2008 Spring Preview
Key Questions Answered
2008 Big East Spring Analysis
Is this the
year all the good recruiting classes will finally come together?
What’s missing? What’s keeping this team from being a true Big East
From Dale Grdnic,
I don't know if anything is still missing from Pitt, but
certainly QB and OL are still areas of concern. The most experienced
QB was a freshman last fall, Pat Bostick, and the Panthers didn't
really have a passing game with him. They brought in JC transfer
Greg Cross, and he provides more athleticism at the position.
The play of the OL will be the key, I
believe, and another JC kid -- center Robb Houser -- will need to
start immediately and upgrade the play from last season. Houser and
Cross are enrolled now and will participate this spring. A freshman,
first year or redshirt, most likely will start at one tackle spot as
well since Pitt lost two to graduation, as well as the center. This
area was the hardest hit.
Defensively, I believe Pitt will rank
among the nation's best, like last season in the final handful of
games, and has a chance to be dominant with a talented group of DL
and LB corps returning intact.
Pitt was competitive last season, losing
a lot of close games, but could turn the corner finally this season.
I believe the recruiting success finally will pay off in wins, but
it obviously depends on the QB situation.
How much is being
changed at West Virginia with the new coaching staff, and will even more of the offense be put on Pat White? More
importantly, how much have all the outside distractions affected the
Look for tweaks and
additions, rather than a major overhaul, as West Virginia goes
through spring practice. New offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen
will bring some of his playbook from Wake Forest to WVU, which
features more motion and runs from different angles than the
conventional spread offense. White will still be the focal point
of the offense, but care will be taken not to beat up the Heisman candidate, which is
what happened during the previous two seasons. Those factors
contributed heavily to the losses in 2006 and 2007, and head
coach Bill Stewart is adamant that won't happen again. The call
for more passing will also be heard, but it remains to be seen
whether the receivers can actually do anything about it. The
thinking on the coaching staff is that, given the chance, the
passing game will develop.
Defensively, the story will be the same. WVU will continue to
run its base 3-3-5 look, but more diversity will likely be seen
in several other alignments. With former defensive coordinators (Steve
Dunlap and David Lockwood) joining the staff, there certainly
won't be any shortage of ideas for doing so. Coordinator Jeff
Casteel, who engineered a remarkable turnaround on the defense
in 2007, will be surrounded by talent in the staff.
The "other" story, that of Rich Rodriguez' departure and his
bitter ramblings, has created much more consternation among
drive-by media (such as ESPN) than it has on the team itself.
The players shut out all the harping in producing the stunning
Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma, and appears to be very relaxed
during winter workouts. Stewart has done a very good job in
circling the wagons in-house and keeping his team focused on its
own business and the things it can control -- and that's
something no amount of P.R releases or "bombshell" announcements
from the Rodriguez camp can shake.