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Scott Barnes named as potential candidate for Oregon State job

The Pitt athletics director says he’s happy with the Panthers

Usually it’s coaches that Pitt has to be worried about other schools poaching.

Oregon State lost its athletics director, Todd Stansbury, who headed to Georgia Tech. One of the names mentioned to replace him? Pitt AD Scott Barnes.

Barnes is from the pacific northwest, but has no ties to Oregon State. He’s from nearby Washington and went to Fresno State in California. The closest anyone can come to a true link there is that Barnes hired current Oregon State football coach Gary Andersen when he was at Utah State. Seriously, that’s the link.

All of this stems from The Oregonian coming up with a list of potential ‘candidates’. But the articles I’ve read there seem to lay out more why Barnes would be a good fit - not that there’s been actual contact between the two side. They’ve had a few articles on the search and you can find them on their Oregon State page.

Barnes’ stance? As the Trib reported last night, he seems happy at Pitt:

“I was completely unaware of the article and speculation until it was just brought to my attention,” said Barnes, who is with the Pitt football team in Chapel Hill, N.C., where the Panthers meet North Carolina on Saturday. “Obviously, my full focus and energy has been directed at what we have going on at Pitt. “I don't think it is appropriate for me to talk about another institution's personnel search, but I can tell you my family and I feel very fortunate to be in Pittsburgh, and we are incredibly excited about our future here.”

That’s obviously the route that more people take when they are mentioned as a potential job candidate elsewhere - happy where I am without a hard denial in any interest. Frustrating for fans and former Pitt basketball coach Jamie Dixon did this for years.

Could it happen? Sure, I guess. But to me, the job down the road that Pitt fans should probably be more worried about regarding Barnes is Washington. He is from that state and was the Associate AD there. In addition, he was the AD at Eastern Washington immediately before that. For about ten years, he was at both schools before going to Utah State. Fortunately, Washington just hired an athletics director this year so hopefully won’t be looking for a while.

For Pitt, the loss of Barnes would be a setback. While many fans weren’t impressed with the Kevin Stallings hire for the basketball team, Barnes has made a lot of great moves. He’s already begun to improve the mess that has been the Olympic sports programs. Some have thrived in the past but some have been down for many years. He’s made a good commitment to improve those programs, has already brought in a few new hires, and has released the master plan where improving Pitt’s Director’s Cup standings was named as a priority.

He’s made football the clear priority and pumped a good bit of ACC money into things like facilities while giving coach Pat Narduzzi the resources to hire quality assistants. He understands that football is the moneymaker and needs to thrive for everything else to fall into place.

In addition to that, there was also the relaunch of the Pitt script brand across the board. Finally, known as a fundraising guru of sorts, Barnes has made a big push in increasing donations. As mentioned in the master plan, a big part of what he wants to do is re-engage alumni to help raise more money.

Pitt athletics seems like its on the right track and to suffer a loss of the AD at this point would be difficult.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Going Scouting: Marshall Thundering Herd

Get ready to tune in for Pitt’s next opponent, because Marshall isn’t someone we’ve seen a lot of lately.

For the second time in three weeks, Pitt will play an opponent for the first time in school history. Oklahoma State had not met the Panthers on the gridiron previously and now it’s Marshall’s turn. Despite being only a few hours down the road, Pitt and Marshall have never met in football. That will change one week from tonight, but before that happens, how can you get a look at the Thundering Herd?

Well, it just so happens, that if you get the CBS Sports Network (not CBS, but the CBS Sports Network), you can flip right to their game tonight, after Pitt is done tangling with North Carolina. Not only will you get a look, but it is an intriguing game, as well. Marshall will be at home, with an 8:00 p.m. kickoff, against the newest college football darling....Louisville!

Yup, you read that right: Louisville is traveling to Marshall. The Thundering Herd have a great history, but they did give up a lot of points in their lone loss to Akron, so Louisville could have some fun. At the same time, Louisville has Clemson one week from today and this is a big home game for Marshall, so could they catch the Cardinals in a trap game? Head coach Doc Holliday certainly hopes so and so does the home crowd at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

Marshall has the ability to strike fear against power 5 teams and Pitt doesn’t want to get caught looking ahead next week. They will hope to learn from the Louisville game just what they will be in store for when the Herd comes to Heinz Field. You can find out early. Just tune in.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author@BrunoPittsburgh

Pitt vs. North Carolina: How to Watch, Schedule, Game Information

Here’s the key information for today’s contest

Pitt opens ACC play today against North Carolina as they’ll travel on the road for an afternoon kickoff. The Panthers are hoping to rebound after last week’s loss against Oklahoma State and you can bet that both teams will be fighting hard to start conference play with a 1-0 record.

