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Mailbag: 8/12/2017 - Hopes, fears, hot dogs and more

It's time for another weekly Mailbag, and we're taking questions on hopes, fears, hot dogs, Genesis, stadiums, the secondary and more.

when do you think some separation will happen in the secondary competition? end of this week? end of next week? with motley being hurt and his status uncertain, ford's eligibility up in the air (and his missing camp while waiting most likely narrowing his opportunities if he is deemed eligible) and whitehead suspended the first 3 games, there's lots of open space in the secondary two deep for guys to step up into. - deepelemblues
I think the coaches will start looking for separation at all positions after Saturday’s scrimmage, but the secondary is interesting, largely because of personnel numbers. There’s a pretty clear top four at safety with Bricen Garner and Jazzee Stocker at field safety and Dennis Briggs and Phil Campbell at boundary safety (Renaldo Hill said Friday that Henry Miller is a wild card and could play either safety spot, but I think he’s behind the others), but at cornerback, it looks like the freshmen are in the mix.

If Phillipie Motley was active, he would be the starter opposite Avonte Maddox, but taking him out of the mix opens the door for Dane Jackson and Therran Coleman, but also for one or both of the freshmen - Damarri Mathis and Jason Pinnock - to get in the mix. I really think the coaches are open to all options at that position.

So the staff is looking for separation this weekend, but the reality is, they still have two weeks of camp left. Traditionally, this second weekend of camp would be a big separation weekend - the coaches would look to have some defined two-deep roles heading into the final week of camp. But they’ve got two weeks left after this scrimmage, so I think they’ll still be flexible with things through this next week and then try to get defined roles in the next week.

Either way, they’ve got four viable options at safety and close to that many at cornerback, so they’re going to be able to rotate a decent amount. I also think they’ll have the option to do different things in their subpackages. In the last two seasons, they would bring in Dennis Briggs as the nickel-back, but this year they could move Briggs from boundary safety to nickel-back on third downs and bring in Campbell or one of the field safeties.

What are your fears for this year? (ex. Lack of depth) What excites you for the year? (ex. Max Browne hopes of living up to 5 star praise) Are hotdogs' sandwiches? - nmac412
Fears…lack of experience at a lot of spots, lack of depth on the offensive line, a whole new situation for Max Browne, an unforgiving September schedule, unknown/unproven talent at running back. The offensive line is a big one.

Excites…The receivers can be really good if they stay healthy. There should be some exciting players on the defensive line, and those guys should get better as the season goes on, which can be fun to watch.

Hot dogs…are sandwiches. You can’t give me one definition of a sandwich that doesn’t apply to hot dogs.

Chris, looking at the schedule, with the youth of this team, the suspensions and injuries, should we be ecstatic if Pitt has a 3-2 record when the calendar flips to Oct. 1? If it's 2-3 or worse come 10/1, is it too big of a hole to climb out of? Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins or Ray Wilson? - ShibaPanther
Look, there’s nothing easy about that month of September. It looked challenging two months ago and now, without Jordan Whitehead et al, it looks even rougher. You never say never on any game - anybody can beat anybody - but Penn State and Oklahoma State are going to be really tough; splitting those games would be a win for Pitt, in my view. They just have a lot of experienced talent coming back.

I do think if Pitt gets to Oct. 1 at 3-2, which would probably mean winning at Georgia Tech, and that would be a definite positive. While it would sting to lose those two big non-conference games, the Panthers need to make some headway in the ACC, and it would be preferable, obviously, to start the conference schedule with a win rather than a loss.

That said, I’m nervous about that trip to Atlanta. Pitt has beaten Georgia Tech two years in a row, but both games came right down to the wire. They were 50/50 games, both won on Chris Blewitt’s leg, and it would be highly advantageous for Pitt to avoid a similar scenario this year. Not necessarily because I have little faith in Alex Kessman - he is capable of making those kicks, although you wonder about a redshirt freshman in that situation - but rather because eventually those 50/50 games break the other way.

