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Former Pitt receiver Devin Street headed to Houston Texans

Former Pitt receiver Devin Street has had quite the whirlwind since last year. Now, he'll try to latch on with the Houston Texans.

Street has been, well, all over the place. He was cut by the Dallas Cowboys, the team that drafted him, after last year's preseason. He was then signed and released by the New England Patriots. After that, he joined the Colts until they cut ties with him before this year's NFL Draft. The Patriots and New York Jets then added and cut him. On Thursday, he was scooped up by the Texans.

Street actually has his first team to thank in part for the move. He was cut by the Jets because they needed to make room for Lucky Whitehead, who they claimed after he was released by the Cowboys in a weird mistaken identity incident. If that doesn't happen, perhaps Street would still be in New York.

With as much moving around as Street has done, there are no guarantees he sticks in Houston. But for now, he's reunited with former Pitt quarterback Tom Savage, who will battle for the starting job.

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 suspensions mean more opportunities for unproven players

Friday's Pitt football suspensions were an offseason shock most of us could have done without. Including the dismissal of defensive end Rori Blair from the team, the Panthers lost at least three (and potentially four) starters for part of the season.

Those losses will allow some other players to get opportunities in the non-conference part of the season. Unfortunately, it's going to mean playing some unproven guys.

Alex Bookser is gone for only one game and he already could see competition from incoming transfer Brandon Hodges. The rest of the backups, though, are less proven than Hodges is.

Blair likely gives way to Allan Edwards at defensive end. Edwards is a senior but has only one year of playing (mostly as a backup with a handful of starts) for Pitt after coming here from junior college. By contrast, Blair, would have been a three-year starter.

Whitehead would also be a three-year starter and behind him on the depth chart is redshirt sophomore Jay (now Jazzee) Stocker. Stocker played only a little as a backup last year and had a total of 12 tackles in his first season of playing time.

Finally, Wirginis will give way to Saleem Brightwell. Brightwell played pretty solidly last season but he was primarily a backup and has only one year of experience while Wirginis has been a backup for three years and is a senior.

Some of these moves shouldn't dramatically hurt Pitt. Bookser will miss only one game and Hodges is experienced, starting last year for Texas. And even though Brightwell is younger and less experienced, he's arguably a better player than Wirginis, anyway. But Pitt will see some challenges in trying to replace Whitehead and, to a lesser degree, Blair. Blair hasn't been dominant at Pitt but he has played a lot of games and that kind of loss will hurt since the team has a couple of heavy hitters on the schedule while he's out (Penn State and Oklahoma State).

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 @AnsonWhaley.

Pat Narduzzi comments following suspensions of Pitt players

On Friday, Pitt dismissed defensive lineman Rori Blair from the team and suspended Jordan Whitehead, Quintin Wirginis, and Alex Bookser. Head coach Pat Narduzzi commented briefly in a statement:

"Our program’s foundation will always be built on discipline and personal responsibility," Narduzzi said. "These are highly disappointing situations but I am hopeful that each of these young men will be better, stronger and wiser after taking accountability for their actions. "Alex Bookser will sit out the season-opening game and has also been subject to internal disciplinary measures and accountability. I’m confident he will make better decisions moving forward. "In addition to sitting out multiple games, Quintin and Jordan will continue to be held accountable to internal standards of conduct."

Not much here but Narduzzi does mention the popular additional internal disciplinary measures. Those won't be known but take it for it's worth.

No reference was made specifically on Blair but that wasn't too surprising in that Narduzzi mentioned he was hopeful that the remaining players would essentially learn from their mistakes. Not that that isn't true for Blair, too, but with him dismissed, he obviously won't have the chance to turn things around off the field while a member of the team.

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 @AnsonWhaley.

Rori Blair dismissed from Pitt football program, others suspended

Pitt's athletics department has some sort of fetish with dropping bombshell news on Fridays and, well, here you go:

PITTSBURGH—Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi announced disciplinary actions for four players prior to the Panthers’ opening of training camp on August 1. Senior defensive end Rori Blair has been dismissed from the program for “conduct detrimental to the program.” Junior offensive tackle Alex Bookser will be suspended for the season opener for his involvement in an offseason legal situation involving a motor vehicle. Senior linebacker Quintin Wirginis and junior safety Jordan Whitehead will both be suspended for the opening three games of the season for violation of team policy.

When it rains, it pours.

What this means, basically, is the team:

  • Loses Blair (a starter) for good
  • Loses Bookser (a starter) for the opener against Youngstown State
  • Loses Whitehead (a starter) for the Youngstown State, Penn State, and Oklahoma State games
  • Loses Wirginis (a backup/potential starter) for the Youngstown State, Penn State, and Oklahoma State games

That opening stretch was already going to be a rough one for Pitt. I'm not saying that these losses mean the Panthers can't win any of those games but they unquestionably put the team at an unnecessary disadvantage. This shouldn't affect the Youngstown State game. If it does, things are worse off than we all knew. But it makes pulling off an upset of Penn State and Oklahoma State more difficult. If you're looking for any kind of a silver lining here, it's that the Panthers' ACC hopes aren't severely damaged by these suspensions. Save for Blair, everyone else should be back and ready for the conference season.

The Bookser suspension was likely, of course, after DUI charges earlier in the year. Narduzzi was asked about it earlier this month and had no real comment on a specific suspension.

Taking Bookser's case first since it's the least complex, one game seemed like an absolute bare minimum. Seeing two or three wouldn't have been a surprise, so if you're a Pitt fan looking for the least-worst news in terms of who will be back the fastest, that's it. Of course, that's not to suggest that the discipline fit the crime. That's not for me to say. My only point is that, he'll get back onto the field in a relatively short amount of time.