The Panthers’ defense will need to step up and put last week behind them. Unfortunately, the Tar Heels sport a pretty good offense and are multifaceted with strong passing and running games. In other words, slowing them down will be no easy task and Pitt will need to make sure their offense doesn’t stall out, either. This could be another one of those shootout games that Pitt has found itself in for the past two weeks, so hopefully they’ll be able to keep up again.

Here are the game details for today's contest against the Tar Heels:

Date: September 24, 2016

Time: 3:30 p.m.

Location: Chapel Hill, NC (Kenan Stadium)

TV: ESPNU (national telecast)

Radio: 93.7 FM The Fan

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Against the Odds: Pitt solid underdog to North Carolina

The Panthers head into another road matchup where they won’t be favored

For the second straight week, Pitt heads into a game where they won’t be favored.

The Panthers travel to North Carolina this weekend for their first ACC game and it’s expected to be a difficult one. Oddsmakers have Pitt as the clear underdog here so if they’re to win, it will look like an upset.

The line started out with the Panthers as seven-point underdogs and things haven’t budged, really. A couple of places have them at +6.5 but many still consider them +7.0.

I don’t think winning would be a colossal upset and I expect they’ll come to play. They have plenty of motivation after a disappointing ending to the Oklahoma State game and also since it’s a matchup between two teams that seemingly could win the Division. But on the road, Pitt clearly has their work cut out for them.

What do you think about the line? Too high/low or just right?

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Tyler Boyd making early impact with Bengals

We all know about Pitt’s big name guys in the NFL - Lesean McCoy, Larry Fitzgerald, Aaron Donald, and Darrelle Revis, to name a few. It might not be too much longer before we can add another legitimate star.

Wide receiver Tyler Boyd.

To be fair, Boyd isn’t a star yet. But only two games into his rookie season, he is already making an impact with his new team, the Cincinnati Bengals. Boyd was limited in his debut, but still caught two passes for 24 yards. He stepped things up against the Steelers last week, grabbing six catches for 78 yards. On the season, he ranks fifth among rookies in receptions and sixth in yardage.

Against Pittsburgh, he actually had the most catches and yards of any wide receiver on the team - even easily outperforming A.J. Green, who was limited to only two catches for 38 yards. He did have a fumble in the game, but even that looked pretty questionable.

What’s great to see is that Boyd is being targeted quite a bit, including eight times last week. He still has a ways to go, obviously, but at only two games into his career, he’s already off to a solid start to the season and is contributing early.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Vow to use James Conner more in passing game being kept

Three games into the season, the Pitt running back has already exceeded his career-bests in receiving

The plan to get Pitt running back James Conner more involved as a pass-catcher has long been discussed. After his monster year in 2014, there was talk of Conner becoming more of a receiving back for 2015. That effort, though, quickly went off the rails when he suffered an injury in the season opener and was gone for the year. This year, that talk returned.

And so far, it’s actually happening.

Through only three games, Conner has 281 rushing yards. That number, of course, is off of his 2014 pace when he ran for 1,765 yards. However, the running back also has nine catches for 105 yards.

Those numbers are astonishing when you consider what Conner has done as a receiver in his career. We’re barely into the season and he already has set career-bests in each of those categories. Even more shocking is that his nine catches already have equaled his past three years combined while the 105 yards have almost matched his three-year combined yardage (110).

Back when the talk resurfaced about Conner being more of a receiver this year, I mentioned that a 20-catch season would help his NFL Draft prospects by showing scouts he was a capable receiving back. Conner is actually on pace to nearly double that.

Also nice to see is that Conner has been used as a receiver near the goal line. Against Villanova and Penn State, he recorded a receiving touchdown in each game - the first ones of his career.

