TribLIVE
Blogs | Sports | News
Pitt Locker Room

March 12, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


2 comments so far - add yours!

Siragusa named broadcaster of the year

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

I’m pretty sure I missed a good time Friday night in Atlantic City, N.J., where former Pitt and NFL star and FOX Sports on-field analyst Tony Siragusa was named winner of the 13th annual Tropicana Broadcast Award. The presentation was made at the Maxwell Football Club’s 79th annual National Awards Gala in the Tropicana Casino & Resort.
It’s difficult to choose the most interesting achievement among many in Siragusa’s 48 years.
After all, he was a state wrestling champion in Kenilworth, N.J., winning 97 of 98 matches, before he went to college and played on the last Pitt team of the 20th century to win as many as eight games (1989). One of his teammates was current Pitt defensive line coach Tom Sims.
How about those 12 years in the NFL as a defensive lineman with the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens? He played on the Colts team that lost to the Steelers in the 1995 AFC Championship game.
Siragusa finally made it to a Super Bowl (XXXV in 2001), helping the Ravens beat the New York Giants, 34-7. But not before he was fined $10,000 for an illegal hit on Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon in that season’s AFC title game. Siragusa later told Howard Stern that it’s wrong to try to hurt opposing players.
These days, Siragusa stars on the DIY Network series “Man Caves,” where he helps create rooms built specifically for guys. But that’s nothing compared to the theatrics of Siragusa playing Tony Soprano’s driver and bodyguard Frankie Cortese in the hit HBO series “The Sopranos.”
He also has owned five restaurants in New Jersey, and he wrote a book in 2012 — “GOOSE: The Outrageous Life and Times of a Football Guy.”
But maybe his most important accomplishment is this: The Tony Siragusa Foundation has raised more than $1 million for underprivileged children.
“During my playing days, it never crossed my mind that I would be receiving an award for excellence in broadcasting,” he said. “To know that my hard work as a sideline analyst for FOX has been recognized by the Maxwell Football Club is truly an honor. And here I thought all these years it was my devilishly handsome face that allowed me to do what I do as an analyst on Sundays.”

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

March 9, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


One comment so far - add yours!

What if coaches could turn back the clock to their playing careers?

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Imagine this scene, right out of the Bizarro World of college football.
Chased by linebacker Pat Narduzzi, quarterback Paul Chryst (having won the job in a competition with James Franklin) drops back to pass. He scans the throwing lanes for wide receiver Dana Holgorsen. Satisfied that Holgorsen is open, Chryst unleashes the football.
Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, here comes safety Todd Graham to knock Chryst’s pass to the ground.
I don’t think ESPN.com college football writer Adam Rittenberg had the preceding scene in mind when he ranked 129 college coaches in terms of their abilities as players. But it’s fun to fantasize.
Wisconsin’s Chryst, the former Pitt coach, was ranked 60th by Rittenberg on the strength of the three letters he earned as a backup quarterback, tight end, linebacker and safety for the Badgers from 1986-1988.
Next was Graham (No. 74), another former Pitt coach. Graham, the coach at Arizona State, was a hard-hitting NAIA All-American who actually went to camp with the Arizona Cardinals.
Narduzzi (No. 76) started as a freshman at Youngstown State, leading the Ohio Valley Conference in tackles. He transferred to Rhode Island when his coach and father Bill Narduzzi was fired, and started from 1987-1989.
On Narduzzi’s heels at No. 77 is Penn State’s Franklin, a Division II star. He was a two-year starter who set 23 team records at East Stroudsburg and was nominated for Division II player of the year as a senior.
Finally, Holgorsen gets a little love from Rittenberg at 101. Holgorsen played at NAIA Iowa Wesleyan, catching 145 passes for 1,711 yards.
Rittenberg’s list includes eight other coaches with local ties:
— Former Steelers wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery (No. 21), the coach at East Carolina, was a wide receiver at Duke and a two-time team MVP.
— Former West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez (No. 36), now at Arizona, was a Mountaineers walk-on who ended up earning a scholarship and three letters.
— Marshall coach Doc Holliday (No. 40), a former West Virginia linebacker.
Sean Kugler was the Steelers’ offensive line coach before he got the head job at UTEP. He played at UTEP (No. 42) and signed a free agent contract with the Steelers in 1989.
— Former Steelers quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple (No. 81) was the starting quarterback at Brown in 1977 and 1978. He now coaches Massachusetts.
— Former Pitt special teams coach Charlie Partridge of Florida Atlantic (No. 85), an All-American defensive lineman at Drake.
— Former Pitt wide receivers coach Mike Norvell of Memphis (No. 86). He caught more passes (213) at Division II Central Arkansas than anyone else.
— Moon native Bob Davie of New Mexico (No. 102), a former Youngstown State tight end.
The leader of the pack, of course, is Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, an All-American quarterback for the Wolverines, first-round draft choice and a 15-season pro.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

March 8, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


3 comments so far - add yours!