As for the other question, I've been a big Genesis fan ever since the release of their 1980 album, Duke. Before that, I really didn't understand any of their work. Too artsy, too intellectual. It was on Duke where Phil Collins' presence became more apparent. I think “Invisible Touch” was the group's undisputed masterpiece. It's an epic meditation on intangibility. At the same time, it deepens and enriches the meaning of the preceding three albums. Listen to the brilliant ensemble playing of Banks, Collins and Rutherford. You can practically hear every nuance of every instrument. In terms of lyrical craftsmanship, the sheer songwriting, this album hits a new peak of professionalism. Take the lyrics to “Land of Confusion”. In this song, Phil Collins addresses the problems of abusive political authority. “In Too Deep” is the most moving pop song of the 1980s, about monogamy and commitment. The song is extremely uplifting. Their lyrics are as positive and affirmative as anything I've heard in rock. Phil Collins' solo career seems to be more commercial and therefore more satisfying, in a narrower way. Especially songs like “In the Air Tonight” and “Against All Odds.” But I also think Phil Collins works best within the confines of the group, than as a solo artist, and I stress the word artist.

Any player reactions to OC Shawn Watson? - Ryno53
They like him. Watson definitely seems to be soft-spoken and generally a positive guy. I’m sure he is more than willing to light up a quarterback if he makes a terrible mistake, but overall, the feedback I’ve gotten is that Watson’s really positive with all of the players.

There’s an interesting relationship between offensive coordinators and quarterbacks. I’ve never been one of either group, but in years of observing them and watching them operate on and off the field, that coach/player relationship is unlike any I’ve seen at other positions. Part of it is probably because the quarterbacks are usually among the smallest position groups on the team, but another part is that that coach/player group has a huge responsibility, more than any other group on the team.

The OC and QB’s truly make the whole thing work. If they are doing their jobs well, everybody else’s jobs get easier. And if they are struggling, it makes everyone else have to work that much harder. There really isn’t any other player/coach position group you can say that about.

So there’s a camaraderie there, a feeling of “It’s all on us” and “We have to make everybody better” that can only really be shared by two sets of people: the quarterbacks and the offensive coordinator. It’s very unique, and from the outside, it seems like Watson has done well in forming those bonds with Max Browne, Ben DiNucci, Thomas MacVittie, Kenny Pickett and Jacob Zilinskas.

All of my questions are questions that Pat Narduzzi either wont answer or will give no value to... So the best answer I can ask is strategically, why does Pat Narudzzi refuse to answer any question that has an once of value??? Is it strategic, is it because he doesnt like the media, or does he think he is actually answering questions... Dont get me wrong... A coach can never do a press conference in his life if he is going to win games... I am just curious why he is so closed off. - adam9961
Great question. Some things, I can understand. You don’t want to put your team at a competitive disadvantage with anything you say in the media, whether it’s giving away scheme/personnel secrets or talking about injuries. And you also want to be respectful of privacy issues when it comes to injuries and personal matters like suspensions, etc.

I think all coaches are also cognizant of players reading what is written and said, so some coaches will try to make public comments with the intention of, um, “inspiring” a player - i.e., saying he’s not playing well enough or saying his job could be in jeopardy - but they’ll also be careful not to blow a player up too much if they think that he can’t handle the praise.

What do we make of Narduzzi’s comments, though? They probably fall into those categories I mentioned above, and I think he’s a bit more sensitive to make sure that nothing becomes public unless it’s something that explicitly helps the team. If there’s a chance for something to reflect negatively or have a negative reaction, he avoids it (even if it seems inconsequential to those of us on the outside).

That’s the best I can come up with.

There was a lot of talk about how our DBs got burned constantly last year while they were "in phase" (i.e.: right in the receiver's damn hip pocket) but were not locating or playing the ball deep downfield. Any evidence that this is a point of emphasis from a coaching standpoint to prevent the secondary from getting repeatedly torched? - Hailtopitt07
Yeah, there has been an emphasis on that in the spring and in training camp. I think one of the big things the coaches have been working on is training the defensive backs to read the cues from the receiver: cues on routes, cues on releases and - most importantly - cues on when the ball is coming.

For whatever reason, it seemed like the players just didn’t have a mastery of that element last year, and the coaches recognized it. So they have been working on it a lot this offseason; Avonte Maddox said they work on that kind of thing every day. We’ll see if the work pays off.

My son has a job interview in Pittsburgh (Penn Hills area) next week, should I hope he gets the job so I can visit my grandchildren and attend Pitt home games more often, or should I hope he stays in soCal where I can see my grandchildren frequently? - PotterCountyNative
Keep the family close to you in SoCal - and then fly with the grandkids to Pitt games.