Further, Conner isn’t just catching bubble screen passes. As evidenced in the Oklahoma State game, he’s actually getting downfield a bit. This weekend against the Cowboys, he had a big catch and run going for 55 yards. Even if the pass wasn’t intended for him (it didn’t appear it was), he was still out on a passing route and was fortunate to catch the ball and make a big play out of it.

While his role in the passing game is great to see for Pitt’s offense, I’m also glad that it will benefit Conner. He’s just a more marketable draft pick if he shows he’s capable of catching passes and that will ultimately help his stock.

Conner isn’t the same rusher he was in 2014 when he was able to (excuse the pun) catch the nation off guard. His 4.5 yards-per-carry are down significantly from that season when he was at 5.9. He’s also on target to fall well short of his record 26 rushing touchdowns that year. But by adding the receiving dimension to his game, he’s becoming more of an all-purpose back, which is a good thing.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Pitt’s Receiving Corps Must Step Up

It’s not breaking news, but with everyone looking at Nate Peterman, we decided to look at the players catching the ball.

We’ve talked a lot lately about how Pitt’s passing game needs to step up for the offense to be productive. The interesting thing is how successful they have been putting points on the board without much of a downfield threat. That won’t last forever and it has proved to be a problem at key moments of a game early on this year.

Obviously, there’s been a lot of focus on what quarterback Nathan Peterman needs to do and how the staff needs to trust him more. But the other side of that is the Panthers’ receivers.

Pitt hasn’t faced the best of defenses yet, but they will eventaully. And when they do, they must see what they have. With defenses already stacking the line and Dontez Ford out for a period of time, the coaching staff has to allow some players a chance to make plays. The receiving corps is very inexperienced to say the least.

If you want to find a security blanket, Pitt’s tight end, Scott Orndoff would probably be it and this is one of my frustrations. He’s pretty sure handed and a good athlete. He has 33 career catches and nine touchdowns. Those are nice numbers for someone who was behind J.P. Holtz for his first few years. He’s not going to be the second coming of Dorin Dickerson for Panther fans, but the Waynesburg native’s 6’5” and 255 pound-frame would give fits to defenders so I’m all for him being even more involved. He leads the team in receptions but I’d like to see him involved more downfield.

In addition to Orndoff, it’s starting to look like Quadree Henderson is developing into the top receiver. Henderson can score from anywhere on the field and he’s a candidate to be targeted a little more as well. He already has nine catches this season, has good hands, and is plenty capable of doing more.

Every team needs a downfield threat. Whether it’s a speed threat or a height threat, you need them. Pitt has both the speed and the height to make teams pay for covering one-on-one but hasn’t gone downfield enough. Jester Weah is a former track champion and has six catches for 123 yards. The question with Weah has always been his hands but you have to try to stretch the defense. He did that a bit with a long grab and score this weekend.

In addition to those guys, Pitt has a few more that are in the mix here. First, there’s true freshman, Aaron Mathews of Clairton. He’s a bit taller and is listed at either 6’4” or 6’5” for the most part. Either way, reports in camp determined he was not much fun for defensive backs. He’s still looking for his first catch, but Narduzzi said in his weekly press conference that he’s a guy we should see more of. Mathews doesn’t have to know everything in the playbook to go up for a jump ball. Take a shot.

Finally, there needs to be a security blanket in a group of receivers. Tyler Boyd was it for three seasons. He ran great routes and caught balls in traffic. I think Orndoff can provide some security, but a receiver helps too. I’ve heard way too much about Tre Tipton early last year and then again this season in training camp to not think he may have a knack for coming down with tough balls and taking hits. A week ago when Pitt was trailing Oklahoma State, they needed to get downfield to tie up the Cowboys. Tipton came down with three catches, on the last drive, and one of them was a very tough fourth down conversion.

Also in the mix is JUCO transfer Rafael Araujo-Lopes. He has only one catch on the year but with Ford out, he could see a bit more time as well.

Pitt’s receiving corps is a virtual unknown and it’s understandable that we haven’t seen much from these guys aside from Henderson and Orndoff. But if the Panthers’ offense is to do more, at some point, they’ll need to trust the passing game a little more. Like Oklahoma State, North Carolina is capable of scoring a lot of points so we might see that sooner rather than later.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author@BrunoPittsburgh

UnScripted: The Cardiac Hill Podcast w/ Corey Cohen (S2 Ep5)

In this episode of UnScripted: The Cardiac Hill Podcast, Corey Cohen welcomes Jim Hammett to discuss the Pitt loss at Oklahoma State and the loss of recruit Donovan Jeter.

