In order to avoid the wrath of noted media watchdog Greg Giannotti , I figured I better post the injury report for Pitt this week.....
PITTSBURGH (Oct. 16 at Syracuse)
Greg Romeus, DE Back
Shane Johnson, OL Foot
K'Waun Williams, DB Knee
Andrew Taglianetti, DB Knee
Greg Williams, LB Ribs
Out For Season
Dan Mason, LB Knee
T.J. Peeler, RB Knee
Todd Thomas, DB Knee
** Now, what does it all mean? It means we are not likely to see much of the dime, nickle, bandit - etc., etc. -- packages because the two main nicklebacks - Andrew Taglianetti and K'Wuan Williams - are out for the game, well in Taglianetti's case he isn't officially out but if he isn't 100 percent he won't be in the defense. Now, it isn't a big deal if the Panthers need a fifth defensive back on the field because of the way they've used Dom DeCicco in recent weeks. He'd just serve as sort of the nickleback. But the only other experienced defensive back is Buddy Jackson, so the dime package - or buck or whatever you want to call it - could look a little bit different. It shouldn't be a big deal this week because Syracuse is not a spread offense but it is still good information to know because it means the Panthers probably can't afford any of their secondary guys to get hurt in this game. Again, the Orange are a traditional pro-style offense so it won't be as noticeable as it might have been next week but it will still be a potential issue.
** Greg Williams on the probable list means he will be available to play but seeing as he has been one of the players who coaches would like to see play much better. This injury setback, however, combined with the fact that the Orange do indeed play a pro-style offense - and thus Pitt will want to matchup with more linebackers - might very well mean we could see Shane Gordon playing some at strongside linebacker for the first time. Coaches have wanted to get him in there a little bit and see what he can do but against those spread teams, it was hard to find the right situations for a guy who hasn't played before. That could be interesting because Gordon is a big hitter but he still has a lot to learn. I'll be interested to see if coaches actually pull the trigger and let him play a few plays.
** One other player who Dave Wannstedt hinted might make an appearance this week - and if it doesn't happen this week it could in the next few weeks - is freshman defensive end Bryan Murphy. That is interesting because you'd like to think they'd want to redshirt him but the bottom line is, Wannstdt said he has been too good to keep out of the lineup. In fact, he said before he got hurt, Murphy had probably moved ahead of Brandon Lindsey for that third defensive end spot. I know you want to get the best players on the field, but unless Murphy is really going to be an impact player - as in change the defense --- I'm not sure if it is worth breaking his redshirt at this point in the season. That's especially given that T.J. Clemmings is already playing. Before the season it was going to be an either-or sort of thing - if Murphy played, Clemmings would redshirt but once Murphy got hurt, Clemmings became the one who had to play.
Now, all of that being said, if Murphy plays it means they want to get him and Clemmings ready to be the starters next year since both Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard are graduating. If that is the case, then playing them both this year makes sense as it means you are setting up your defensive end tandem for the future. Like the Shane Gordon situation, it will be very interesting to watch how they use Murphy in the next few weeks.
** Speaking of Greg Romeus - and I did on Wednesday - all of the news is very positive.Dave Wannstedt said he expects him to be back in three or four weeks and Romeus concurred. The target game is Louisville but he said Connecticut might be more realistic since there is a bye week in between Louisville and Connecticut so that would give him some extra time to really be ready and make sure everything is 100 percent healed and rehabbed. He said as of right now, though, everything feels good and he said he hasn't felt this good in a long, long time.
** Syracuse is a great example of how fleeting a passionate fan base can be if a team doesn't win and clearly the Greg Robinson era really put the fan base asleep. I remember when the Carrier Dome was one of the most hostile environments to play in. The last two times Pitt played up there at the Dome the atmosphere has been horrible - few fans and very little energy, which is the double whammy for making a Dome a terrible place to watch a game. So along with rebuilding the program, the recruiting base and winning games, second-year coach Doug Marrone has been charged with waking up a fan base that has been asleep for a long time. Which brings me to this point - this game has been dubbed an "Orange out" or whatever the heck it is being called and given the team is 4-1, there was a concerted effort to get fans into the stands. Yet as of earlier this week, the school announced it had only sold 35,000 tickets. Now, I'm sure by now the number will be higher - but that is an important lesson about just how high the stakes are every time a coach is hired. A few bad seasons or worse, a few bad seasons of dull, uninteresting football like Syracuse played, can really set a program back a lot with its fan base. If Syracuse continues to win it will eventually get its fans back but the problem is, every little losing streak will likely illicit the "here we go again" feeling and my guess is filling up the Dome consistently will be a struggle for at least another year or so until the Orange prove they are legitimately on the road back.
** Make sure you log in to our game day live chat with Ray Fittipaldo. He will field all of your questions before and during the game and provide insight and analysis as the game unfolds.
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