Do you think conferences will realign again in the next 5 or so years? - AJSH2P My guess would be no. It seems like the Power Five conferences are pretty well locked in, so unless someone adds from the non-Power Five leagues, I think things will stay as they are.

When do you think this all implodes? - recruitsreadtheseboards
This message board? When Tom Bradley gets hired.

If the. Steelers were to move to Cranberry, what would Pitt do? Would Pitt follow them, try to keep Heinz for themselves, or explore other options? - h2p_5150
I don’t see Pitt going with them because I don’t see Pitt’s presence sweetening the pot for Butler County to invest in a new stadium. So I would guess they stay at Heinz. Or maybe they’ll tear down Forbes Quad or whatever it’s called now and build a stadium there. Back it right up against the library. And turn that grass patch between Hillman and the Carnegie Library back into parking, as it should be. And have all the concessions done by that guy - Scotty? - who had the hot dog cart outside Hillman; he always threw a piece of grilled chicken on top of the hot dog.

Over / under 4 true freshmen playing this year? - p45
That’s a good question. Let’s see: you assume a tight end and a running back will play, maybe a receiver, maybe a defensive back. That would be four. I don’t know. Maybe a push on four unless multiple tight ends or multiple running backs get on the field.

How has Tony Pilato looked in camp? I noticed he is routinely listed as the back-up LT. I think his standing with the team is interesting. Everyone likes to talk about the vets or the young freshman, and he straddles that group as a third year guy without experience. - turick44
We haven’t really seen much of him beyond watching him warm up and run around. He’s got the size, and like you said, he’s the backup left tackle. But, in a sense, he’s also kind of the third-string left tackle, since they’ve been holding Brian O’Neill to be cautious and working Jaryd Jones-Smith at left tackle, which means the plan in the event of an O’Neill absence would be to use Jones-Smith, not Pilato.

I see Dane Jackson and he just looks like a great athlete. If he has improved his cover skills could you see him being a big reason for the defense turning around as a unit? - LeftCoastPanther
Dane is a great athlete. No question about it. But he has yet to show how well he can play the ball. If I’m not mistaken, he was a running quarterback at Quaker Valley; he threw the ball, too, but my point is that he was not catching passes. He did have two interceptions in his senior season but still, we haven’t seen him show the ability to defend a pass at the college level.

He can run and jump with the best of him, but until he gets stronger with some of those instincts, his struggles will probably continue. If he can step it up - or if Motley or Coleman or anybody else can - then yes, it would be huge for the defense.

Will you find the time to read "Lost in Ambition?" - Iron99
My initial reaction is, no. But after thinking a little more about it…

No.

Although I will say, the possibility of having some characters and/or scenarios that are based on real life or composites of real life people is intriguing, since I might know some of the people who are models for those characters. So maybe.

But no.

If Pitt has an upset win who will it be against? If Pitt blows a game they should win who will it be against ? If you were given the option of having a down year and winning less than 5 games this season but you keep Narduzzi at Pitt another 3 years or Pitt wins 10 games and the ACC championship this yr but Narduzzi leaves right after the season which would you pick? - BP-DieHard-Army-Man
Pitt can upset Penn State. (I know I spent a lot of time talking about how tough that game will be, but in a game like that against a rival and all of the emotions and everything, an upset is definitely possible.)

Pitt can blow a game at Georgia Tech. (If you assume GT to be a team Pitt should beat.)

If one down year keeps Narduzzi at Pitt as opposed to one great year causing him to leave right away, then yes, I think it would be worth it.

Is there ever a time you come to the message boards, you see a title of a thread, you know what it's going to be about and you think "ahhhhh man this is going to be a pain in the behind to read and answer all these morons?" Lol - chadpapp
There have been times when I have known something is going on - maybe an injury or a disciplinary measure - but I’m waiting to iron out some details before I post something or formally report something, and I open the board to find a thread about that very topic. Those usually make my stomach drop a little bit.

Beyond that, there aren’t too many topics that give me that feeling.

Will Asamoah commit to Pitt and, if so, when? - upitt98
Ryan is more dialed into that situation than I am and he still seems to be confident, although the timeline is hard to nail down.

Given the recent JP Holtz comparison Tim Salem gave him, do you think Flanagan will be the #1 TE on the depth chart or would you expect that to be Clark? - h2p_5150
My guess is Chris Clark will be on top of the depth chart when the season opens, but regardless of how names are listed, both guys are going to play a lot. The coaches do seem to be really impressed with Flanagan, though.

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