The next Mario Williams?
Panthers Brian O’Neill Details Why Bradley Chubb Is Top Notch
by Bo Marchionte
Pittsburgh – The Pitt Panthers faced one of the top 2018 NFL Draft Prospects in college football in NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb. The football gene runs extremely strong in the DNA of the Chubb family. His father Aaron played at Georgia and brother played at another ACC school (Wake Forest). Nick Chubb the Georgia running back is cousins with the second-team preseason All-American.
Chubb brings a tremendous amount of ability to the field. His combination of size and athleticism place him in the upper echelon of prospects available next year when the NFL selects the top player’s in the nation.
NC State is currently on a six game winning streak and Chubb has definitely contributed to that success. This season marks the first time in school history the Wolfpack has taken down two ranked ACC opponents in the same season. A 27-21 victory over Florida State, in which Chubb was unstoppable, recording seven tackles, two sacks and two tackles for loss. Their second big win, against Louisville saw Chubb make six more tackles, add another sack to his team leading 6.5 and two tackles for loss.
Panthers’ offensive lineman Brian O’Neill said he was definitely aware of the ability Chubb’s possesses.
“For me personally, absolutely,” O’Neill said. I know how good of a player he is and it is kind of a measuring stick for yourself.”
The Wolfpack captain did not exploit the stat sheet against Pittsburgh; however he did show the skill set that separates him from most of the countries top defensive ends. He played off the line of scrimmage and often was dropping back in coverage rather than penetrating the Pitt offensive front.
“You want to be able to play the best and compete with the best.” O’Neill stated during post-game interviews. “He definitely is in terms of defensive lineman in the country. I was excited for it.”
More than one occasion Chubb looked like a man among boys last year. He led the Wolfpack with 22 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks last year with 58 combined tackles (ranked sixth of the team). Standing at 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds, his long frame probably makes NFL Scouts blush with excitement. Watching him you see a player at his size that moves pretty effortlessly for a guy carrying the weight he does. He showed a powerful swipe move on occasion and packed a punch at the point of attack when he was attacking.
“He brings it every single play to the echo of the whistle,” O’Neill said when comparing Chubb to other defensive lineman he faces. “That is kind of what separates the good from the great. He has a high motor and doesn’t stop.”
Is he tough?
If you watched the game or saw photos of his ring finger, then you already know – Yes he is pretty tough! His finger was bent in a manner that I would assume is equivalent to owing mobsters money and being a little roughed up for not paying a gambling debt. It looked that crazy.
Chubb rolled around a few times on the turf before exiting the game. Not long afterwards No. 9 was back on the field, making Mario Williams proud. The former Wolfpack defensive lineman (Williams) is the reason Chubb wears the No. 9 to honor and life of to the expectations of the first overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.
NC State currently is in the position to earn double digit wins, a feat that has not been accomplished since 2002 (11-3). It would also mark the second time in the history of the school it reached the 10-plus win plateau. The better Chubb plays the more realistic those results become for the Wolfpack.
Enjoy him while he last, next year he’ll be getting accustomed to playing a 16 game schedule in the National Football League.
Photo Credit Jason Pohuski/College2Pro
Rough Ride In Store For No.3
Contrasting Responses Leave Pitt QBs In Limbo
by Bo Marchionte
Pittsburgh – Dave Wannstadt, former Pitt player (offensive tackle from 1971-73), was an infant baby growing up in Pittsburgh the first time NC State took on the Panthers. A series that started back in 1952, continued on a beautiful autumn day in the City of Pittsburgh.
The Wolfpack had already claimed victories against two ranked opponents this season, a 27-21 win at 12th ranked Florida State and a 39-25 victory over No. 17 Louisville. NC State left victorious after beating Pitt 35-17 in their first visit ever to Heinz Field.
It marked sixth straight win for NC State after dropping their opener against South Carolina.
Unfortunately, the Panthers are trending in a different direction. Pitt currently stands at 2-5 overall and remains winless in the ACC (0-3). The Panthers’ defense has allowed the most points (220) in the ACC.
The last time the Panthers were 2-5, Walt Harris was the head coach (2001) and the team went on to win their last six games to finish 7-5. Déjà vu does not appear likely with this current squad.
It is a team in transition searching for an identity, with no quarterback, running game or defense, the rest of the season will reveal some layers on what to expect in next years team.
Max Browne was supposed to be the single season answer at quarterback for the Panthers. That theory ended against Rice after he injured his shoulder. It resulted in season ending surgery and thus leaving the team using a combination of Ben DiNucci and Kenny Pickett.
It is not the ideal situation for Pittsburgh, but what other choice do they have. Head Coach Pat Narduzzi faces the task of finding out what quarterback can provide the best production and leadership from the most important position on the field.
Now this is where it gets very interesting.
