The republicans in Congress love to hate on Obama and say NO to every plan he has to improve the lives of ordinary Americans. But do they have an alternative? Of course not. That would be expecting too much of these dedicated civil servants.
Pitt had its second scrimmage of training camp today, on a beautiful day at the team's South Side facility. The media weren't allowed to watch any of it, save for some special teams work and one play at the very beginning, but here are a few notes from what we did see, plus interviews afterwards.
- The defense won the scrimmage, though the offense got the final word in with a two-minute drill at the end of the session that was capped by a touchdown pass from Chad Voytik to Elijah Zeise.
- Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was, once again, displeased with Pitt's interior running game, though he attributed some of that to a "discombobulated" offensive line thanks to injuries. The one play we saw had a first team offensive line of Bisnowaty-Johnson-Officer-Herndon-O'Neill.
"We’ve had some injuries, but the next guy up’s got to be able to do it," Chaney said. "We preach that to our kids, you’re always an ankle [injury] away from getting on the field. I think now they’ve seen that."
I think Pitt has a pretty solid starting five at offensive line, but I'm not so sure about the depth if another guy gets hurt. It certainly isn't like last season when the Panthers had Jaryd Jones-Smith pushing for playing time as a sixth offensive lineman. With the injuries, though, Pat Narduzzi has said he doesn't expect Bookser or Rowell to miss any game-time, so if that's the case, Pitt should be fine when the season kicks off.
- Doesn't sound like James Conner got a whole lot of work today, but that's to be expected. The coaches are being careful with their star running back and Chaney said he's where they want him to be heading into the season.
- Over on defense, coordinator Josh Conklin said he's pleased with how the Panthers' defensive line depth is coming along. Darryl Render wasn't available in today's session, and in the one third-down package we saw, it looked like Mark Scarpinato is making a push for serious playing time in the rotation with K.K. Mosley-Smith and Tyrique Jarrett.
"I think they’re going to give people fits in the run game and saw some good things," Conklin said. "We went to some four-man pass rush today on third down, saw some good things out of those guys as well. They’ve just got to keep going."
- In the defensive backfield, the one third-down play we saw had Patrick Amara and Dennis Briggs with the starters in Pitt's nickel package. Afterwards, Conklin had praise for Briggs and Ryan Lewis as the two primary backups for Avonte Maddox and Lafayette Pitts right now. He also hinted that the strong safety spot could end up being a three-man rotation between Amara, Jevonte Pitts and Jordan Whitehead.
- Finally, over on special teams, it's easy to see why the coaches are high on Quadree Henderson. He had a couple of nice punt returns today and looks to have really good quickness and agility. He was working as the first-team punt returner, with Whitehead backing him up.
- Here are a few videos from what we got to see...
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The AP is set to release it's preseason Top 25 poll tomorrow afternoon. Once again, I'll be voting this year and releasing my ballot every week, along with some thoughts. Here's my preseason ballot...
- Ohio State
- Michigan State
- Georgia Tech
- Florida State
- Arizona State
- Ole Miss
- Boise State
- Ohio State at No. 1 is a pretty easy choice. No matter who the Buckeyes start at quarterback — personally, I think it'll be J.T. Barrett — they're loaded at just about every position. Winning back-to-back titles is really hard, but Ohio State has as good a chance as any team in recent memory.
- I might be bucking the trend a little bit going with Baylor over TCU at No. 2, but here's my thinking: I just flat-out trust Baylor's program a little bit more right now. It's really a razor-thin margin, but I have very little doubt that Art Briles will be able to develop Seth Russell into a super productive college quarterback. TCU was 4-8 just two years ago and, while the Horned Frogs are certainly title contenders, I'm not sure they're used to playing with a target on their backs.
- The next "group" I have is Michigan State, Oregon and Alabama. Michigan State might feel the loss of Pat Narduzzi on defense, but I think that'll likely be more of a long-term issue than one that will plague them this season. Oregon and Alabama are both two really solid programs that have some quarterback questions. Can Vernon Adams get up to speed quickly enough for the Ducks? Is Jacob Coker actually going to start for the Crimson Tide? I like both of those teams, but those concerns kept me from ranking them higher.
- Clemson will be an interesting team to watch this year. The Tigers have tons of potential on offense (if Deshaun Watson can stay healthy) but have to replace a lot of talent on defense. I think they're probably the favorites in the ACC, but it'd be a stretch for them to get into the playoff mix.
- I know Auburn is a team a lot of people are high on, but there are just too many unknowns to put them in the top five right now. Jeremy Johnson and Roc Thomas should provide Gus Malzahn with the tools for an explosive offense and Will Muschamp should improve the defense to at least respectable, but I'd like to see those things happen on the field before I totally buy in on the Tigers.
- UCLA is one of the tougher teams to figure out. The Bruins have enough talent at just about every position to be a title contender, but I just can't shake the notion that they're going to lose a game they shouldn't at some point. Plus, they'll likely be turning to true freshman Josh Rosen at quarterback. While Rosen is one of the best quarterback prospects in recent memory, that's still a lot of pressure to put on him.
- Notre Dame, in a sense, is pretty similar. The Irish are talented enough to get to the playoff, but — except for the 2012 season — Brian Kelly has never won more than nine games since he arrived there. They were decimated by injury last year, but return a ton on defense. If Malik Zaire can grab the reins at quarterback, the Irish might have a shot.
- Boise State will be a team to watch this year. The Broncos play Washington, BYU and Virginia in their non-conference schedule and, if they go 12-0, could cause a headache for the playoff committee.
- I think Arizona State has a chance to make some noise this season in the Pac-12. Mike Bercovici played a bunch at quarterback last year, and I think they've got enough talent on offense to be a contender in the Pac-12 South.
- Wisconsin will be an interesting team to watch. They're one of the most consistent programs in the country, but go into the season with new coach Paul Chryst. Chryst only had a so-so record at Pitt, but given how solid the Badgers are year-in, year-out (plus their soft schedule after Alabama in week one), 10 wins are certainly in play.
- I like BYU this year. Taysom Hill is back from injury, and one of the most exciting players to watch.
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-Happy 63rd birthday to former Penguins forward George Ferguson (right). Acquired in the 1978 offseason along with Randy Carlyle in a deal which sent Dave Burrows to the Maple Leafs, Ferguson spent parts of five seasons with the Penguins. In 1978-79, "Fergie" played in all 80 of the team's games while scoring 21 goals and 50 points. In seven postseason games that spring, Ferguson scored three points including a series-clinching overtime goal in a 4-3 victory in Buffalo in Game 3 of a quarterfinal series (below). The 1979-80 campaign saw Ferguson appear in 79 games while once again scoring 21 goals and 49 points. In that postseason, he played in five games and recorded three assists. Ferguson set a career high in goals (25) and scored 43 points in 1980-81. In five playoff games, he netted eight points. In 1981-82, Ferguson once again hit the 20-goal plateau with 22 goals and netted a career-high 53 points in 71 games. He would see action in five postseason games that spring and recorded one assist. After seven games and no points in 1982-83, Ferguson was traded to the Minnesota North Stars along with a draft pick in exchange for Ron Meighan, Anders Hakansson and a draft pick. In 310 games with the Penguins, Ferguson scored 195 points, 40th-most in franchise history. In 22 postseason games Ferguson scored 15 points.
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This week, the Steelers break camp at St. Vincent's College and we talk with Ed Bouchette and Gerry Dulac about the 2015 preseason, listen to excerpts of Mike Tomlin's press conference and Ed shares memories of his first training camp.