Mayor Peduto is so accessible, I wouldn't be surprised if he started his own reality show. In case you haven't seen it yet, check out the awesome Eagle Cam on the PG web site.
Pitt had its 15th and final spring practice down on the South Side today. It was a bit of an abbreviated session with some fun thrown in at the end, but here are a couple of notes...
- Redshirt sophomore cornerback Jahmahl Pardner was absent today, and Paul Chryst said after practice that Pardner has decided to leave the team (though he is still enrolled at the university). I would imagine that Pardner will likely finish up this semester at Pitt and then transfer somewhere else to continue his football career. He came on with some really good promise early in the 2012 season as Pitt's starting nickelback, but tore his ACL against Virginia Tech and really was never the same after that. He came back to a much more limited role last year, but was fighting for playing time heading into 2014. It likely would've been an uphill battle — Lafayette Pitts, Trenton Coles and Titus Howard are both ahead of him at cornerback and Reggie Mitchell appeared to have passed him in nickel situations, too — but he likely would've seen some sort of role on the team next year.
That said, though, if there's one position Pitt could probably afford to take a hit depth-wise, it's in the secondary. The Panthers have all the guys I mentioned above, plus four more defensive backs coming in this summer as freshmen. It's never good to lose a guy who could've contributed but this is a much better situation than if Pitt had lost, say, a defensive end (where depth is pretty dire).
- Pitt was in full pads today, something they haven't done too much this spring (usually they haven't been wearing leg pads) but didn't tackle to the ground in any of their drills. They did some scrimmage-type stuff, but running backs stayed upright the whole time.
- In said scrimmage situations, the secondary looked pretty active early on with Howard, in particular, logging a couple of breakups. Terrish Webb, who appears to have locked down the starting safety job next to Ray Vinopal, also made a couple of nice plays. Those two guys have had really good springs, and will be critical pieces for Pitt next season.
"Those guys both have a lot of ability," Vinopal said. "Everyone on the team knows that and they trust their ability. It's just getting the mental side of the game down, and they're putting their time in in the meeting room, studying, watching film. They definitely are getting it. I'm very comfortable with both of them on the field, everybody on the back end I'm comfortable with."
- Wide receiver Jester Weah had a nice practice today. He beat Coles deep on a route in third-down drills, and also had a couple of nice touchdown catches in red zone drills. The first one was over Coles and the second one came over Pitts on a nice back shoulder throw from Voytik. I think Weah's still probably towards the back of the line when it comes to receivers who will see the field for Pitt in 2014, but his raw potential is so tantalizing that whenever you see flashes of it, it's impossible not to wonder what happens if he figures out how to harness that rawness into football ability.
- JP Holtz also had some nice grabs down in the red zone. Obviously he's a nice target down there, but last year Pitt had to keep him in and block so much to make up for offensive line deficiencies, he really wasn't deployed as an offensive weapon to his full potential. I think there will still be a lot of that in 2014, but if they can let Holtz loose a little bit more, he seems to do a good job creating space and getting open around the end zone.
- Sticking with tight ends, Voytik appears to have a good connection with Scott Orndoff. He has looked for him a lot this spring, and today had two long completions to convert 3rd-and-15 and 3rd-and-18 situations. Orndoff lost the end of last year with an injury, but showed good potential as a receiver early on in the season.
- I'm interested to see how Dontez Ford fits into the offense next season. He's a guy who has clearly been getting more and more work (and, appropriately, getting better and better) as spring has progressed. They seem to like him a lot on short crossing routes, and he caught a couple of passes in those situations today. He looks noticeably trimmer and more in-tune with the offense than he did even in Detroit last year (where he saw some limited action).
- Pitt ended practice today with some fun stuff to send the players off into summer. First it was offensive and defensive linemen catching punts (most of them did all right), followed by a team-wide game of dodgeball. It ultimately ended with a few defenders against backup quarterback Trey Anderson, but Anderson rallied and pared it down to just he and Coles. After a brief wrestling match, it looked like Coles got the final throw in on Anderson. Here's video of the whole game...
I'll have some more stuff coming later this week, including trying to piece together what the depth chart will probably look like come August, so stay tuned.
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Some items that fell off my laptop.
