Context, context, context: On Dana Holgorsen and his recruiting comment

Written by Stephen J. Nesbitt on .

Context counts but is often missed in this high-speed, 140-character world.

Yesterday, during Dana Holgorsen's twice-weekly press conference, he was asked about how the NCAA's new regulations on unlimited meals and snacks would affect recruiting. He said, in short, that some schools will use it to their advantage.

The Charleston Daily Mail's Mike Casazza, who has a good story today on the actual topic, asked this follow up question: "Your hands are full right now, but is there time you have to set aside to say, 'When we pitch [to recruits], here's how we pitch it,' or is that down the road still?"

Holgorsen's reply: "It’s more about what reality is. You lie in recruiting a bunch, that's just kind of part of it. You become a salesman. But what are we actually doing? How much are we actually feeding our guys? What are we actually giving our guys? Our job is to get kids on campus, and while they're on campus our kids do a lot of recruiting. They spend a lot of time with the players. I encourage recruits to ask a lot of questions about how we really are, about how it really is here. We encourage that. So the players aren't going to lie to them. Whatever we’re able to do for them, administratively, that will either work to our advantage or our disadvantage."

I was not at the press conference but was watching on a live stream. The start of Holgorsen's quote actually made me laugh. It was a funny, off-the-cuff throwaway remark. So, I tweeted it, not thinking it would gain any major attention.

OK, let's deal with just that for now. Did Holgorsen say this: "You lie in recruiting a bunch, that's just kind of part of it. You become a salesman"? Yes. Was it on the record? Yes. So, is anybody allowed to tweet it? Sure.

But it also is a strange thing for a coach to admit to, so context is important. I initially tried to add context to the tweet, something like "Dana Holgorsen on new NCAA food rules ..." but since his answer was rather circuitous and didn't directly address the food issue at all, I opted to just go with the straight quote and add context with follow-up tweets. I came back a few minutes later after transcribing and added these: 

But Twitter cares not for context.

Within a few hours there were headlines on CBS, NBC, NFL, SBNation and Yahoo dot coms, among many others, saying: HOLGORSEN: 'YOU LIE IN RECRUITING A BUNCH' and linking to my singular tweet. Now, if I were truly trying to troll, I'd have posted a story ASAP with a similar headline, but I thought Holgorsen's comment was funny/interesting, not revealing some sort of ugly truth.

Now, if we're looking at the actual quote, yes, coaches lie all the time in recruiting. Doesn't everyone lie a little when trying to entice somebody to join their crusade? The big sticking point here is the word "lie," I'm sure. It wouldn't have been a problem had Holgorsen said coaches "overhype" or "oversell" themselves to recruits. Pumping your own tires a bit just makes sense, right?

The headlines yesterday were written as if Holgorsen had stood up and delivered some smoking hot take on the sad state of recruiting in our great nation, which wasn't the case. It was a half-joking aside while talking about food. It was a weird thing to say (or just a weird way to say it), he would admit, but context was needed, and in retrospect I wish I could have peppered some context into the initial tweet. It's these sort of headlines that lead a coach to shut down with the media, and no beat reporter wants that.

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Basketball Study Hall: Karvel Anderson's historic 2014 season

Written by Craig Meyer on .

This season, I'm going to try what I hope will be a weekly feature on the blog in which I examine some of the advanced statistical trends behind Robert Morris' team and players, the kind that may provide some explanation as to why they are performing a certain way (and what it means). I figured I'd give it a preseason run to work out some kinks and see how it plays with you all.

Originally, this post was supposed to be about something else entirely. For those who didn't see it, The Washington Post did an interesting statistical piece yesterday in which they came up with a formula estimating how much each college basketball player was worth to his team, monetarily speaking.

Branching off that idea, I was hoping to do a post in which I used that formula to examine how much each Robert Morris player was worth. Unfortunately, as a private school, RMU can be a little dubious with its revenue/expenses numbers, so there was no real way for me to figure out how much the program made last season, something which made figuring out the individual worth of players impossible without any kind of speculation.

