Sam Werner's Pitt football chat transcript: 11.8.13

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Jamie: How will Pitt's offensive line handle Notre Dame's defensive linemen?

Sam Werner: I do think this will be one area that will ultimately decide the game. One of the big reasons Pitt was able to be so successful last year was that they ran the ball very well against Notre Dame's defense (recall Ray Graham's big run on the first play from scrimmage). Pitt has been inconsistent, at best, running the football this year, but Notre Dame's defense isn't as good as it was a year ago. They gave up a ton of rushing yards to Navy last week, so establishing the run early will be key for Pitt.<br/>As far as pass protection goes, that's another area where Pitt has struggled this year. Notre Dame doesn't have very impressive sack numbers, but Stephon Tuitt and Prince Shembo are as good as any pass rushers Pitt will face this year. Ultimately, I think it's going to be another long day for Tom Savage under pressure.

FrankieJoeJoe: Will Pitt be more successful on defense against Tommy Rees than they were against Everett Golson?

Sam Werner: If recent history is any indication, yes, the Panthers should fare better this year against Tommy Rees than they did against Everett Golson. One of the big reasons the Panthers ultimately lost the game in the fourth quarter last year is that they let Golson scramble around and make plays with his legs (Pitt has had trouble with mobile quarterbacks the last year or so). Rees is not mobile, at all, so his game is more reliant on staying in the pocket. The Pitt defense did a good job against him when he was in the game last year, too. The one thing that would concern me from Pitt's point of view is that Rees is much more accurate with his passing this year, and if Pitt doesn't get pressure on him, he is capable of picking apart a zone defense. I would think the best strategy for Matt House and company Saturday would be to be aggressive with Rees in the pass rush.

PJ: Sam, I have been to ND/Navy/GT/VT and one thing that I noticed was the atmosphere at those places because of an on campus stadium. I think Pitt severely lacks the enthusiasm because of it playing at Heinz Field. Plus I have yet to hear a recruit say the reason they chose pitt was to play at Heinz. So is there any chance PITT plays in a campus stadium in the next 10 years or more?

Sam Werner: In a word, no. The current setup at Heinz Field makes sense and construction of an on campus stadium would be a massive financial and logistical undertaking (where would it go?)<br/>That said, Chryst did speak this week about what it means to turn Heinz Field into a tough place for opponents to play. That's the kind of thing that happens over years and years (and not necessarily the kind of thing that an on-campus stadium would immediately change). Pitt can turn Heinz Field into a good college football venue, but they have to win games like Saturday's.

Bubs from sisters basement: How did the coaches (and yourself) think that Grigsby did at MLB? Might he stay there?

Sam Werner: Grigsby actually did a pretty good job there Saturday night. He was active in taking away the pitchman for Georgia Tech's option, and I think it was part of an experiment by the coaching to continue to see where he fits on the defense. Ultimately, I don't think he'll end up sticking at MLB, but probably one of the outside spots. He's more athletic than most of Pitt's linebackers (which is why he made sense at MLB to stop the option vs. Georgia Tech) but on Saturday, I would expect to see Shane Gordon and Matt Galambos in that spot.

Matt: Is Heuber taking any heat for the performance of the offensive line? It seems to be regressing.

Sam Werner: It certainly hasn't been good, and I think early results against Florida State, New Mexico and Duke may have been deceiving. But the line was a legitimate concern for Pitt coming into the year, with two guys changing positions and three new starters. I think Hueber would be the first to admit that the unit has not played up to his expectations so far, but the Panthers are stuck with the hand they have right now. There still isn't a ton of depth on the roster to either provide other options or breed competition for the current starters. The line has to get better, no question, and Hueber knows that.

PJ: How has the recruiting been for for PITT this year so far? One of the things I read is that because of all the coaching changes the last couple of years PITT has lost about 25 or more recruits since then. Have you seen improvement in the way PITT has gotten commits since Chryst has been the coach we know will be here for a couple of years?

Sam Werner: I think this ties in nicely with the last question because, in the coaching changes, the biggest impact on recruiting was the inability to take enough bodies to completely fill out a competitive roster. Pitt was able to land talent in the transitions, but not able to fill out positions groups like the offensive line, and that's really where it's catching up right now.<br/>Chryst has been recruiting well enough so far, but I don't think it'll be fair to judge him successful or not until a couple of years down the road. Especially the way he recruits, going after a lot of lesser-rated guys on the rankings, it's going to take a while to truly judge how good this staff is at talent evaluation.

Sam Werner: All right, no questions left in the queue, so we're going to wrap things up a little early today. Thanks for joining in, and you can always hit me with any Pitt football questions on Twitter @SWernerPG


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