Streaking has become popular in WPIAL baseball this spring, and nobody has taken off their clothes.
This blog has documented impressive streaks of Blackhawk's Brendan McKay and Norwin's J.J. Matijevic. McKay hasn't allowed a run in 37 innings dating back to last season. Matijevic has hit a home run in six consecutive games and is riding a string of 10 consecutive hits.
Add Canon-McMillan's Teagan Piechnick to those who have had a memorable streak. Piechnick, a senior center fielder, also had a streak of 10 consecutive hits. He had 16 plate appearances in the streak that included six walks, which meant he reached base 16 consecutive times. The streak ended Monday with a flyout against Peters Township.
During the streak, Piechnick had four home runs, three doubles and three singles. He had 12 runs and 10 RBIs during the streak.
For the season, he is batting .633 (19 of 30) with an on-base percentage of .744. He has six home runs and 17 RBIs. He has helped Canon-McMillan to a 7-2 record.
***** Weather-wise, this is starting to look like a bad year for spring sports. Baseball and softball teams are starting to get behind in games played. This is only year after this area had one of the best springs for sports. There were very few bad weather days last year.
***** It was interesting to see one of the MVPs in Saturday's Roundball Classic all-star basketball games. It was Elijah Cottrill of Beaver Falls. He got the MVP for the Class AA team.
Cottrill didn't play for Beaver Falls from mid-January on - because of a knee injury. Cottrill also missed most of football season because of an injury to the same knee.
The Roundball was Cottrill's first game since he sustained the injury. Cottrill was considered a Division I college prospect and made the Post-Gazette Fabulous 5 as a junior. Creighton offered him a scholarship during his junior year. He accepted a football scholarship from Akron last summer, but the two eventually parted ways.
Cottrill (pictured) might still have Division I basketball in the future, but only after a year or two. Academic issues will force him to either a prep school or a junior college. There is a chance he might attend Polk, a junior college in Florida. Polk is coached by former Robert Morris coach Matt Furjanic. Former Beaver Falls star Sheldon Jeter is attending Polk this school year, but not playing basketball. Jeter played as a freshman at Vanderbilt, left after one year and will play for Pitt next year.
Lance Jeter is another Beaver Falls player who played at Polk before signing and playing at the University of Nebraska.
***** Will former Plum star Nolan Cressler be the next WPIAL player who wasn't heavily recruited in high school but makes a name for himself at the big-time college level? Cressler played at Cornell of the Ivy League the past two seasons before deciding to leave the team after this school year. He accepted a scholarship from Vanderbilt last night.
Notre Dame, Dayton and Rutgers also had offered scholarships and a number of other teams were interested in him. Plum coach Ron Richards said Michigan might have offered a scholarship any day. All of those big-time schools don't show interest or offer a scholarship to a marginal player.
A few former WPIAL/City League players did very well this season after transfers. Chartiers Valley's T.J. McConnell transferred from Duquesne to Arizona, and Schenley's DeAndre Kane transferred from Marshall to Iowa State.
Cressler is a shooting guard who led Cornell in scoring this past season at 16 points a game. This should tell you how much Vanderbilt wanted Cressler: After Cressler got his release from Cornell, Vanderbilt's entire staff flew to Cornell to meet with him.
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Three-fifths of Eviction will take the stage at the 31st Street Pub (Strip) Friday with the debut of Volcano Dogs, but don’t expect that same thrash-metal sound from the ’80s.
“Eviction was metal with some punk tossed in,” says bassist Ted Williams. “Volcano Dogs has some of that but we are definitely not thrash or metal or punk. This band is a mixture of all the music we grew up on, listened to and played in our various bands: metal, hard rock, punk, ’70s rock, Swedish rock scene, you name it. I think there is everything from AC/DC to the Dead Boys to the Hellacopters, Motorhead, the Stones, you name it.”
Volcano Dogs reunites Williams with guitarist Rob Tabachka and drummer Ron Reidell, and adds frontman Bruce Lentz from horror-rock band Forbidden 5.
“After Eviction broke up, we all went in some direction — some band, some life, the typical, ya know,” Williams says.
He and Tabachka formed Pilsner, and Tabachka also went on to play in Silver Tongue Devil and Kabuki Thunder.