Happy 102nd birthday to former Pitt All-American Bill Glassford

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi, who pays attention to social media more than any coach I’ve encountered, seldom misses an opportunity to use Twitter to wish a happy birthday to past and present players and staff members.
I wonder if he knows about Bill Glassford, who turned 102 today (Tuesday, March 8).
Glassford played on the offensive and defensive lines for the legendary Jock Sutherland. He was captain and an All-American on Pitt’s 1937 Rose Bowl team that defeated Washington, 21-0. It was Sutherland’s fourth Rose Bowl – he lost the first three – and he was so elated about winning one that he made sure every player who traveled got in the game.
Pitt football historian Alex Kramer, an administrative assistant to five coaches, speaks regularly with Glassford.
“He’s doing fine,” Kramer said. “He’s in good health for being 102.”
Kramer said Glassford, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., still takes an occasional trip to the casino and often finds himself in poker games.
Glassford’s vision isn’t great, but he listens to books on tape.
He follows football, especially Nebraska and Pitt games. He was Nebraska’s head coach from 1949-1955. He also coached at New Hampshire, Carnegie Tech, Yale and Manhattan where his salary was 10 monthly payments of $100.
Kramer said Glassford uses a hearing aid and walker, “but I have never heard him moan or complain.”
When I spoke to Glassford two years ago when he turned 100, he said he was offered the Pitt coaching job twice by athletic director Tom Hamilton. He wanted to return to Pitt – his wife Alma was from Castle Shannon — but he had a contract with Nebraska. In those days, coaches honored contracts. What a concept!
Kramer is sure Glassford is Pitt’s oldest living football letterman.
“I can’t imagine anyone being older,” he said. “If there was, I would know about him. I have spent a good part of my life reviewing the Sutherland era players.”
Thank you, Alex, for keeping in touch.
Happy birthday, Mr. Glassford. We all should be so fortunate.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

February 25, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


4 comments so far - add yours!

The latest from Pitt AD Scott Barnes via TribLive Radio

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes spent some time Wednesday with TribLive Radio inquisitors Ken Laird, Tim Benz and Josh Taylor, and as you might expect the talk turned to ticket sales and attendance at Heinz Field and the Pete.
Earlier this month, Barnes unveiled to reporters an ambitious plan to sell a record number of full season-ticket packages for the seven football games at Heinz Field this year.
He’s not running from that “aspirational goal,” reiterating that Pitt needs to reach a 93 percent renewal rate and sell nearly 10,000 new season tickets.
“We are well above pace in the new-ticket piece,” he said, “and about on pace with renewals.”
Attendance at Heinz Field was up more than 16 percent last year to an average of 48,150, a product of coach Pat Narduzzi’s salesmanship, his team’s ability to overachieve, his ability to hide the warts and having Notre Dame on the schedule.
When Barnes was told about a recent TLR poll that revealed that people still miss Pitt Stadium, he acknowledged that “the feelings and emotions of the past come into play.”
But he said students have been buying tickets to Heinz Field at a record pace for the 2016 seven-game schedule and, he added with a smile that was detectable through the phone, “they are staying into the fourth quarter (beyond `Sweet Caroline’).”
Barnes loves the affiliation with the Steelers at Heinz Field, and he has no plans to lose that for an on-campus facility that is not logistically sound or possible (unless you see nothing wrong with knocking down a neighborhood or a hospital).
Plus, Heinz Field for the first time will have a distinctly Pitt (script, no doubt) look on game days this season.
A more immediate concern is attendance at 12,508-seat Petersen Events Center, which reached only 8,825 and 10,425 at the past two ACC games (Wake Forest and Louisville).
“I thought it wasn’t what it needed to be, but I certainly don’t view it as drastically as some,” Barnes said, speaking before the Louisville game. “Absolute improvement is needed.”
Barnes pointed out that college basketball attendance is a national problem, and he should know — he is past chairman of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament selection committee.
“We have to meet people where they are,” he said, pointing out that social media connectability at the Pete is a problem that is being addressed.
In response to a question about returning West Virginia to the schedule — the teams haven’t met since 2012 — he added basketball’s non-conference schedule may need tweeked, not only to improve attendance but to help Pitt’s resume for the postseason.
“We have an open door,” he said of discussions on future scheduling. “Jamie (Dixon) and I are on the same page in terms of trying to make that happen. If it doesn’t happen soon, it will happen later. It’s not a product of not trying.
“A lot of folks have the idea that the first call we make, they are coming. It’s very difficult. For every 10 calls we make, we may get one on the hook.”

