Todd Graham had his opening news conference and it is clear he is excited to get started.
“The sense of anticipation is quite present in the building. It has been fast and furious to say the least,” Graham said. “I want to say of my players, how proud I am of them, how fortunate I am to be their coach. They have been through an awful lot and faced some adversity and responded like champions. I have been so impressed, I’ve asked them to trust me and I’m very thankful that they have.”
** Graham also had a message to the fans. “We want you to be new and improved as well,” Graham said. “We want to create an atmosphere like we’ve never had at Heinz Field. We want you to hear, feel and see Pitt football, we want it to be old fashioned football, very, very physical.”
**Safety Andrew Taglianetti was listed as a co-starter at spur linebacker but Graham clarified that by saying basically that Taglianetti is a nickel-back (much like Dom DeCicco last year) and will play the safety position as well as the spur in certain packages. Todd Thomas will be the spur in the base defense and in many of the base packages but there will be times Taglianetti is in the game because of his coverage skills and his knowledge of the defense. “He is a winner, he has done everything right and in my mind he’s a starter, but he is more of a nickel spur,” Graham said.
** Along those same lines, Lafayette Pitts is listed as a safety even though he’s played mostly corner during camp but Pitt is a “bandit safety” mostly because Graham said he is looking for more opportunities to get him in the game and the corner spot is locked down by Buddy Jackson, Antwuan Reed and Kwaun Williams. Pitts has practiced at safety this past week so he will likely get some snaps at this spot Saturday. “Lafayette is playing nickel corner and bandit safety but he is taking most of his snaps at boundary, bandit, safety,” Graham said. “He is going to help us this year.”
** The depth chart has both Trey Anderson and Mark Myers listed as the back-up quarterback but Graham said that Anderson would be the first guy in the game if something happened to Tino Sunseri. “Trey Anderson would probably be the first guy,” Graham said. “Both have battled hard and we have a lot of confidence in both of those guys. They are different and have a really diverse set of skills. But the first guy if something happens will be Trey.”
** Graham said he expects big things from Ejuan Price. “He gets better and better and better,” Graham said. He said there are a number of packages which will use both “Panther” linebackers at the same time. So expect to see Price and Brandon Lindsey on the field together some Saturday.
** One little surprise at inside linebacker (not really because it is what we’ve talked about all along) - Shane Gordon will start at SAM linebacker (inside linebacker) and Max Gruder will start at the Will (the other inside linebacker) spot. That means Tristan Roberts will be the first one off the bench at either spot. Graham basically said it like this – Gordon is the most explosive and athletic but he is young and inexperienced – so they want him on the field with one of the two experienced guys next to him helping him when he has questions. “Shane has had a tremendous camp, but we consider all three starters,” Graham said. “Max and Tristan tremendous experience and tremendous knowlegde of what they are doing. Shane is a tremendous physical talent. I think that reflects more potential.”
** Graham said Dan Mason (knee) is the only player who is out for the Buffalo game. That means presumably that Devin Street (head), Cam Saddler and Jason Hendricks (toe) are all ready to go.
** The Conference expansion game took another strange twist this weekend when conference presidents of the Big 12 got together on a conference call and discussed what to do if the conference loses Texas A&M – and that appears to be likely at least according to various public reports.
At any rate, a number of contingency plans were thrown out there on this conference call and one included the possibility of adding Pitt and West Virginia, along with the other pipe dreams of Notre Dame and Brigham Young.
Pitt has declined to comment on the report for two reasons – 1.) Pitt isn’t even remotely interested in the Big 12, a league which is less stable right now than the Big East and 2.) Pitt has never played the speculation game because it isn’t productive or useful. Remember a few years ago when there was all of this nonsense swirling about Steve Pederson calling meetings to tell athletes that Pitt was Big Ten bound – that is the kind of silliness they’d like to avoid.
Also, the report said Pitt’s name was mentioned, which should tell you how desperate that the Big 12 is becoming. And that is not a slam at Pitt at all, it is a fine institution with plenty to offer any league but the once-proud Big 12 is really going to try and poach teams in states far away? I’m sure a lot of names were thrown around – but that doesn’t mean those teams are any more interested than Pitt is.