One nugget in that formula, though, did lead to some interesting research. Part of figuring out a player's worth revolved around win shares. In short, win shares take a team's overall number of wins and figure out what percentage of those wins could be attributed to each player based on their statistical contributions. You can think of it like a pie, with the more important players being given a larger slice based on how they performed (though if you've divvying up a pie among a 12-member basketball team, everyone's still going to be pretty hungry).

What I found from looking at win shares was something that I believed to be a fact and routinely mentioned near the end of last season -- that Karvel Anderson may have had the most statistically impressive season of any player in Robert Morris' modern history.

Anderson's win share number was 6, meaning he was effectively responsible for more than one-quarter of the Colonials' victories last season. On the surface, that number may not mean much, but according to Basketball Reference, that win share mark was the highest in program history, which on that site goes back to 1997, as far as advanced stats like win shares are concerned.

Player Season Win Shares
Karvel Anderson 2013-14 6
Jeremy Chappell 2008-09 5.7
Velton Jones 2011-12 5.3
Gene Nabors 1999-2000 5.1
Jeremy Chapell 2007-08 4.8
Tony Lee 2007-08 4.8

Of course, those numbers don't exist in a vacuum. A player's win share is dependent on how many games his team wins, so a player can be incredibly valuable, but if his team wins only, say, 10 games, his number can only be so high. It's also possible that last season was a statistical aberration since Robert Morris played about half of its games with only eight players. When you're sharing the proverbial pie with fewer people, your slice is inevitably going to be bigger than it would be otherwise.

But there's more to back up this idea that Anderson's season was something special. And it lies with offensive rating.

A product of a complicated formula developed by analyst Dean Oliver, offensive rating is something of a catch-all number that measures an individual player's efficiency on the offensive end. Unlike his win share number, Anderson's offensive rating of 129 was not only the highest in Robert Morris history, but also Northeast Conference history. History, in this case, goes back to 2004, when began keeping track of the number for all Division I teams.

Player Team Season % of minutes played Offensive rating
Karvel Anderson Robert Morris 2013-14 76.1 129
Nolan Long Wagner 2013-14 11.6 126.8
Tyler Murray Wagner 2011-12 76.9 121.5
Coron Williams Robert Morris 2010-11 48.7 120.8
Jimmy Langhurst Robert Morris 2008-09 65.6 120.5
Jalen Cannon St. Francis (NY) 2011-12 61.1 119.9
Lenny Jefferson CCSU 2005-06 66 119.5
Coron Williams Robert Morris 2011-12 67.6 119.5
Karvel Anderson Robert Morris 2012-13 58.7 119.3
Jason Brickman LIU Brooklyn 2010-11 56.7 119.2

I wanted to make sure to include percentage of total minutes played because, as you can see with the second name listed, there are players who are hyper-efficient in very limited minutes and thus their number is inflated compared to what may be their actual value.

What the chart shows is that Anderson, even while playing a good deal of minutes, managed to remain an incredibly efficient and productive offensive player. Theoretically, the more a player is on the court, a more things have a tendency to even out, especially if that player is a team's star player and has to do a larger share of the team's work. In those situations, those stars are often forced into contested (and sometimes outright bad) shots and they are a much more focal part of an opposing team's defensive game plan.

Given that reality, it makes Anderson's performance that much more impressive than even traditional stats like points per game and 3-point field goal percentage indicate. And when you combine it with something like win shares, you get something truly special.


Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

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Vacation post - 08-12-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


-Happy 61st birthday to former Penguins defenseman Greg Fox. Acquired midway through the 1983-84 season in a deal which sent Randy Boyd to the Blackhawks, Fox spent parts of two seasons in Pittsburgh. He finished 1983-84 by appearing in 49 games and scoring seven points for the Penguins. The 1984-85 campaign saw him play in 26 games and score seven points. He retired following the season. In 75 games with the Penguins, he scored 14 points.


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Talkin' Bout Practice: August 11

Written by Sam Werner on .

