Panthers have challenging stretch

Pitt football Q&A with Paul Zeise

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Q: Paul, I believe at the beginning of the season you predicted Pitt would be 8-4. Assuming they beat Syracuse they will be 8-1. I can make a case for them beating each of their then remaining 3 opponents but the Bearcats scare me, WVU is a rivalry game and Notre Dame is Notre Dame. At this point 8-4 would be a huge disappointment. How do you see Pitt finishing?

Pat Perri, Bakersfield, Ca.

ZEISE: If Pitt finishes 8-4 then really what will we be talking about? It would be a huge disappointment at this point given how well this team has played. It would also mean they finish the season without a truly quality win, other than perhaps South Florida, and if that is the case then how much progress has really been made in the past five years? Pitt needs to finish this off and get to at least 10 wins which means win two of those last three over the top teams on their schedule. Pitt has an opportunity to really take a step forward as a program and as that saying goes it is time to seize the moment. Anything less than a 10-2 record will be disappointing at this point.




Q: Has Dave Wannstedt given any indication of how much longer he wants to coach? Any chance Pitt would consider identifying Frank Cignetti as "head coach in waiting" at some point?

Matt Beam, Califon, N.J.

ZEISE: Well, Dave Wannstedt has said he's not ready to hang it up just yet, though I do think if he got to the BCS a couple of times he'd ride off in the sunset because he will have accomplished what he set out to do, which is bring Pitt back to a level among the nation's top teams. He's not old but he's not a spring chicken, either, and he's accomplished a lot in his career and I know he has no desire to be one of these guys who coaches until he drops. So at some point in the near future, it wouldn't shock me if he steps aside and moves into a different role within the athletic department.

Cignetti would be the obvious choice at least in terms of the guys on the staff because of his age and his name recognition and the fact that he is a good coach. He is a guy that Pitt is going to do what it can to hold onto, I can tell you that for a fact, but I'm not sure if the athletic director is a big fan of the whole coach-in-waiting fad for a lot of reasons (see the train wreck known as Florida State for exhibit A as to why that is a bad idea). But one thing Steve Pederson will do is make it financially attractive for Cignetti to stay and give him an incentive like "you will be the guy" so it isn't like if they don't give him the coach-in-waiting title, he won't have a reason to hang around. Remember that was part of the reason Pederson was able to convince Paul Rhoads to stay when he had some other jobs he was considering. It didn't materialize but that's mostly because the defense was awful for a few years in a row and selling the idea of promoting Rhoads to head coach became tougher than it would have been had the defenses played well.




Q: Paul with three outstanding players like Dion Lewis, Ray Graham and Henry Hynoski -- would it make sense to run a wishbone like offensive scheme to throw off defensive units and accentuate our ground game? I guess the Wildcat is a cousin of the old wishbone offense used in the 70's and was tough to defend against.

William Ballot, Farmington, CT.

ZEISE: Not unless it is in very specific situations and very limited. There really is no reason to do it actually given how good the passing game has been. The key is the balance this team has and the run game and pass game works together. Dion Lewis is successful as much because of his talent as he is because teams can't load up in the box. I suppose in certain goal line formations or short yardage situations it might be viable to do but again this offense works best when it can force teams to defend the pass.



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