Recently, the moment arrived for the trio to start working together again.
“Ron, who had focused on family life, went and bought a new drum kit,” Williams says. “Rob had a handful of riffs and played them to me and we started to just get a feel of maybe the time was right to try something. Rob brought up bringing in Bruce to try out writing some lyrics and it just started to come together from there.”
The three Eviction guys hadn’t played together since 1990, but Williams says, “We locked right in like it was 1989 again!”
With seemingly every band on Earth having reunited at some point, will Eviction ever bite?
“Maybe someday. We do have a vinyl LP release of the re-mastered ‘Who Will Win’ demo coming in late spring,” Williams says.
Also on the bill Friday at 10 p.m. are Thunder Vest and Del Rios.
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Penguins vs. Blue Jackets
Penguins Leading Regular Season Scorer: Sidney Crosby (right), 104 points (36 goals, 68 assists).
Blue Jackets Leading Regular Season Scorer: Ryan Johansen (below), 63 points (33 goals, 30 assists).
Penguins Expected Starting Goaltender: Marc-Andre Fleury, 39-18-5, 2.37 GAA, .915 SV%.
Blue Jackets Expected Starting Goaltender: Sergei Bobrovsky, 32-20-5, 2.38 GAA, .923 SV%.
Penguins Injuries: Center Evgeni Malkin (foot) is questionable. Center Marcel Goc (ankle) is out. Right winger Chris Conner (hand), Pascal Dupuis (knee), center Joe Vitale ("upper body") and goaltender Tomas Vokoun (blood clot) are on injured reserve.
Blue Jackets Injuries: Left wingers Nick Foligno ("lower body"), R.J. Umberger ("upper body") and defenseman Ryan Murray (knee) is questionable. Right winger Nathan Horton (abdominal) is out.
Penguins with Stanley Cup bling: Craig Adams, RW; Sidney Crosby, C; Pascal Dupuis, RW; Marc-Andre Fleury, G; Chris Kunitz, LW; Kris Letang, D; Evgeni Malkin, C; Brooks Orpik, D; Rob Scuderi, D.
Blue Jackets with Stanley Cup bling: Nathan Horton, LW.
Something worthwhile about the Penguins: The Penguins had the league's best power play this past regular season at a success rate of 23.4 percent.
Something worthwhile about the Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets lost all five regular season games against the Penguins this season.
Something useless about the Penguins that is vaguely connected to the Blue Jackets: Former Blue Jackets goaltender Ron Tugnutt holds the Penguins' record for most saves in a postseason game. In five overtimes, he made 70 saves in a 2-1 loss to the Flyers in Game 4 of a 2000 Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Something useless about the Blue Jackets that is vaguely connected to the Penguins: The only bench minor in the Blue Jackets postseason history - a too many men penalty - was served by former Penguins xx Jason Williams against the Red Wings in Game 4 of a 2009 Western Conference quarterfinal series.
Former Blue Jackets on the Penguins: None.
Former Penguins on the Blue Jackets: Mark Letestu, C; Todd Richards, head coach (Richards was formerly the head coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins), Ville Siren, head amateur scout.
Who needs to be the difference for the Penguins: Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik. They serve as the team's shutdown defensive pairing. With the Blue Jackets dealing with injuries up front, center Ryan Johansen must carry more of the their offense. Martin and Orpik will presumably get the bulk of assignments against his line.
Who needs to be the difference for the Blue Jackets: Sergei Bobrovsky. He has to steal games. Given his history of success in Consol Energy Center, that's not an outlandish suggestion.
Best Penguins YouTube Video We Could Find: Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik's series clinching overtime goal in a 4-3 win against the Islanders in a 2013 Eastern Conference quarterfinal:
Best Blue Jackets YouTube Video We Could Find: Blue Jackets left winger R.J. Umberger scoring a backhanded goal against the Red Wings in Game 4 of a 2009 Western Conference quarterfinal series:
EN Prediction: The Blue Jackets simply don't have a the numbers to run with the Penguins, especially given their recent outbreak of injuries up front. The games will be tight but the Penguins should win this quickly. Penguins 4-1.
(Photos: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images and Leon Halip/Getty Images)