IMG 9846Most of Pitt's players got the day off Sunday (the younger players had a practice/walk through in the evening), but the team was back on the field Monday morning. In case you missed it, here's my notebook from today's PG, which leads off with Paul Chryst voting in favor of power five conference teams only playing one another in an ESPN poll.

Back to today's practice, the Panthers started outside despite some rainy weather, but moved to the indoor facility about halfway through when the heavier stuff started to come down. Here are a few notes from the session...

- A number of players missed all or part of practice with injuries, so let's go through those one by one. Cornerback Lafayette Pitts did not practice with what appeared to be a continuation of something he aggravated in Saturday's session, but Chryst said he expected him back for the night session of Monday's two-a-day. With Pitts out, freshman Avonte Maddox got a lot of work with the first team and, for the most part, held his own out there. I'll have more in a story on Maddox later this week, but he's virtually a certainty to play as a true freshman at this point. In his position at boundary corner, he's been going up against Tyler Boyd a lot. That can certainly be challenging, as Boyd is, well, rather good, but Maddox said he enjoyed it because it makes him better every practice. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised to see Maddox challenging for a starting job by the end of the season. He's definitely on the small side, but he runs well and isn't afraid to go up against bigger guys. He has definitely been the biggest pleasant surprise of training camp so far for Pitt.

- Defensive linemen Tyrique Jarrett and K.K. Mosley-Smith also both missed most or all of today's session with nagging injuries (for the record, Chryst said he didn't think any of the injuries are long-term). Their absence left a big void in the middle of the defensive line, so Darryl Render got a slightly heavier workload, and guys like Justin Moody, Jeremiah Taleni and even Connor Dintino got some work with the first team. Defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield said last week that, of the two freshman defensive tackles, Dintino is closer to being ready to play than Mike Herndon. I don't think it's a slam dunk, but Dintino could be a dark horse candidate for a freshman that sees the field this year. Breckterfield said he would ultimately like to get four or five guys in the defensive tackle/nose tackle rotation, and if Render, Mosley-Smith, Jarrett, Moody and Taleni aren't up to the task, I could definitely see Dintino sneaking in there as maybe a fourth option.
"I think they're starting to know where to go," Chryst said of his young defensive tackles after practice. "That's from the young guys' stuff (post-practice scrimmaging). We're going to need to keep building our depth there with everyone healthy. They have a ways to go still, but they go hard and they've got some stuff to them. All the line, young o-linemen and young d-linemen, it's knowing what to do and I think they're getting there, but then it's just the technique stuff and understanding the pad-level."

- Freshman receiver Adonis Jennings also sat out today's session. No word on his status other than that, as with the rest, Chryst doesn't think it's serious.

- Redshirt senior linebacker Todd Thomas suffered a left leg injury during an 11-on-11 drill about halfway through practice and spent the remainder of the session sitting on the trainers table and, from the sounds of it, complaining about how he felt he was cut block by an offensive player. Again, no word on the severity of the injury, but given that he stayed out at practice, I can't imagine it's too serious.
With Thomas out, it looks like the Panthers have Anthony Gonzalez switch over to weak-side linebacker, and then put Bam Bradley on the field at Gonzalez's usual strong-side spot. Gonzalez can play both positions (he did last year) and the staff probably views Bradley as their best non-starting linebacker, so it's a move that's really about getting the most talent on the field.

- Isaac Bennett got a little bit more work today than he has in the past, participating in some inside-run drills and even a few 11-on-11 plays. Chryst said after practice that, basically, since Bennett's knowledge of the playbook is so strong, they can work him back a little bit more slowly and focus on his shoulder healing completely rather than feel the need to get him extra practice reps.
"What is our job? It's to make sure guys are ready for the start of the season," Chryst said. "A lot of these guys, it's running those plays and understanding techniques or understanding the nuances of the play. I think [Isaac]'s pretty good there. So he's put himself in a position where we can be a little bit more cautious with him. It's been pretty good so far."