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

February 11, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


4 comments so far - add yours!

Boyd will join 331 other prospects at NFL Combine; plus thinking spring

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

I joined Ken Laird, Tim Benz and Josh Taylor on Friday morning to discuss Pitt (finally!) moving its spring game to Heinz Field. The game is April 16. Listen here.

Tyler Boyd will take his first significant plunge into the NFL Draft pool when he joins 331 other prospects at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, scheduled for Feb. 23-29.
Boyd, who left Pitt after setting school reception and yardage records in only three seasons, was invited, along with 12 other players with local ties. Let’s look at what NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein, a talk show host in Houston, wrote about Boyd, who was listed at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds last season:
Strengths: Ultra-competitive. Known for powerful hands that clamp instantly onto ball and finish heavily contested catches. Has over-the-middle toughness. Plays with outstanding body control and has ability to gyrate and contort in mid-air in order to make acrobatic catches look easy. Brimming with confidence. Targeted 124 times or more in each of his three seasons. Able to create window through route polish. Sinks into breaks and comes out low with good turn radius when needed. Sits in space and slows routes when necessary to prevent safety from crowding him in deep middle. Has handled some kick return and punt return duties during his time at Pitt.
Weaknesses: Relatively low touchdown production (21) to target rate. Marginal long speed. Isn’t a threat to run by corners and has to win with routes and hands. Just a possession receiver much of the year. Limited YAC (yards after catch) potential due to lack of shake in open field and power to break tackles. Became a fumble factory on punt returns this year and ball security must be addressed. Lacks juice to be a full-time kick returner. Separation windows close quickly due to average getaway quickness out of breaks. Needs to use body better to protect the catch rather than just relying on strong mitts.
Sources tell us: “I think he can overcome some of his speed deficiencies with good routes and he has hand strength like (Jarvis) Landry in Miami. I would take him in the second or third (round).” — AFC East scout.
NFL comparison: Keenan Allen of the San Diego Chargers.
Bottom line: Pitt asked Boyd to be a running back and possession receiver this season, but that doesn’t define what he can be in the pros. Boyd makes up for a lack of speed with vice grips for hands and intelligence in his routes. Boyd isn’t a standalone WR1, but he can be a very productive starter in a play-action attack that allows him to play to his strengths.

I can’t disagree with anything Zierlein wrote, but I might add that Boyd quickly picked up the nuances of the wide receiver position very quickly (he was not solely that at Clairton), and he worked with three different quarterbacks at Pitt (Tom Savage, Chad Voytik and Nathan Peterman).
What I found interesting about that latter factoid is that Boyd recorded his longest catch with Savage (69), most yardage and touchdowns with Voytik (1,261 and eight) and most receptions with Peterman (91).
Also, Boyd led the team in receptions in all three seasons, and the No. 2 pass catchers (Devin Street, J.P. Holtz and Dontez Ford) averaged 52 receptions behind him.
After Street left for the NFL in the 2014 draft, Pitt never found a consistently effective complement for Boyd. In the NFL, Boyd will have another talented wide receiver lining up with him; it will be interesting to see what he does when he’s no longer the sole target of the secondary.
The second or third round appears to be what most analysts are predicting for Boyd on draft weekend (April 28-30).
Boyd has been working out in California almost since the end of Pitt’s season. He wants it, and knows what it takes. His willingness to work hard and his adherence to the concept of team (in my eyes his two most admirable qualities at Pitt) will help him construct a good NFL career.

A couple other observations about the combine list:
Eastern Kentucky outside linebacker Noah Spence, a graduate of Bishop McDevitt in Harrisburg, is rated the No. 2 edge pass rusher available in the draft by respected analyst Mike Mayock.
While in high school, Spence seriously considered signing with Pitt and might have done so if Dave Wannstedt hadn’t been fired. But his college career was full of potholes.
He went to Ohio State and was a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2013, but he failed two drug tests and was treated for addiction, according to Zierlein. Spence, 6-2, 254, also was arrested last year and charged with alcohol intoxication and second-degree disorderly conduct, but the incident was expunged from his record after he performed community service.
On the field, he knows how to rush the passer. He had 22 1/2 tackles for a loss and 13 1/2 sacks while earning FCS All-American honors last year.

