Guest: Why does Bryan Murphy even see the field? He plays a good bit for someone who does nothing on the field and looks worn down. It seemed like everytime Louisville ran to his side there was plenty of room to run. What has Devin Cook done to not even see the field considering his VT game?
Sam Werner: The defensive line in general hasn't been doing a ton of rotation in the last two games. I do think Cook played well earlier in the season and against Virginia Tech, but you're right in that he really hasn't seen the field recently. Against Syracuse, I think it was largely a product of the hurry-up offense the Orange ran. Louisville wasn't quite as quick as Syracuse, but they were still moving a bit on offense. We'll see this week if they decide to mix it up a little bit more along the defensive line.
Mark C.: Recruiting question: In your opinion, do you think the Panthers land Robert Foster and Dorian Bell?
Mark C.: Dorian Johnson, my mistake.
Sam Werner: Former Gateway and current Duquesne player Dorian Bell on the mind, I see. No worries.
I think it'll be a while before either of these guys giving a commitment. Johnson is clearly taking his time with his recruitment the second go-round, and Foster has been virtually silent regarding all questions about his college choices. I hesitate from making predictions regarding recruiting, but I do think Pitt is definitely the favorite for Johnson. With Foster, it's a little less clear, but they're very much in the mix.
Guest: I saw that the OL coach for Pitt was somewhat satisfied with his OL after the Louisville game. How could he be considering they gave up 5 sacks?
Sam Werner: I thought this was a bit of a curious comment as well, because just glancing at the stats it doesn't look like the offensive line played well against the Cardinals. I think Jim Hueber was more pleased with the running game, especially after a very disappointing performance against Syracuse. If you haven't already, I would recommend reading my blog post from Tuesday, in which Hueber was very blunt about the challenges facing the offensive line. Specific, he said that they were just getting out-athleted on the edge. Here's the link to that piece: http://blogs.sites.post-gazette.com/index.php/sports/pitt-redshirt-diaries/35758-jim-hueber-talks-offensive-line
Mark C.: What is coach Chryst's opinion of Tom Savage? Was he able to make a name for himself during camp?
Sam Werner: It's sort of tough to say. Chryst obviously likes the potential Savage has, specifically as a taller quarterback. During camp, though, Savage got virtually no reps during team drills. After all, Pitt's quarterback position had plenty of question marks heading into the season, so it would be tough to justify spending valuable practice time on a guy who can't even play this year. I'm sure Chryst has watched Savage's tape from Rutgers, though, and will give him fair shake to win the starting job in spring camp and leading into next season.
Guest: Is Manny Williams being demoted now that Todd Thomas is back? I thought Manny was playing pretty well, definitely better than Eric Williams
Sam Werner: No. Manny Williams has been banged up a little bit this week, so he has missed some practice time. In the drills that we've been able to see, Pitt has used Eric Williams at the Sam linebacker spot and Todd Thomas at the Will linebacker. I think the staff likes Thomas better at the Sam, because it allows him to wreak a little more havoc by rushing the passer, but he's also easily athletic enough to play the Will, which generally requires a bit more responsibility in pass coverage. Dan Mason was also out there with the first team, since Shane Gordon is nursing a couple of different injuries from the last two games.
At this point, given the injury situation, I think the staff just wants to make sure it gets its three best linebackers on the field. With regards to specifics injuries, hopefully we'll learn more this afternoon at Paul Chryst's final media briefing of the week.
Guest: How does Ray Graham feel about seeing his carries and playing time diminish greatly against Louisville?
Sam Werner: He seemed fine with it when we talked to him after the game. While he got fewer carries than Shell, he also was a bigger factor in the passing game, and didn't disappear by any means. Obviously, every player wants the ball, but I think Graham appreciates that a two-running back system will work better for both players and the team as a whole. When asked about it, Chryst said there wasn't anything wrong with what Graham was doing, it was just a flow of the game kind of thing. Especially late, they had to throw a bit more to catch up. Ideally, both running backs will be productive in this offense. I know we as outside observers like to look at one running back as "the guy," but if you watch the teams Chryst coached at Wisconsin, you can see that it's possible for both guys to be stars when/if the offense gets rolling.
Guest: How is recruiting coming along as far as Off Lineman? Even though this years line is not good, younger guys cant get on the field, which is scary.
Sam Werner: Well Gabe Roberts is out for the season with a labrum tear. He was going to redshirt anyways, but this removes any possibility. I also think that offensive linemen in general are a bit of a different breed when it comes to player development. Sure, it's good to get guys like Dorian Johnson who come in with all the talent in the world, but a lot of the best linemen in college football were relatively unheralded recruits. It's much more about learning technique and, most importantly, add size and strength in a college weight training program. You'd much rather have an offensive lineman as a fifth-year senior than play him as a freshman, if you can.
Sam Werner: That said, I know the staff is high on Roberts and Bisnowaty. Right now, Pitt has two OL commitments: 2* Carson Baker and 3* Aaron Reese. Both are around 6-5, 300-pounds, though, so I think Chryst and his staff are confident they can build them up with time in the program.
Marcus L: At any point in this season do you see Chryst concedding the season and playing younger players?
Sam Werner: Not in a wholesale manner, no. I'm also not sure who these younger players would be. In general, Pitt is a pretty young team this year. More so than that, though, it wouldn't be fair to seniors like Ray Graham, Chris Jacobson, etc., who have been through so much with the coaching changes and everything to throw in the towel their senior year.
Mark C.: Have you heard anything regarding Pitt-Penn St. becoming an annual occurance, or is it still for now just starting in 2016?
Sam Werner: Right now, it's just the '16-'17 two-game series. I do know that it is a very high priority of Pederson's to make it an annual event, though. Whenever he's asked about non-conference scheduling, this is usually the first thing he mentions. I know Bill O'Brien and Penn State have seemed pretty amenable to it, as well. I think that once they get their athletic department sorted out (David Joyner is still only acting director of athletics), we'll get some movement towards a long-term series.
MajorMajors: Will we see Hubie Graham this week? And how come we haven't gotten the TEs more passes? JP Holtz looks like a weapon.
Sam Werner: Hubie's one of those guys we'll find out about this afternoon. If I had to make an educated guess, though, I'd say he probably won't play this weekend. I think there are a couple of reasons for the lack of TE passes. Coaches have said that, given some of the offensive line's struggles in pass protection, it has been necessary to keep a tight end in and block on a lot of plays. I think that's most of it. Also, Holtz is relatively new to the tight end position, and Joe Rudolph spoke yesterday about how even though he loves everything he's done, Holtz is still a freshman. That means little things like route-running, etc., might take a little more time before he fine-tunes them.
Sam Werner: That's all I have time for today. Thanks for stopping by, and make sure to join me again next week, same time, same place.