- Finally, freshman offensive lineman Alex Bookser got some reps at right tackle with the second team today (he did in Saturday's practice as well), which I would think indicates that he's the most developed of the freshmen offensive lineman (makes sense given the recruiting rankings). I think it's still a near-certainty that Bookser will redshirt this year barring a disastrous injury scenario (Jaryd Jones-Smith would make more sense as an injury replacement at either tackle spot), but it's a credit to Bookser and his potential that he's earned these second-team reps.
"I've liked what he's done," Chryst said. "He's getting some reps with the twos. He earned those. I think right now, we need to just lock in at camp and go see where it's at. But right now, it's too early for that discussion (playing him this season) because you have to still keep going. I've liked where camp is headed at this point."

- Tyler Boyd had a ridiculous sideline catch that prompted a certain, unnamed Pitt staffer to slam his binder to the turf in delight. But, really, Tyler Boyd making a ridiculous acrobatic catch isn't really news anymore, is it?

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Goin' campin' first stops: Baldwin and Central Catholic

Written by Mike White on .

Monday was the first day of "official" football practice in Pennsylvania. That means the return of "Goin' Campin'." What is that? Maybe it should be called "Goin' up camp" because we are in Pittsburgh, but basically "Goin' Campin'" is me filling the tank and stopping by practices around the WPIAL and giving you a smorgasbord of notes, quotes, anecdotes and opinions about district high school football. Maybe you will find some of the info useful and some useless.

But off we go...

First stop: Baldwin

I had never seen Baldwin offensive lineman Sterling Jenkins in person. He is, in a word, big. In two words, real big. He is every bit of 6 feet 8 and 301 pounds. Geez, he looks like a senior in college already, with arms that seem to stretch to his toes. It was a cloudy this morning at Baldwin's practice. I think Jenkins was standing in front of the sun. But he is not a "sloppy" 301 pounds. He has a great build and frame.

Sterling Jenkins weight roomJenkins will be featured in our Post-Gazette daily series "Blue Chip Chat" tomorrow and you can read comments from him on a variety of subjects. But he is a most interesting player. He is rated by scouting services as one of the top 10 offensive tackles in the country. Impressed? Well, he did not even make first-team all-conference last year. Those all-conference teams are picked by opposing coaches.

I've heard everyone from fans, to coaches, to other high school players criticize Jenkins, saying he is "sooooo overrated." Well, that's the way it goes with offensive linemen. They get offered college scholarships and get rated highly sometimes based a lot on size, potential and agility. Jenkins has a lot of all three. That's why he had many scholarship offers before committing to Penn State in the spring. And also, kids get reputations now on how they look and move in shorts and T-shirts at camps, especially linemen. That's the reality of recruiting nowadays. 

Will Jenkins be a much better player this year? We'll see. Baldwin coach Pete Wagner said Jenkins has worked very hard in the offseason. And I give Jenkins a lot of credit. He fully admits that he was not worthy of an all-conference selection last year. He is not trying to fool anyone. He knows he must get better and he is intent on proving himself this season. He only started playing football in seventh grade and said he wasn't really into playing football until maybe the past year or two.

"It's just a matter of him getting the reps and finding the aggression within himself and finding that fire that makes him a good linemen at the high school level," said Wagner. "It's a large task to deal with, in terms of the naysayers. The comments and stuff on social media is something people may tell you not to look at. But it kind of motivates him and we have fun with it."

More from Baldwin

**** No one is predicting Baldwin to beat out Woodland Hills or Upper St. Clair or anyone else for a conference championship. But Baldwin does have some potential and Wagner, a second-year coach, likes the future of his program. Two of Baldwin's top players will be brothers - senior quarterback Doug Altavilla and junior receiver Nick Altavilla. Their last name is full of A's and so is their report cards. Both have grade-point averages better than 4.0. 

**** The biggest dish washer in the world? It has to be Jenkins. He worked some this summer as a dish washer at Eat 'n Park. Baldwin ccountry foot

**** I hadn't really seen this before at other preseason practices. While the football team was practicing, the cross-country teams were running on the outside of the field (see picture). I know some coaches who would complain, complain, complain about the distraction.

**** Talking to Wagner and others, it seems everyone is pegging Woodland Hills and Central Catholic as the top two teams in Class AAAA.

