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Spring preview: Wide receivers

Written by Sam Werner on .

Projected depth chart (returning starters in italics)

1. Tyler Boyd, So., 6-2, 185 lbs
2. Kevin Weatherspoon, Sr., 5-10, 175 lbs
3. Ronald Jones, RS Jr., 5-8, 170 lbs
4. Chris Wuestner, RS So., 6-2, 205 lbs
5. Dontez Ford, RS So., 6-2, 200 lbs
6. Zach Challingsworth, RS Fr., 6-2, 185 lbs
7. Jester Weah, RS Fr., 6-3, 190 lbs
8. Adonis Jennings, Fr., 6-3, 190 lbs
9. Elijah Zeise, Fr., 6-2, 185 lbs
10. Jaquan Davidson, Fr., 6-2, 173 lbs

That depth chart up above is based on relative experience coming into the spring (keep in mind the freshmen on the bottom won't be here until June), but, really, the wide receiver depth chart might as well by Boyd and the a whole bunch of question marks. We know Tyler Boyd is coming back as one of the best receivers in the ACC, but part of the reason Boyd was so effective last season is that he had Devin Street to draw some coverages away from him. One of the big storylines this spring, summer and all the way up to next season will be who will seize the starting job opposite Street. Let's take a look at some of the contenders.
First, Kevin Weatherspoon is the most experienced guy coming back. He didn't have a catch coming into 2013, but had 14 grabs this past season (including a huge diving catch by the sideline to seal the win against Duke). Weatherspoon isn't the flashiest receiver on the roster, but there's something to be said for a guy with experience (especially with a coach like Chyrst, who values guys being able to execute their assignments). Ultimately, I see Weatherspoon's role probably being an expanded version of what he did this year. He's a reliable guy who probably fits best in the slot, rather than on the outside.
Ronald Jones and Dontez Ford are similar situations in that neither one played in 2013, but both practiced with the team. I know the staff has been very high on what Jones has done in practice and his attitude coming off the season-long suspension. I suspect he'll definitely be in the mix for playing time in 2014. Pitt fans have a bit of an idea about Jones (a smaller guy who, again, probably fits best in the slot). Ford is a bit more of a mystery. He has the size to play outside, but it's tough to say exactly how he fits into the offense because he spent pretty much all of 2013 (except for the bowl games, and we didn't get to watch practice) on the scout team. That'll be something to watch the spring.
Christ Wuestner probably has the best prototypical size for an outside guy, but only had one catch in 2013. He didn't get a ton of targets, but never seemed to come down with the ones he did get.
The final grouping is the two redshirt freshmen, Challingsworth and Weah. Challingsworth drew some rave reviews from coaches (and from Boyd) for his work during bowl practice last season, and Weah might be one of the most athletic guys on the team. Redshirt guys are always a bit of an enigma because they didn't get a ton of first-team work last season, but these two guys will be interesting to watch in the spring as they work with the first team.

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Goc followed brother's lead to the NHL - 03-14-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

How rare are German-born players in the NHL? Only 27 players from Germany (including West and East Germany) have played in the league throughout its history. That includes players such Dany Heatley and Walt Tkaczuk who were raised and trained in North America. 

To put that in perspective, the state of Pennsylvania has produced 28 NHL players.

The Goc family has accounted for two of those players from Germany with new Penguins center Marcel Goc being the most accomplished of the clan with 554 games of NHL experience. Older brother Sasha, a defenseman, played briefly with the Devils and Lightning in the early 2000s. Younger brother Nikolai is a defenseman with Adler Mannheim of Germany's DEL.

Acquired at the trade deadline last week from the Florida Panthers, Goc, 30, has carved out a nine-year career in the NHL as a dependable bottom-six center adept at killing penalties and winning faceoffs. In addition to the Penguins and Panthers, Goc has also spent time with the Predators and Sharks, the team which selected him in the first round of the 2001 draft.

