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Pregame Thoughts and Discipline Issues

Written by Paul Zeise on .

I've been a little under the weather so I am a little behind so I need to catch up on some things:

1.) Dave Wannstedt spoke about his view on discipline and his view on how he treats players who are in trouble. It is clear this guy cares about his players and it is also clear he takes very seriously his role as one of their primary mentors at a very critical stage in their life. He said several times - he gives parents his word that he'll do everything in his power to take care of their sons when they go to Pitt. And you know what - that's why he is a good recruiter, because it is easy to see he is being honest and genuine. Now how does that relate to his handling of these recent situations involving Jabaal Sheard, Jason Douglas (and by extension Dan Mason) and Keith Colemnan? Simple - he has, over the past five years, made it clear that he isn't just going to throw guys out on the street, he is going to work with them and he is not going to make any emotional, knee-jerk decisions. He is going to carefully consider all of the facts - including the outcome of the legal situations - consider the character of each guy involved and go from there. Often there are things guys do behind the scenes to get in trouble and they are never reported - then when they get into trouble with the law it may be their third or fourth offense.

But in case you were wondering, there is a certain theme to the way things go:

1.) If a guy gets in trouble with the law, he is suspended indefinitely until the legal process plays itself out. If it is a case of a guy getting in trouble in the offseason, well, the suspension may seem like it is meaningless because a guy doesn't miss any games. But guys are disciplined internally in that case, either by missing out on some team activities or by having to do more in terms of conditioning. At any rate the suspension is based on the outcome of the case. That's why in the case of Adam Gunn and Jabaal Sheard, they were reinstated - because charges were dropped completely against Gunn and dropped down to basically not much more than a parking ticket against Sheard. My guess is if Jason Douglas has all his charges dropped, he'll be reinstated as well though there doesn't seem much chance of that happening. Douglas is in serious trouble right now.

2.) Bar fights are not a big deal. Sorry, that's just reality. If two knotheads want to get all drunk up and knock each other around, who really cares. Dave Wannstedt or any other coach would ever say that publicly but I guarantee you that is the approach they take. If a guy gets drunk and gets into a fight, it is a slap on the wrist by the law and an even lighter slap on the wrist by the team. Think about it - the reason courts routinely throw charges out the door or make guys pay a fine for getting into a bar fight is courts don't want to deal with it or waste time with it. So it is usually a silly excercise to try and compare punishments or the way certain guys are dealt with with other guys because bar fights are not the same as stealing, robbing, doing drugs, sexually assaulting a woman and some of the other more serious crimes - including hitting someone in a car when you are driving drunk.

3.) If Wannstedt thinks he can save a guy he will give him a little more slack. Let's face it, some guys are just idiots who aren't going to get it and don't want to. Some, however,  just need a little more guidance and someone to take time to mentor them. It isn't about where a guy is on the depth chart as much as it is his attitude, how hard he works, how many times he's been in trouble before.

So in the future, when a guy gets in trouble, before making the knee-jerk "kick this guy out of school" reaction, consider all these factors. And remember, if a guy is in a bar fight it isn't the end of the world - bar fights - or fights at parties or outside bars or parties when guys have been drinking and presumably trying to impress women by being loud and/or obnoxious (yes, let's face it, when you are young and dumb, you think being loud gets the girl)-- happen just about every night of the week in every bar district in America. Yes, we need to take them to jail and let them sleep it off, yes, we need to fine them and ask them not to do it again and yes, in some cases maybe a game or two off is warranted - but let's not go crazy every time it happens - at any school, not just Pitt.

Yes, guys need to use better judgement and learn to walk away but when they don't, it isn't something worthy of a public flogging or hanging. And it certainly isn't the same as when a guy gets into real trouble by doing something legitimately criminal.

*** The linebacker rotation tonight will be interesting to watch if only for this: Dan Mason is being punished for his poor judgement in the Douglas incident but understand this - he is also getting a bit of a wake up call because of some things he's blown off academically and his performance on the field has also not been what it needs to be. I know there is some sentiment that this demotion isn't really a punishment, it is just cosmetic and Mason will be back in there after the first series. I doubt it, in fact, it won't shock me if it lasts longer than just one game. Mason has a lot of work to do in order to get back into the good graces of the coaching staff - the situation with Douglas was just the final straw. And here is another thing - if it works out with Max Gruder in the middle, Greg Williams at strongside and Tristan Roberts at weakside, it could mean Mason, as opposed to Roberts, becomes the fourth linebacker.

** Another position to watch is left guard. If Chris Jacobson is healthy enough to play, you'll see him there and that's significant because it means Ryan Turnley will be free to play right guard. And if that is the case, it will mean that Greg Gaskins will be on a short leash. Gaskins has to play much better than he has but the problem coaches have is a lack of viable alternatives. And if Turnley isn't available because he is playing on the left side, well, then there isn't anybody to push Gaskins. That is the same issue the coaches are having with Jack Lippert. They would love to get him into the rotation at guard but he has had to spend so much time at center as Alex Karabin has been a little banged up and coaches have tried to get him some rest and time off in the past two weeks. Karabin is apparently fine and will start tonight but in the mean time, Lippert wasn't able to get enough work at guard to be a viable option for this game.

** Tonight will mark the debut of T.J. Clemmings and while it isn't clear how much he will play, this much is clear - I'd expect his time to increase each week as he gains experience and earns the trust of the coaches. He is 300-pounds, he is physically ready and he is much more of a legitimate three-down player than Brandon Lindsey, who is excellent against the pass, but at 255 pounds is not built to be a run stopper. I'm interested to see how Clemmings plays because if he is as good as advertised, or anywhere close, it would soften the blow of losing Greg Romeus a lot.

** Tune into 1250-AM (ESPN Radio Pittsburgh) from 6:00 to 7:30 tonight and listen to the pregame show with Chris Peak from Pantherlair and myself. We will be discussing all things Pitt and we will break down the Hurricanes as well as all the matchups.

** Also, during the game join Ray Fittipaldo in an interactive chat at post-gazette.com. He will be doing these chats during this and every Pitt game so tune in and share your thoughts about the game and ask questions. It should be a good time for all involved.

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