If this were a meeting of ACC, SEC or Big Ten presidents and they were talking about Pitt and West Virginia, I’d say the Big East has something to worry about but the Big 12 doesn’t seem to make sense on any level and nothing I’ve heard about the subject of expansion over the past year would lead me to believe that this is even remotely being considered.
Frankly, the Big 12 would be better off taking a run at TCU, Houston and SMU and just hammering home their footprint in the midwest and Texas but here is the reason the conference is in trouble in the first place – because the other presidents have finally realized that they sold their soul to the Texas devil and there is no hiding from that. The fact that Texas was allowed to create its own television network – and now looks like it will be able to use it to show high school highlights and whatnot – has created an uneven playing field – and Texas A&M is the first (but won’t be the last) to cry foul and run for the hills.
Here is the other important factor to remember – The Big East is hoping to cash in big-time on a new television deal as they are the last major conference to get a deal done. The key is NBC Sports/Comcast is now in the market for college sports programming and the Big East is betting that having two suitors (ESPN being the other) will drive up their value. But they need to have a product worthy of their asking price and they are hoping that the lure of lots of television dollars will help them pry a few teams away from the other major conferences as opposed to just adding the Central Floridas and Southern Mississippis of this world.
** I will say this – don’t believe for a second that Pitt is so married to the idea of staying in the Big East that they will stand on the deck playing their cello while the ship around them sinks.
The university wants to be proactive on this and frankly wants the Big East to be more proactive than it has been. I think one of the most interesting pieces of information I gathered at the Big East meetings in Rhode Island a few weeks ago was that a group of athletic directors, led by Steve Pederson and Oliver Luck, are not happy with the way Big East commissioner John Marinatto has handled this expansion issue and they don’t think he’s acted fast enough – or decisively enough – to stabilize the conference.
That’s not to say there is a coup going on – yet – but the bottom line is Pederson and Luck and company would like to see a 12-team football league that is competitive, financially solid and will not be subject to these rumors of people leaving every year.
So while Pitt to the Big 12 isn’t likely – the idea of Pitt – and West Virginia for that matter -- leaving the Big East is more likely now than it has been in years and that’s mostly because these two universities want action and aren’t quite sure they’ve seen enough of it.
** I was willing to file this in the “water under the bridge” or “who cares” category and not even dignify it but now that I’ve heard this interview with Steve Pederson replayed on 93.7 the Fan at least three times this weekend and this subject was discussed last night by Chris Peak on the Fan, I will, against my better judgement but in the interest of fairness and “there are always two sides” go here ----
In case you missed it, late last week Steve Pederson was on "The Fan" and was asked about last season when the school made the decision to move the Utah game up in the schedule to be the opener. Pederson said he was not in favor of the move and said it was completely Dave Wannstedt’s call and that Wannstedt wanted to move the game up.
A former member of Wannstedt’s staff, however, heard about this and wanted to set the record straight (unsolicited, I might add) on this Utah game issue and said that was not at all the case.
He said that Pederson was indeed in favor of the move, every bit as much as Wannstedt was, and he said for Pederson to say anything different now is just not being honest (a “blatant lie” was the exact phrase to be accurate) and the equivalent of throwing Wannstedt under the bus instead of being stand-up guy.
His words, not mine.
Again, this such a stupid issue I don’t even know why it was brought up in the first place, especially ten days before the opener and I really don’t care who is telling the truth because it is water under the bridge to me. This divorce has been messy and both sides need to just let it go and move on with life.
The bottom line is a decision was made to move the game and they went and lost a football game that is irrelevant. But thanks to electronic media and the radio, I’ve gotten plenty of e-mails inquiring about it and people have been talking about it so here is, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story (at least as told by the other side…..)
** Graham was actually asked about Buffalo and he said that they are explosive on offense. “They are very much like teams I had at Tulsa, they are very skilled and [Quarterback] Chazz Anderson [he was at Cincinnati] is a very accurate passer,” Graham said. “They have three wide receivers who are special. They very well coached football team – it is about us and us going out and performing.”