NFL.com also listed a few notable players who weren’t invited to the combine:
— Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who set a record with 88 rushing touchdowns, but will switch to running back and/or kick returner in the NFL.
— Wisconsin’s Mike Caputo, a West Allegheny graduate, who is a two-time, second-team All-Big Ten safety.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

February 2, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Wednesday in the Pitt war room (at least close enough to hear voices)

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

So far, Tuesday has been slow on the Pitt recruiting front, other than the quote from Gateway (Fla.) High School coach Marlin Roberts.
When I asked Roberts about Gateway cornerback Henry Miller, who is committed to Pitt but considering Miami, Roberts said he expected him to sign with Pitt:
“If not, it’s going to be an awkward ceremony. I’ve already ordered blue and gold balloons and a blue and gold cake,” he said.
Wednesday should be a climatic day, with Pitt threatening to poke into the top 25 in Rivals.com’s recruiting rankings for the first time in 10 years. I will join several other media members on the fringe of Pitt’s fax machine (steps from the war room), starting at 7 a.m. Wednesday. Thanks for the invitation, coach Narduzzi.
A big part of my Tuesday was spent on TribLive Radio with Tim Benz, Ken Laird and Josh Taylor. Lots of words from all of us. Most of it actually relevant and interesting.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

February 2, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


One comment so far - add yours!

Take at look at Pitt coaches’ unfettered glee after nabbing Hamlin

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

<a href="

“>
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi posted this six-second video on Twitter on Monday night, a reaction by his entire staff to Central Catholic defensive back Damar Hamlin announcing on KDKA-TV that he will sign with Pitt.
Hamlin said he didn’t phone Narduzzi until after his announcement, so this is real, live, raw emotion. Upon viewing it, my first thought was: How would they react if they someday win the ACC? Also, why only six seconds. I wanted to see more.
Anyway, the coaches’ pride and joy are appropriate and well-deserved. These guys traveled all over the country, jumping from airplane to rental car to airplane all in the same day, talking to parents and coaches while hunting down prospects they believe will make Pitt a better team.
And they won’t be done after Wednesday. They plan to play host to 33 junior recruits this weekend.
With the approach of Wednesday’s signing day, Pitt’s 2016 class is shaping up as one of its best in many years (at least in the post-Wannstedt years). There are five four-star prospects, according to Rivals.com, and four of them play defense — a major area of need at Pitt.
Narduzzi looks like he will walk away with an impressive collection of Pennsylvania players — seven of the top 21 in the state, according to Rivals, led by No. 4 Hamlin and No. 7 Kaezon Pugh of Aliquippa. All seven played for WPIAL or City League schools.
The class is top-heavy with defensive players (14 of 22, with many people believing Lakeland, Fla., defensive tackle Keyshon Camp will pick Pitt on Wednesday and make it 15). Narduzzi saw a void and addressed it.
In my opinion, the class will rise and fall on the development of quarterback Thomas MacVittie, who may have to be the starter as soon as 2017. His signature on a letter of intent is critical, especially after Pitt lost quarterback prospects Tre’Von Chapman, Wade Freebeck and Alex Hornibrook off their 2013-15 commitment lists. (Chapman, actually, enrolled before he was dismissed in the wake of a domestic incident in 2013.)
There are players from eight states on Pitt’s ’16 list, with five below the Mason-Dixon Line (North Carolina, Florida and Virginia.) Of course, linebacker Chase Pine of Williamsburg, Va., defensive back Henry Miller of Kissimmee, Fla., and Camp are flirting with other schools. So stay tuned.
Neither Pitt nor Penn State are dominating the state, however. Yes, Penn State lost No. 14 Aaron Mathews to Pitt on Monday, but coach James Franklin still has commitments from three of the top six, including No. 1 Miles Sanders of Woodland Hills.
And, by the way, let me jump up on my soapbox for a minute:
Those people questioning Sanders’ mother assumed preference of Penn State need to mind their own business.
I can’t say I know for sure that she wants her son to go to Penn State (recruiting news is so much presumption, guesses and lies), but I know this:
In almost all cases, mother knows best.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

January 26, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


14 comments so far - add yours!