The third German-born player to play for the Penguins (defenseman Sven Butenschon and center Randy Gilhen preceded him), Goc talked about his journey to the NHL earlier today:

How tough is it for a German to make the NHL?

"I guess it’s as tough for anybody else. Hockey in Germany is not as popular as we would like. Everything there is about soccer. That’s so huge in Germany and all over Europe. There’s some youth teams and youth programs that are getting better. I think we have a few young Germans here in the [North American] junior leagues. It’s not easy to make the NHL. You’ve got to make the transition to come over here and work your way up. I know some that tried it and were here for two, three or four years and they decided to go back to Germany. At one point, you’ve got to make a decision in your life if you want to keep trying or you want to go back."

Did you grow up a fan of any German players like Uwe Krupp?

"Yeah. That might be the biggest name in Germany. Everybody knows he won the Stanley Cup. He scored the [Cup-clinching goal for the Avalanche in the 1996 final]. He was the coach of the national team and right now, he’s coaching in Cologne in Germany and is pretty successful there. That’s one person everybody looked up at. Marco Sturm, Jochen Hecht, they were … I don’t know how many years before me … those are guys I watched coming over here. My older brother, Sasha, he’s four years older than me, he came over, stayed for four years. Was up and down. Played a few games in the NHL with New Jersey than he decided to go with his family to go back home."

At what point did you realize the NHL could be a realistic possibility?

“I kind of followed my older brother at that point. He made the step to the German league and I was like, ‘All right, I want to do that too.’ Then he was drafted and came over here [to the NHL]. I’m like, ‘I want to do that too.’ I guess maybe after I was drafted. I was like, ‘I’m drafted. It’s official. I might get a shot.’”

Are the Goc brothers the Staal brothers of Germany?

"Ha. I don’t know. There are two or three brother [groups in Germany]. There have been a few brothers playing hockey."

As a first-round pick, did you have to adjust your game at all to be more of a bottom-six forward?

"We had a real good team in San Jose just like we do here in Pittsburgh. You knew if you made a couple of mistakes, you would get skipped for a shift. You have to make sure to be certain if you make that play, it’s going to get done. Don’t turn pucks over and stuff. For me as a young guy, I don’t know if I changed my game. I just tried to play the right way."

So your style of play is pretty similar to when you broke in as a rookie?

"I think so."

Germany did not qualify for this year's Olympics. What was it like watching the tournament instead of playing in it?

"That was of course a big disappointment for us. It was the first time in history that we didn’t qualify. We had to go though a qualifying tournament last February when the [NHL] lockout was over. It was in Germany. Austria ended up winning our group by a point. We would have liked to be there but we’ll shoot for it in four years."

(Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

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New local eagle nest?

Written by John Hayes on .

SteveCline

A new bald eagle nest has been seen near Aliquippa, Beaver County, according to Post-Gazette reader Steve Cline. In his cellphone photo above, the nest is at the top left side of an electrical tower near the Ohio River.

Cline said the nest has been observed for months. Today, for the first time, two eagles were seen on the nest.

It would be the fourth active bald eagle nest site known to exist in Southwest Pennsylvania. The others are at Hays (where a live camera covers the birds 24/7), Harmar and Crescent.

The Beaver County site has not been confirmed by the state Game Commission.

 


 

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Why Hampton vs. New Castle is at Bethel Park

Written by Mike White on .

It's New Castle vs. Hampton IV. And why is it being played at Bethel Park, you may ask?

Because other bigger venues aren't available and it makes the most sense to the WPIAL and PIAA.

New Castle will play Hampton for the fourth time this season, Saturday afternoon at 2 at Bethel Park. Many are asking why Bethel Park? That's a natural question. But here is the scoop, straight from WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley:

Earlier this week, the WPIAL and PIAA started contacting facilities that could possibly play host to the game if it came about. The first call went to Duquesne University's Palumbo Center. Sorry, not available, said Palumbo officials. The next call went to Robert Morris. Sorry, not available. Slippery Rock University was called, and O'Malley said Slippery Rock said it is not available for PIAA games after Wednesday.

