oaklanddomer: How excited is the team to play in their 3rd straight BBVA Compass Bowl?
Sam Werner: I mean, if given the option, I think most players would have preferred to go somewhere else for their bowl destination this year. That being said, though, there are plenty of reasons they are excited and this year is different than the last two. First, they have a head coach in place. The work Pitt does during bowl preparation will directly carry over into next spring, and the players know that. Second, unlike last year, Pitt is playing an SEC team. Ole Miss played a couple of teams (LSU, Texas A&M) close and the SEC, despite some bowl results, is still known as the dominant conference. A win Saturday could create some real positive momentum going forward, which was not the case in previous years.
Prediction for Saturday?
Big Pitt win (10%)
Close Pitt win (50%)
Close Ole Miss win (30%)
Big Ole Miss win (10%)
Dave Wannstedt: Is Paul Chryst going to bring me back? I miss my O fries and the cathedral!
Sam Werner: Good to hear from you, Dave! I know a lot of Pitt fans may like this, but it's not going to happen. There are too many strained relationships at Pitt, and no real connection to this current staff, for Wannstedt to come back as DC.
Script-O: If PITT beats Ole Miss, would you say that ACC football is looking dominant given the recent bowl results? (Syracuse, Louisville, GT, Clemson, FSU, etc)
Sam Werner: I might not say "dominant," but this is definitely the bowl season the ACC needed. Especially Louisville's win over Florida showed that the ACC is on the level with the other four power conferences. I think a big thing for the ACC next year is having a team (whether it be FSU, Louisville or Clemson) stay in national championship contention late into the season.
Worms worm: Who is Ole' Miss's most dangerous player? What are Pitt's plan to stop him?
Sam Werner: Offensively, that would be quarterback Bo Wallace. He can pass (2,843 yds, 19 TD) and run (363 yds, 8 TDs). Offensively, Lafayette Pitts said Ole Miss reminds him of Louisville, and I think I can see the comparison between Wallace and Teddy Bridgewater (though Bridgewater is a much, much more polished passer). Pitt has struggled at times with mobile quarterbacks this season, notably at the end of the Notre Dame game, so it might be a strategy to have a guy like Todd Thomas spy on Wallace and stay keyed on him.
Arthur Doakes: Any word on who is filling in for me on Saturday.
Sam Werner: Not yet. Paul Chryst will speak after practice today (in about an hour) and we'll get some information then. Shane Johnson is listed as the backup on the two-deep, but Zenel Demhasaj has also gotten some work there in practice this week. Either way, it's a not a desirable situation for Pitt to be in, reaching down to their third right guard of the season.
ChickenFairy: Do you believe that Paul Chryst has a Defensive Coordinator in mind and is just waiting for the bowl games to end to make the hire or do think it will be a longer process?
Sam Werner: The way Chryst operates, it wouldn't surprise me if he already has someone in mind and is just waiting for the bowl game to play out before making a hire. He values chemistry and staff cohesion, so I suspect the hire will be someone he has worked with before or at least has strong ties to, rather than just hiring a big name. With all the coaching staffs being fired and lots of assistants available, I would bet that Chryst and his staff have already had preliminary talks with guys they are interested in.
PittMan: The RB and TE that left the team...was it about playing time?
Sam Werner: With Davis, yes. He was no higher than fourth on the depth chart heading into spring with Shell, Bennett and Crockett ahead of him. He saw the writing on the wall, so to speak, and will seek his playing time elsewhere.
Pitt-y the Big East: How much time at these extra practices are given to preparing for next year and how much is spent on bowl preparation?
Sam Werner: The first few weeks were pretty much all work for next year. Chryst gave the seniors two weeks off at the end of the season, and worked exclusively with the younger guys during the pre-Christmas practices. After Christmas, the older guys came back and the focus turned to bowl preparation.
Michael: Does Tyler Boyd say Pitt is It on Saturday?
Sam Werner: I think so. He took his only official visit to Pitt, and I think the Panthers have emerged as the leader. Then again, I also thought Robert Foster was going to announce for Pitt, so take my words with a grain of salt.