In this brand new episode of UnScripted: The Cardiac Hill Podcast, Corey Cohen welcomes Jim Hammett to discuss the Pitt loss at Oklahoma State and the loss of recruit Donovan Jeter. Plus they preview North Carolina and answer the Three Rivers Pack of Questions along with choosing a Panther of the Week.

Don’t forget to leave your comments for us here or on Twitter @CoreyECohen and @JimHammett. And please subscribe to the podcast on SoundCloud or iTunes.

Pitt at North Carolina: Breaking Down the Two-Deep

Looking at Pitt’s depth chart for the North Carolina game

QB - 1. Nate Peterman 2. Manny Stocker

Nate Peterman made some big throws in the Oklahoma State game. His 237 passing yards was his second highest total ever as the Pitt quarterback. Still, he wasn’t overly accurate with a 48.3% completion was problematic at times. Peterman did show the actual ability to hit some passes and make plays, which he wasn’t able to do against Penn State.

RB - 1. James Conner 2. Chawntez Moss OR Darrin Hall OR Qadree Ollison

James Conner had another good showing last week, and looks to be about on par with where he was in 2014. Conner has been strong with the ball, showing good bursts in space, and the same physical player he has always been. Conner came down with a spectacular 55 yard catch, and has been showing receiving abilities all season long. Pitt will look to control tempo again this week, and Conner’s play will be vital to that.

We did not see much of Qadree Ollison, but he did bring down one catch for eight yards in his only touch against the Cowboys. Darrin Hall was in the mix slightly, but didn’t break many big runs. We got our first look at Chawntez Moss carrying the ball, with two carries for eight yards. Pitt will need another back besides Conner on Saturday, and the competition for those snaps is ongoing apparently.

FB - 1. George Aston 2. Jaymar Parrish

This is a change to the first three depth charts. Pitt was listing three different starting wide receivers and no fullback, but now we officially see Aston as a starter. He had one catch for 12 yards and a negative one yard run against Oklahoma State. He also got his hand on the one blocked punt. Aston is a good football player, and will see the field quite a bit on Saturday.

WR - 1. Quadree Henderson Jester Weah 2. Aaron Mathews OR Zach Challingsworth Tre Tipton OR Rafael Araujo-Lopes

Jester Weah had two catches on Saturday against Oklahoma State, but they were big ones. Weah had a 60 yard touchdown just before halftime to bring Pitt to within a touchdown. He had another nice catch on the sideline for a first down. Weah is a weapon, and he’s starting to show some of that raw ability we’ve heard about for years now.

Quadree Henderson is third nationally in all-purpose yardage per game. The leader is Christian McCaffrey for context purposes. So yes, Quadree Henderson is really, really good. Henderson had 95 rushing yards and two scores plus two catches for 31 yards. Pitt will continue to find ways to get him the ball, as he’s starting to become a weapon that Pitt has never really had in the past.

Araujo-Lopes and Tipton both got some looks this past weekend. Lopes is going to be used in a Henderson type role it seems, as he carried some jet sweeps. Tipton looks like he can be a nice option in the slot for this team. There’s room to grow for these younger guys with Dontez Ford out for an extended period of time.

TE - 1. Scott Orndoff 2. Jaymar Parrish

Scott Orndoff had a quiet afternoon in Stillwater with just one catch for five yards. His ten receptions still lead the team to this point however. I look for Pitt’s offense to evolve throughout the season, and Orndoff should be a constant. I expect him to get the ball more this weekend.

LT - 1. Adam Bisnowaty 2. Aaron Reese

LG - 1. Dorian Johnson 2. Carson Baker

C - 1. Alex Officer 2. Connor Dintino

RG - 1. Alex Bookser 2. John Guy

RT - 1. Brian O’Neill 2. Jaryd Jones-Smith

Pitt’s offensive line helped pave the way for 527 total yards. Pitt also controlled the time of possession battle 37:50 to 22:10. They really did their job, and the result was more on the defense than the offense. I think the pass protection could have been better at times. Nobody is perfect, but this line has been good the past two weeks. It almost seems silly how concerned everyone was after their play against Villanova.