Conner’s treatments going well, tumors continue to shrink

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Good news arrived Tuesday when Erie photo-journalist Mike Gallagher, close friend with Pitt running back James Conner and his family, telephoned.
Conner, who is undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkins lymphoma, has finished four of the 12 treatments and the tumors continue to shrink, Gallagher said. In fact, he said Conner’s face no longer has a swollen look now that the tumor that was blocking blood flow to the heart has been reduced.
Conner has reacted well to most of the treatments — No. 4 last week was the roughest — and he has been a regular in the Pitt weight room, lifting and running on the treadmill.
Conner gets a treatment every two weeks, and has them scheduled through May.
He has vowed to beat the disease and Dr. Stanley Marks, one of the leading cancer doctors in the world, suggested that Conner could play this season.
One game Conner has circled on the Pitt schedule, just released Tuesday, is the Sept. 24 ACC opener at North Carolina. Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky is a high school rival from Mentor, Ohio.

I had the pleasure Wednesday morning to break down Pitt’s schedule on TribLive Radio with my good friend and talk show host Ken Laird.
The schedule is one of Pitt’s most difficult in many years, with eight bowl teams, four that won 10 games and three that finished last season in the Top 20.
Most of the toughest games are grouped together, with Pitt playing Penn State, Oklahoma State, North Carolina and Marshall back-to-back-to-back-to-back in weeks 2-5. Then, in November, Pitt plays at Miami and national runner-up Clemson on consecutive Saturdays.
It’s way too early to predict how many games Pitt will win, without knowing:
— How much Conner will be able to play.
— If Narduzzi will be able to adequately replace wide receiver Tyler Boyd.
— If the defense will make enough positive strides after allowing 1,321 yards over the last three games.
But, as Ken and I point out during the show, if Pitt can start with a modest 3-2 record (not unreasonable), it has a chance to be 6-2 heading into the final third of the season.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

January 9, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


12 comments so far - add yours!

Narduzzi returns to ESPN on Monday night for national championship talk

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

His staff complete, Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi can relax and travel to the ESPN HQ in Bristol, Conn., on Monday to sit down with his fellow head coaches and do what he loves almost as much as dinner with his family: Watch and talk football.
For the second year in a row, Narduzzi is part of ESPN’s Film Room segment that will be shown on ESPN2 during the national championship game between Alabama and Clemson.
He will be joined by ESPN analysts Brian Griese and Chris Spielman and coaches Larry Fedora of North Carolina, Jim McElwain of Florida, Will Muschamp of South Carolina and Willie Taggart of South Florida.
“There’s nothing better than talking football,” he said. “That’s what we do. Half of me says, `What am I doing?’ and other half says, `It will be fun.’ ”
The coaches will offer analysis and opinion as the game progresses. A year ago, when Ohio State was playing Oregon, Narduzzi was on the panel when the conversation turned to the possibility of one of Ohio State three quarterbacks transferring and what school might be interested.
Narduzzi was joking when he sheepishly raised his hand, but he nonetheless was in the market for a quarterback — even though no one knew it at the time. A month later, Nathan Peterman transferred from Tennessee to Pitt.

The hiring of offensive coordinator Matt Canada means Tim Salem will return to his duties as Pitt’s tight ends coach after calling plays in the Military Bowl.
Salem was a candidate for the OC job, and Narduzzi said the two of them spoke often in the past month. He also expanded his search in other directions.
“I did my homework throughout the process,” Narduzzi said. “I talked to a couple very qualified people from around the country.”
Narduzzi seemed focused on Canada.
“When (former coordinator Jim) Chaney left, I said we are going to get a guy as good or better,” he said. “Mission accomplished there.”

For more talk about Pitt’s new OC and other topics, listen here to “The Kevin Gorman Show” on TribLive Radio. Trib high school writer Chris Harlan and myself contribute.

Safety Jevonte Pitts, who will graduate before next season, will not return to the team and will become the sixth underclassman to leave since the end of the season.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

January 7, 2016
by Jerry DiPaola


No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Pitt, PSU, WVU go 1-2 in bowl season, but Trib writer comes up with a winner of his own

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Tribune-Review college football writers Jerry DiPaola, Bob Cohn and Bill West get together on TribLive Radio on Wednesday to dissect their teams’ (Pitt, Penn State and West Virginia) bowl experiences.
The Mountaineers were the only winners, although West had something of his own to celebrate. Listen here:

http://sportstalk.triblive.com/download/106CFB16.MP3+share

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
 
Other blogs
Sports:Steel Mill | Chipped Ice | Bucco Blog | iPreps | Pitt Locker Room | Penn State Sports
News: Backstory | Doug Oster on Gardening | Off-Road Politics | Flowback | ICycle  


» Top TribLIVE.com Sports
» Top TribLIVE.com News
» Top TribLIVE.com Breaking News