Dokish_Is_A_Hack: Realizing that the O-Line depth is not a strength for Pitt this year... how big is the Doakes suspension? How solid is the Ole Miss D-LIne?
Sam Werner: Well Doakes took over for Ryan Schlieper midway through the season, so reaching down to your third string right guard is never a good thing. Guys like Ryan Turnley and Chris Jacobson will be able to help out a first-time starter at right guard, but only so much.
SmokyB: How big of an impact would a win have with recruits in your opinion? Any names on the fence that may be swayed from the game?
Sam Werner: I don't think so. At this point in the recruiting process, the kids have such an established relationship with the coaches and recruiters that one game isn't going to have much sway one way or another. If Pitt comes and blows Ole Miss out of the water, it'll definitely be another selling point down the home stretch of recruiting, but this game isn't a "make or break" thing for guys like Tyler Boyd, etc.
Hobie: Sam, other than the BBVA Compass Bowl, what remaining Bowl Game are you MOST looking forward to?
Sam Werner: I mean, really? I don't know how any college football fan could not be excited about a national championship game between two of the sport's most storied programs. That's the easy, obvious answer, but I also think tonight's Fiesta Bowl could be pretty interesting. If not for that one fateful night in November, Oregon/Kansas State could've been the title game.
SmokyB: Any idea as to why Chryst is waiting to hire his DC until after the bowl? To prevent distractions? NFL guy?
Sam Werner: I think it's more just standard procedure. There's no point bringing in an assistant now who hasn't been with the program all year as they try and prepare for their final game. The current coaches have their own terminology, their own styles, and bringing in a new guy right now -- even if he's the greatest defensive coordinator in the world -- would bring more confusion than any possible benefit.
Greg: Who got the most work at QB when Tino was on his two week break? And should we read into that at all heading into next year?
Sam Werner: The bowl practices were closed to the media, so it's hard to say. I would venture a guess that it was split pretty evenly between Tom Savage and Chad Voytik. Chryst was asked if he was ready for a quarterback controversy next year, and he said he was ready for a "competition," but not a controversy. As he said, the only time you have controversy is when one guy doesn't grab the job. For my money, I would bet on Savage being the guy next year, though spring practice will give us a better look at both those guys, as well as EE freshman Tra'von Chapman.
Roman: Does Dorian Johnson come in and compete for a starting spot next year?
Sam Werner: Compete, yes. I spoke to Johnson right around when he committed and he said the staff has said that, if he comes in and works his butt off, he absolutely has a chance to win the starting job. That said, I would be very surprised if he gets it. This staff likes to redshirt offensive linemen if at all possible, and with good reason. The fifth year for an OL is way, way better than the first year. I think Bisnowaty will be one of the starters at tackle, and I wouldn't be surprised to see TJ Clemmings get the other spot (the staff wouldn't have moved him there if they didn't think he could play). That would allow them to move Cory King back inside to his natural guard position, and create a little more depth inside.
L.J.: Who will be our leading recievers going into next year?
Sam Werner: This is an interesting question. Obviously Street will be the top guy, but the other spot is sort of up for grabs. Ed Tinker did a nice job when called upon this season, so he'll definitely be in the mix. Tyler Boyd, if he commits, is a guy that's too talented to keep off the field for long, but he projects more as a slot-type receiver than an outside guy.
Pitt13to9: With Hollins possibly coming back, good reports on both Biz and Dorian and that pushing King and Rotheram back inside next season...who do you see them moving to center to compete with Rowell?
Sam Werner: I think Ryan Schlieper is a guy who could move inside to center when he recovers from his injury. He has a little experience playing the position, so I would expect him to be the guy moving into that spot with King and Rotheram moving back inside.
Roman: What is your official prediction for the game?
Sam Werner: I'm going to say 24-20 Pitt. I think this team realizes it has something to play for this week, unlike the last few years, and will continue to confound its fan base with results that really don't make too much sense.
Sam Werner: With that, we wrap up our final Pitt football chat of the season. I want to thank everyone for submitting questions. It was a great first year on the beat and I'm looking forward to the future. We'll be back chatting for spring football, and until then you can reach me on Twitter @SWernerPG.