DiNucci started the game against NC State and then was replaced with Pickett.
Post-game interviews reveal two sides of the stoy via the head and quarterback (DiNucci).
“We talked with them prior to the game,” Narduzzi said in regards to each quarterback knowing the other would see time under center.
After Narduzzi left the podium, DiNucci nestled into the bar stool style chair for his post-game interview. His response did not parallel that of the sophomore quarterback.
“A little bit surprised,” DiNucci responded to being pulled. “I was not necessarily aware of it this week that they were going to try to get him a series, but that’s ultimately their decision.”
Narduzzi has since listed DiNucci No.1 on the teams depth chart against Duke.
Pickett was supposed to redshirting in the summer, but he was forced into action in the previous game against Syracuse. Narduzzi was looking to get a spark on offense in a game at the time was winnable for Pittsburgh. That makes sense and is easy to understand.
The remarks his remarks on DiNucci knowing Pickett would receive significant offensive snaps is where the confusion exists.
Narduzzi has since expressed he is not the most patient head coach when it comes to refraining from making changes, when he feels his team is in need of a jolt, he wanted ignite the team, to beat NC State. He expressed that he’s not always patient when it comes to his team’s performance, and that knowing Pitt has struggled in second halves, he wanted to try to alter the course of the game, if possible.
The body language of DiNucci after the game seem a little irritated and deflated, which would be par for course, for any starting quarterback standing in his shoes. Internally, this could play mind games, on the Wexford, PA native. How can we rule out that after an incompletion, interception or bad series, he notices No. 7 warming up on the sidelines?
That is a terrible feeling to fight off and awful way to prepare to perform at your best. Unfortunately, that is the cards that have been dealt to DiNucci.
The reality of it all, is that Coach Narduzzi must do what he feels best is for his team, regardless of the player or where they sit on the depth chart. That may ruffle a few feathers and cause these types of disruptions, but at the end of the day, it all falls on his shoulders, as it should for any coach in control of his program.
Expect more of the same moving forward this year, where both DiNucci and Pickett swap roles as the team’s quarterback under center. The hiccups of this season should provide a much better nucleus for next year. Five games remain on their schedule and making a bowl, while not out of the question, appear to be a stretch under the current set of circumstances.
Photo Credit Jason Pohuski/College2Pro
Mike Gundy Knows WR Talent
Mike Gundy Preparing NFL For Next Top Rookie Receiver
by Bo Marchionte
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy is a great recruiter and his expertise in nabbing the best receiving talent leaving high school is surely an argument that he is second to none.
Gundy took over at Oklahoma State in 2005 prior to being the school’s offensive coordinator. Barring a catastrophic set of circumstances, James Washington will join Dez Bryant and Justin Blackmon as Gundy’s third receiver taken in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Washington entered the 2017 college football season ranked as the top senior receiver in the nation. After four weeks of action he is vying for to be mentioned as the top receiver in the nation – Period.
Washington ranks second in the country with 520 receiving yards and has accumulated 19 catches along with four touchdowns. He plays in one of the deepest and most talented receiving units in the nation.
Quarterback and teammate Mason Rudolph is pacing himself in the running to be called a Heisman Trophy winner if he continues his high level of play that trickles down to Washington.
Going inside the game and see what makes Washington one of the best talents at the receiver position in college football.
Off The Snap
Washington stares his defensive back down leaving the defender little knowledge on what way he’ll explode into his route. His Sterling Sharpe type-frame allows him the bulk to beat the jam.
Physical With Explosion
Winning the one-on-one match-up is critical at the top of a receivers route. Washington sets up his defender and shows good short area burst to begin gaining separation.
The defender tries to tangle up Washington and keeping him from hitting his stride. Washington possesses to much strength to be contained off the jam. We see the progression quickly as Washington is gettting past his opponent.
Fast Enough To Win
Washington has done everything right on this route, thus far. He now transitions from his quick burst off the ball to using his overall speed. Washington uses technique and route running create to mismatches to win one-on-one battles.
With his man beat, it is now Mason Rudolph’s job to find his favorite target. Washignton high points the ball on this particular catch and hauling in the pass.
Consistent In Winning His Match Up
Securing the football and making the catch all part of the process that Washington makes look so easy. For any rookie receiver route running is the biggest challenge to be successful. Washington excels at that and along with his natural given talent make him very exciting to watch.
Photo Credit Jason Pohuski/College2Pro
Heisman Worthy Performance
Mason Rudolph’s Arm Forces Pitt To Shake Up QB Hierarchy
by Bo Marchionte
Pittsburgh – The Panthers witnessed Heisman candidate Mason Rudolph first hand in their 59-21 defeat to No. 9 ranked Oklahoma Cowboys. Rudolph threw two first quarter touchdowns, helping the Cowboys jump out to an early 21-0 first quarter lead.