DE - 1. Ejuan Price Rori Blair 2. James Folston Allen Edwards 3. Rashad Weaver

The defense surrendered a ton of yards and points. Still, Ejuan Price found a way to shine. He was named the ACC Defensive Linemen of the Week after posting four tackles for loss, two sacks, and another forced fumble. The forced fumble led to a defensive touchdown. He’s among the national leaders in all three of those categories.

DT - 1. Shakir Soto 2. Amir Watts OR Keyshon Camp

Shakir Soto had three tackles on Saturday. Amir Watts got some reps, but did not get into the box score. Pitt limited Oklahoma State to 3.1 yards per carry, and have been good against the run. The pass rush was almost nonexistent besides Ejuan Price, and that needs to change.

NT - 1. Tyrique Jarrett 2. Shane Roy OR Mike Herndon

Jarrett’s effectiveness was limited against a spread passing team like Oklahoma State. He posted just one tackle, and play a lot less than he did in the first two weeks. Shane Roy got some work, and did recover a fumble and had a pair of tackles.

Money Linebacker - 1. Mike Caprara 2. Saleem Brightwell

Mike Caprara came down with two tackles for loss, one of which was a sack on Saturday. He’s been coming down with some big plays this season. Pitt may need a sack, or a fumble recovery type of play from him this weekend.

Mike Linebacker - 1. Matt Galambos 2. Quintin Wirginis

Matt Galambos was able to secure a loose ball and score a defensive touchdown for the Panther defense in the second half. Him and Wirginis combined for six tackles on Saturday against Oklahoma State. They draw a tough task with a strong running game from UNC this Saturday.

Star Linebacker - 1. Seun Idowu 2. Bam Bradley

Idowu had six tackles, and one for loss against the Cowboys. Bam Bradley also had a tackle for loss and made some plays on special teams.

Cornerback - 1. Avonte Maddox Ryan Lewis 2. Dane Jackson Phillipie Motley

Not much to say here, they got burnt last week. They need to be better individually, and the coaches may need to send more safety help in these one on one situations. Saturday was on coaching and the players, no way around it. They got torched most of the day.

Strong Safety - 1. Jordan Whitehead 2. Dennis Briggs

Jordan Whitehead has been really good since he’s stepped foot on campus, but Saturday was a game he would probably like to forget. He missed the chances to make some plays. I don’t have any concerns with him overall, he’ll be better. He continues to get looks offensively, and he’s been good in that role as expected.

Free Safety - 1. Terrish Webb 2. Reggie Mitchell

This past week, the corners drew a lot of flak from the fan. The prior week against Penn State it was the free safeties. I’m not sure if they were any better this week, but it seemed like they made some plays. I think the corners just stole the attention of most of us for all the wrong reasons. However, if you give up that many passing yards, nobody in the secondary or entire defense was doing too much.

Kicker - Chris Blewitt Punter - Ryan Winslow Long Snapper - Pat Quirin

Chris Blewitt made his first kick of the year, which is a big deal actually. They need him on track, and now hopefully he is.

Kick Returner/Punt Returner - 1. Quadree Henderson 2. Avonte Maddox

Henderson didn’t have much of a chance to make plays on special teams, but made up for it on offense.

Ejuan Price named ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week

The Pitt defensive end picked up a weekly honor for his play against Oklahoma State

The Pitt defense got quite a bit of criticism this past weekend after Oklahoma State topped the Panthers with a total of 45 points. But the conference recognized at least one player on that side of the ball that had a big game.

Defensive end Ejuan Price was named the ACC’s Defensive Lineman of the Week after a monster effort against the Cowboys. Price had six tackles, four of which were for losses, including two sacks. Price also forced the fumble that Pitt recovered and returned for a score.

Just a mammoth effort for Price who is quietly having a huge year. He now has three forced fumbles on the year and his 1.0 forced fumble per game leads the nation. He’s also fourth in the country in sacks per game (1.5) and tackles for losses per contest (2.5).

After a big season last year, it’s good to see Price maintain that pace.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

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