Ambridge is a good-sized gym and played host to New Castle-North Allegheny Wednesday night. Sorry, not available, said Ambridge officials.

So, the WPIAL and PIAA decided to go to the biggest high school gym in the WPIAL that was available. No, not Chartiers Valley. And no, not North Allegheny. It was Bethel Park, said O'Malley.

 

Bethel Park gym

Bethel Park opened a sparkling new gymnasium in January of 2012 and seating capacity is 2,450. Seats are even in the end zones. But the gym also has a track above the seats that circles the entire facility. The track will accommodate those people who have to stand. (Bethel Park gym photo courtesy of Mascaro Construction and Bethel Park)

Tickets will be hard to come by again for this game, but that's just the way it is. There is no reason to complain about the WPIAL or PIAA. It's one of those rare situations that a lot of people want to see these two teams play. It's a hot ticket. Sometimes tickets are hard to get, no matter the level. But actually, isn't this great for basketball in this area to have this much interest in games?

And sure, New Castle is 62 miles from Bethel Park (according to Mapquest) while Hampton is only 22. But it's the "state" playoffs. Sometimes because of the situation, you have to travel. New Castle fans, make a day of it. Head down I-79, stop for a late breakfast or early lunch, get off at the Bridgeville exit and head the back way over to Bethel Park.

Tickets today are available only at the two schools. Each school received 1,200 tickets. Both schools will probably sell their allotments. Heck, the way New Castle fans are, I wouldn't be surprised if New Castle's allotment was gone before athletic director Sam Flora finished breakfast.

Bethel Park athletic director Any Scheuneman said the school will put about 300 standing-room tickets on sale tomorrow, beginning at 1 p.m. Judging by the line to buy tickets for this game at Palumbo two weeks ago, it wouldn't surprise me to see people lining up at 9 tomorrow morning to get a ticket. It will be "breakfast at Bethel" for some.

"People say, 'What about the Petersen Center?' But that's not even realistic," said O'Malley. “People are of the opinion that we can go where we want for these games and that’s not true. For whatever reason, places weren’t available. Obviously, we’ve played games at North Allegheny and Chartiers Valley, but Bethel Park is a new gym with seating capacity that exceeds both of those places.

“We looked around to see what’s available. Bethel Park has the largest seating capacity of any gym available in the WPIAL. Yes, it’s probably off the beaten path, but if we put it in a place like Chartiers Valley, we’d have to turn away 400-500 more people, and there is nowhere for standing room like Bethel Park.”

 

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Empty Netter Assists - 03-14-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-Chris Kunitz and James Neal each skipped practice yesterday for what were described as "maintenance days."

-Things have changed quite a bit for the Flyers since the last time the Penguins played in Philadelphia.

-"You've got to beat the best to be the best. We seem to play better when we play teams that are atop the conference or are doing well." - Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds on playing the Penguins in back-to-back games this weekend.

-A breakdown of every game-winning goal, winning goaltender and coach within the 100 regular season wins by the Penguins against the Capitals.

-Lee Stempniak speaks:

-Marcel Goc:

-Will the drop in value for the Canadian dollar impact the salary cap?

-Former Penguins forward Petr Nedved announced his retirement at the age of 42. Nedved, who had not played in the NHL since 2006-07, played most recently for Bili Tygri Liberec of the ELH in the Czech Republic. In 982 career NHL games, Nedved scored 717 points. A member of the Penguins over parts of two seasons, Nedved appeared in 154 games with the Penguins and scored 170 points. In 23 postseason games with the Penguins, Nedved score 23 points including a game-winning goal in Game 4 of a 1996 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Capitals, a 3-2 win in four overtimes:

-Via Facebook, former Penguins captain Jaromir Jagr reminisced about Nedved and that long, victorious night:

 

-Former Penguins forward Troy Loney has become part of the ownership group of the USHL's Youngstown Phantoms.

-After the Jump: The Bruins keep winning and move ahead of the Penguins in the standings.

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