Rudolph was simply unstoppable.
“He’s a good quarterback,” Avonte Maddox said about Rudolph. “He puts it where it is hard to get. I was running on that deep ball and felt like I had James Washington cut off. Then all of a sudden it is (football) on his back shoulder and he got it.”
Maddox saw first hand the combination of one of the most elite quarterback to receiver combos and arsenals in college football.
‘That’s a good team they execute on every play,” Maddox said. The Cowboys’ had four receiver go above and beyond the century mark in the game.
A little over six minutes (6:12) remained in the second quarter, Rudolph already accumulated 334 passing yards and four touchdowns. The Panthers defense allowed more first half yards (516) than in their previous two games over four quarters.
It forced Pitt head coach to insert sophomore quarterback Ben DiNucci.
“Ben came in and gave us a spark,” head coach Pat Narduzzi said after the lopsided defeat. “We thought he could and that is why we made the decision.”
DiNucci replaced Max Browne who completed seven of his 10 passes, but for only 60 yards. His inability to get the football down field likely played a part in head coach Pat Narduzzi making the switch. The offense needed a jolt and DiNucci provided that quickly.
He definitely provided a spark but even with the game already well out of reach.
His first pass went 74 yards setting up the Panthers first touchdown, making the score 35-7.
Talk about a spark!
Rudolph immediately responded on the next drive going 3 for 3 on the ensuing drive and finding his favorite target James Washington for his first three catches of the game covering 61 yards.
It helped set up another Cowboys’ touchdown, making the score 42-7, off the nimble feet of running back Justice Hill, who finished with 91 yards rushing on 11 carries along with two touchdowns.
DiNucci was doing his best of trying to keep pace with Rudolph. Mason completed another touchdown (Five) while Ben threw his first touchdown of his Pittsburgh career.
The only way Oklahoma State could be stopped was by kneeling. Sixteen seconds before halftime, the Cowboys decided to head into the locker room with a 49-14 point lead. Rudolph would finish with 497 passing yards and five touchdowns.
The story looks like lopsided defeat for Pittsburgh but the reality of it is that DiNucci showed plenty of promise against the 9th ranked team in the country. The Panthers defense was out matched, out played and out scored by Oklahoma State and by the time DiNucci arrived under center (35-0).
“You try not to let that factor that into anything,” DiNucci responded to coming in so early in the game while facing such a large deficient. “The biggest thing for me was taking the team down for their first score.”
The halftime comparisons between Browne and DiNucci showed the sophomore was up to the task of providing the Panthers’ offense a much needed spark. DiNucci had 87 more passing yards than Browne with the same amount of completions (Seven). He also had two plays of 25 yards longer while Browne’s long was 16 yards.
“Yes, I have decision to make at the quarterback position,” Narduzzi said after describing to the media it was a bad day on the office. “Max Browne wasn’t very productive when he was in there. Ben DiNucci came in and gave us some life.”
In the moment the devastation to the Panthers defense may be the biggest concern. Allowing Youngstown State to get back into the game after a 21-0 lead in their opener and giving up 33 points to Penn State in their second game and today allowing 516 total yards… That was not in the entire game but in just the first two quarters of action. Oklahoma State would finish with 676 total yards of offense.
The Cowboys’ defense joined in the scoring festival against the Panthers. With first and 10 on their own two yard line, DiNucci threw his first career interception that was returned ten yards for the score. The crowd of 38,592 was now seeing a score of 56-14 with 9:54 left in the third quarter.
Rudolph went to the sidelines as the Cowboys’ coaching staff starting replacing the starters with back-ups. The fourth quarter was now being played with second string players aiming to gain valuable time. Pitt remained committed to trying to close the score, but was unable to fulfill the task.
The offensive explosion was silenced in the third quarter with the only points being scored were by each teams defenses.
Oklahoma State would add three more points in the fourth quarter as Pitt missed their only attempt leaving the final score 59-21. It put the Panthers’ at 1-2 overall on the season with questions moving forward on their starting quarterback position.
The Panthers begin ACC play next with the team traveling on the road to face Georgia Tech.
Photo Credit Jason Pohuski/College2Pro
Speight Must Fix Mechanics
by Bo Marchionte
Ann Arbor – The skies above Ann Arbor, Michigan were welcoming a crowd of over 100,000 strong to a perfect fall preview. An early morning chill in the air, giving way to the warmth of a midday afternoon, in the ‘Big House’, except autumn colors are replaced with maze and blue.
Nearly 12 minutes still remained in the first quarter and Wilton Speight was running towards the end zone to congratulate teammate Kekoa Crawford after they connected for a 43 yard touchdown pass.
