Pitt Preview - Futher Analysis
Pittsburgh Panthers
Posted Aug 1, 2006

Pitt Panthers Preview 2006 - Pitt Further Analysis

1st and Ten – Something to prove – In the throes of a stellar season, a college QB can develop into BMOC and become a hot item on a national level.  But, on the flip side, he can fall off the face of the proverbial earth faster than Kobayashi can down a pair of hot dogs with a poor performance or three.  Welcome to Tyler Palko’s world – the flavor of the month as a sophomore, the focal point for everything that went wrong the next.  Such is the life of a QB in college football.  But, redemption can also be easily found in the search for college football nirvana, which should give the young man hope that he can turn the tide again in the positive direction.  And, he really wasn’t that bad last year to begin with – he just wasn’t as good as he was in 2004.  In each category under a new offensive staff, Palko’s numbers fell off – TDs, yards, passing efficiency and interceptions.  However, if you take out the Ohio game, he only had six on the year.  And yet, it’s the Ohio game that most people will point to as the downfall of last year’s team and it’s 5 and 6 record.  On national television with a chance for redemption (there’s that word again) after a lousy opener against Notre Dame, the Panthers couldn’t handle the pesky Bobcats and the endearing image of that game was watching Palko throw a pick six to Ohio’s Dion Byrom to end the game (not to mention the other pick that Byrom ran back for six in the first half).  That was all the general football populace at large needed to see from Palko last year; that’s all it takes in college football to be considered an also-ran.  Just ask Kyle Orton about his senior season, a season with 30 TDs and 4 interceptions was considered a bust.  But, after one full year in the new offensive scheme, Palko should be well-adjusted and ready for his senior season.  Outside of the picks noted above, he doesn’t take too many risky shots downfield and his decision making has gotten much better from the beginning of the 2004 season.  He’s a fiery sort and has to channel that into positive energy this season to put Pitt back on the college bowl landscape in December.  Just as quickly as it turned last year, Palko can turn it back around with a solid performance.

2nd and Seven – Something to prove, part II – It’s hard to say which one has been more important in establishing him as one of the toughest players in the Big East – the fact that he’s from Plantation, Florida or that he’s Bennie’s kid.  Either way, put that combination together and Pitt has one of the toughest, rock hard players in the nation as its defensive leader.  After spurning the Florida schools for a life in western PA, Blades has gone largely unnoticed on a national level.  And, that’s a shame.  Here’s a guy who has great football instincts, is a good tackler and is as tough as the day is long.  In the Ohio game, he came out of the game with what seemed to be a hamstring injury, and didn’t look like he was coming back again for a few weeks.  But, Blades was right back in the starting lineup the next week.  Although he wasn’t near 100% all season long, the Floridian totaled 121 tackles and was first in the Big East with 11 tackles per game.  He finds the ball as well as any linebacker around and is a complete player on par with any backer in the nation.  Not that you would know, but you will.

3rd and Three – Something to prove, part III – A versatile play maker who is also a shut down corner.  That doesn’t apply to too many players across the college landscape, but it definitely applies to Darrelle Revis, a guy who has NFL written all over him.  If he can have another season, ‘first round draft pick’ might also be etched on his Pittsburgh resume as he leaves for the league.  With six picks and 21 pass break ups for his career, Revis has proven that he can turn a QB’s decision of throwing his way into a bad one for that offense.  But, he’s also a complete player, making plays on special teams – blocks and returns.  Last year, he blocked a field goal which led to a Pitt touchdown against U Conn, but he also averaged 29 yards per punt return against Rutgers.  When you see the name Revis on an All-American list, pre-season or post, know that he earned it.

4th and One – Something to prove, part IV – First year coaches always get a pass, right?  Especially ones who are alums, correct?  Not sure that rule of thumb applies after last season for Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt.  After his stint in Miami and returning to the sideline of his alma mater for the 2005 season, it seemed that Pitt had found the man who was going to be Pitt’s head man for the long haul.  Well, start 0-3 after a Fiesta Bowl season and it doesn’t matter what your name is or whether you went to Pitt or USC or Brown, because the faithful will turn quickly.  Especially when the expectations were as high as they were for Wannstedt and crew last year.  In his second year, the expectations are tempered a bit with the hype surrounding rival West Virginia and Big East newbie Louisville, and that might be the absolute perfect tonic for Wannstedt in 2006.  Trying to prove that he’s the right guy for this program will be a little easier this year as an ‘underdog’ so to speak.  But, Tyler Palko is still under center.  HB Blades is still at linebacker.  Darrelle Revis is considered one of the best corners in the nation.  So, it’s not like he’s playing with one hand tied behind his back.  Interesting this season will be, no question.
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