**** I never knew Ed Helbig has been an assistant coach in the Baldwin football program for 38 years. He is Mr. Track at Baldwin and also with the WPIAL. Who knew? But great to see. What has Helbig been through, about 18 coaching regimes at Baldwin?

Numbers game

Although Wagner said the roster sizes at the Baldwin junior-high and midget levels are good, he said Baldwin has canceled its ninth-grade program. The ninth graders are now with the JV and varsity. Baldwin will have a JV team but also have a JV-B team that will play six games.

Speaking of small rosters, how about Bethel Park? The Black Hawks have only 45 players right now. Wow. You just keep hearing of football teams losing players. We ran a story last year on it.

Next stop: Central Catholic

Walk around the locker room in between practices, see Central Catholic's players milling around and I just say to myself "man, the players and athletes at this place." They just keep churning them out in Oakland.

Central Catholic lost a number of key players from last year's team, but don't kid yourself. The Vikings will be strong again.

Help from Gus

One of Central Catholic's assistant coaches is a former NFL quarterback. Gus Frerotte is in his second season as the quarterbacks coach. He also helps with the passing game. Is he doing a little dancin' at practice below? No, just showing a quarterback some footwork.

Gus Frerotte shot

Frerotte was a high school head coach in the St. Louis area at John Burroughs High. He was the head coach for two seasons and had a 26-3 record, twice finishing runner-up in the state in Class 3A. A former star at Ford City High School, Frerotte moved back to the Pittsburgh area last year and has two sons on the Central Catholic team - junior Gunner and sophomore Gabriel.

Gunner might be the starting QB this season. Central Catholic coach Terry Totten said Gunner and junior Mike Navarro are battling for the job.

"[Gunner] looks good, but there is a competition between he and Mike Navarro," said Totten. "Gunner seems like he might be a little bit ahead. But we'll see what happens in scrimmages."

Hmmm. Dad is a former NFL QB and is the QB coach. I'm going to go way out on a limb and say Gunner Frerotte wins the job.

Sons of pros

Check this out: Gus Frerotte is one of four former NFL players with sons on Central Catholic's team. Grant Foster, the son of former Steeler running back Barry Foster, should be one of the top tailbacks, although he hasn't been cleared to play yet because he is still recovering from knee surgery.

Braxton Swann is a junior receiver for the Vikings. His father is former Steeler great, Lynn Swann. Jamain Stephens is an offensive lineman for Central Catholic. His father is former Steeler offensive lineman Jamain Stephens.

Johnny Petrishen head shotPetrishen update

Central Catholic defensive back Johnny Petrishen (pictured) has turned out to be one of the most heavily recruited defensive backs in the WPIAL. His stock with the colleges took off in the offseason. He missed four games last year with a rib injury and a punctured lung.

Petrishen said his top three choices are Pitt, Wake Forest and Virginia. Petrishen will be featured in our "blue chip chat" series in the Post-Gazette later this week.

More Central Catholic

Graham Adomitis is staying at tight end.Graham Adomitis head shot

Two years ago, Adomitis (pictured) began the season as the starting quarterback. J.J. Cosentino eventually became the starter and Adomitis moved to tight end last year. Cosentino is now at Florida State, but Adomitis said he is staying at tight end. Adomitis has some nice size and is getting some looks from colleges as a tight end.

**** Central Catholic defensive coordinator Dave Fleming said this might be the best defensive line he has ever coached.

"They're so big and talented," Fleming said.

The line consists of Richie Ryan (Harvard recruit), Rashard Wheeler, Jordan Scarborough and Braeden Hinish.

**** Nico Thorpe transferred from Shaler to Central Catholic as a sophomore and ended up being a Fabulous 22 linebacker last year as a senior. His brother is following in his footsteps.

C.J. Thorpe was a 6-2, 270-pound lineman last year at Shaler. He has transferred to Central Catholic.

**** Totten - and other coaches - are high on senior center Eric McAllister.

"He's a darn good player," said Totten. "He needs a push because he's right there maybe with BCS type colleges. He's just a little short, maybe 6-1, 270 pounds."

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