conner sustained a “minor” knee injury early in spring practices subsequently eliminating him from further practicing or workouts. According to coaches he should be ready for summer conditioning but did that injury actually seal his fate

5)      Head Coach Chryst has yet to guarantee Conner that he will stay on offense (at least publicly)

In my view the decision has been made but is it the right decision for Pitt and Conner I guess we will all find out in a few months when Pitt kicks off against Delaware. I just hope that once they make a decision they stick with it one way or the other and also that they have told Conner and have his conditioning program geared toward his new position on defense.

Keep him where he can excel on offense, he could be a force and ease the transition of new starting quarterback Chad Voytik, is a complete new offensive backfield the way to go…no.