The 6-foot-6 and 240 pound native of Richmond, Virginia possesses a lot of qualities to garner attention as an NFL Prospect. After being named the Wolverines 2016 Most Improved Player by the Michigan coaching staff, Speight has the Maze and Blue fan base eager for more.
After two games this season, he had completed 28 of 54 pass attempts for 402 yards three touchdowns and two interceptions. Against the Cincinnati Bearcats his 14th career start, Speight had more issues it appeared with handoffs and snaps than delivering the football downfield.
Speight passed both Drew Henson (15th), John Wrangler (14th) with Jake Rudock (12th) on deck to be surpassed on the next sevens yards are added to his career total. Speight now ranks 13th overall but has to grasp the techniques better to succeed.
His ability to protect the football has been a slight concern during the Wolverines 2-0 start to the 2017 campaign. Last week, against the Florida Gators he threw two interceptions and against the Bearcats, Speight had trouble with handling the football.
“I told him it was a matter of time before it slipped out,” head coach Jim Harbaugh said after the teams 36-14 victory. “He could be better with the ball.”
Speight addressed another issue, explaining that he must do a better job of delivering the football when he is moving around in the pocket to avoid pressure.
“When I move around in the pocket I get sloppy with my feet,” Speight explained and added “the balls sails.”
Several times Speight has the opportunity hit the open target but the football was off the mark. Those miscues may get the Wolverines past the Bearcats who were 31.5 point underdogs but against a higher level opponent it could cost the team dearly.
In all fairness to Speight this is only his 14th career at quarterback. That barely covers a full college season under the current format of post season play.
“Definitely slowing down with each game,” Speight revealed in terms gaining knowledge on how to process it all under center. “Windows are opening up.”
“He’s is going to hit most of them,” Harbaugh said in regards to Speight’s pass completion rate. One disturbing things for the Wolverines offense was his lack of consistently getting the ball down field.
During one point in the contest he was averaging 3.6 yards per completion after 12 pass connections. He did bump it up to 7.5 yards per completion by the end of the game.
Ollison Continues Success
Ollison Takes Aim On Another 1,000 Season
by Bo Marchionte
Pittsburgh – It was easy to reminisce of James Conner’s legacy walking towards Heinz Field. The most prominent jersey I observed being worn was that of the Pittsburgh Steelers rookie No. 30 or his vintage No. 24 throwback.
The largest fan reaction was with 10:06 remaining in the third quarter, when the camera showed Conner standing on the sidelines. Without a doubt Conner has made an ever lasting imprint on the city and fans of Pittsburgh.
“That’s my brother right there and I love him to death,” Oadree Ollison said after the Panthers 28-21 overtime win over the Youngstown State Penguins.
“Just having him here and giving me tips,” Ollison said and added, “He deserves that standing ovation for what he has done here for the university.”
Ollison was the running back who filled in for Conner after he tore his ACL in the first game of the year in 2015, against the exact same team (YSU). He came off the bench to set a Pitt freshman record for rushing (206) in a season opener. He never looked back, reaching the century mark in five games that same season.
The Niagara Falls, native rushed for 1,121 yards that season and now aims to become the sixth Panthers running back with multiple 1,000 yards season. That workload was diminished last year with Conner returning and Ollison on the sidelines watching the hometown hero work his magic.
Now entering his junior season, with Conner in the NFL, Ollison has the chance to endear himself Panthers faithful.
“I hope so,” Ollison replied with a genuine smile when asked how he would feel to get the same kind of response from the crowd after his playing days are over for the Panthers.
The 6-foot-2 and 230 pound former ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year, he is now in the same position his dear friend was as the teams lead running back.
He scored the first two touchdowns of the year for the Panthers, while adding 91 rushing yards on 22 carries. It marked his second game with multiple touchdowns. The most impressive statistic for Ollison is he has scored 15 touchdowns in only 14 starts.
“It felt good,” Ollison said. “It felt really good to go out there and do what I could for the team,”
Besides being a powerful move the chains running back for the Panthers he also possesses terrific hands. Against YSU, he led the team in catches (5) and tied for the team high in receiving yards with 35.
Ollison feels comfortable in his role and relishes in the idea that the offense will distribute the football amongst his teammates like Darrin Hall, A.J. Davis and Mr. Versatility Qadree Henderson.
“We were rotating guys,” Ollison said. “I don’t want to get the ball 40 times, no running back does.”
Keeping Ollison fresh will help keep the Pitt offense moving in the right direction. He has proven without a doubt that when given the opportunity he can be one of the best backs in the country.
With new quarterback Max Browne finding his way, it will be even more imperative that Ollison finds his way to the endzone.
Ollison can become the sixth all-time Panthers’ running back to reach 1,000 yards rushing in multiple seasons if he can gains 909 more rushing yards by the time the last whistle sounds this year for Pittsburgh.
Photos by Jason Pohuski
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