Blair seems to have committed the harshest penalty since he was dismissed from the program altogether. While we don't know what he did, it's obvious that his issue was different from the others as the terminology in the release was different. Counting Jeremiah Taleni, that's now two senior defensive linemen that have been booted out this offseason. Blair would have been a three-year starter for Pitt and it's a really unfortunate incident all the way around. Considering how far he'd come, from being a questionable recruit that suffered a stroke in high school to a three-year starter, it's even more disappointing.

The cases of Whitehead and Wirginis are equally as fuzzy. The Pitt release didn't state their infractions but, well, there are plenty of rumors out there. As I try to do here, I'm not going to address those since it's not quite fair to run with unconfirmed or sensitive information. But, obviously what they did was seen as a significant no-no by Narduzzi who suspended them three games.

Seeing Bookser get one game for a very public DUI while they got three games makes you think their incidents were three times as reckless. But that's not necessarily accurate since certain incidents could trigger certain lengths of games they would have to miss.

My overwhelming thought here is that none of these guys are rookies. This type of stuff simply cannot happen. As I said on Twitter, if you're going to be a team leader (which all of these guys were to some degree), then be a team leader. It's similar to what Tyler Boyd did in 2015 as a junior. At some point, guys have to be responsible. Whenever you have a team of about 100 young adults, things will happen. But it shouldn't be happening with upperclassmen and guys that are in key roles where they know that they are being heavily relied upon.

Not the way Pitt wanted to start the season with camp opening just around the corner.

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 @AnsonWhaley.

NFL.com analyst says Lesean McCoy will lead league in rushing in 2017

Lesean McCoy had a strong season last year with 1,267 rushing yards. Despite that total, though, he still finished outside of the top five in terms of yardage. But one NFL.com analyst says McCoy will lead the league in rushing in 2017.

For whatever reason, not too many folks realize how effective McCoy was last season. Despite missing almost two full games, the uber confident tailback backed up his football bravado with 1,267 yards, 14 total touchdowns and a sterling 5.41 yards per carry, which was third in the NFL. He also caught 50 balls. Funny, nobody ever thinks of McCoy as much of a receiver. McCoy seems to fly under the radar amid the widespread fascination with David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott and Le'Veon Bell, but he should absolutely be mentioned in their company among the league's elite. The Bills led the NFL in rushing last year. Tyrod Taylor's running ability demands opposing defenses to play 11-on-11. The run-first philosophy in Buffalo shouldn't change much under new Sean McDermott. Thus, fans might tap the brakes before anointing DJ, Zeke, and Lev Bell the rushing champs.

I think the former Pitt running back could be in for a good season and projections are high for him. The Bills' official site even wonders if McCoy can get to 2,000 yards.

Personally, I just don't see either happening. McCoy has won the rushing title before, but that was back in 2013 when he won it with 1,607 yards. McCoy hasn't ever come close to that mark in any other season, topping out at 1,319 the year after that one. Then, there's his age. At 29, he's a year older and right at the magic number of 30, which is often used to cite the major decline of a back.

I could see McCoy hovering around the 1,300-yard mark and even exceeding what he did last year when he averaged 5.4 yards per carry. I'm just not sure I see another monster 1,600-yard year out of him. Impossible? Nah. Just unlikely.

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.

Pat Narduzzi reiterates quarterback competition

The Pitt coach repeated the idea that Max Browne has not secured the quarterback job

Pitt football coach Pat Narduzzi stated previously that the Pitt quarterback job was not yet won by presumed starter and USC transfer Max Browne.

I’ve shared my thoughts previously on why I’m not sure I buy that but this week in a radio interview, Narduzzi repeated that stance.

“Max Browne is the guy that came out of spring thought as the number one guy, but Ben DiNucci is right there,” said Narduzzi. “There’s competition. And if Max Browne thinks he’s got it all by himself he’ll have another thing coming.”

Perhaps more interesting is that Narduzzi said he wants to name a starter earlier this year than he did two years ago when Nathan Peterman and Chad Voytik were fighting for the job.

“I think I made that mistake my first year (having a QB competition into the season), I think I cost us the Iowa game because I couldn’t make (a decision) fast enough,” said Narduzzi. “I’d like the kids to make that decision, I don’t really want to name the starting quarterback, I want it to be so visible that everybody knows. I’d like to have that thing set in stone before we start the season, but if we have to go into it and see who’s going to make plays, we’ll do that.”

The point about the Iowa game is interesting. Now, Peterman did play most of that game and Voytik got only a couple of series. But if you remember (and here’s a refresher if you’re like me and didn’t), Peterman came on and threw two early picks before he was replaced. That was Peterman’s first start and it came in a pretty hostile environment with a night road game. Narduzzi’s thinking is likely that if he had started the season all along, he would have been better prepared and more capable of leading Pitt to a win in a game that came down to a last-second, 57-yard field goal.

All of that is important contextually because of how Narduzzi handled that situation. Perhaps he felt that Peterman should be the starter and Voytik got the nod based on his tenure here. Remembering back on the extremely short leash Voytik was on, it’s even easier to see that Narduzzi was never sold on him. Looking back, he now feels like that could have cost Pitt the game and wants to avoid making that mistake again.

Does all of that mean there could be a legit competition this year? I mean, maybe. Personally, I still maintain that Browne will be the starter for Pitt’s opener. Maybe as things go along, that changes if he struggles. But as I said before, if I’m Browne and I’ve got only one year to prove myself, I don’t walk into a place where there’s a chance I might not play. I go to a school where I’m guaranteed to play.

And seeing him sit the bench all season just doesn’t add up.

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.

Top Pitt running back breakout candidate for 2017?

Earlier this month, I mentioned a few guys that could be breakout candidates for Pitt football this season. But the ACC's official site had a look at three conference running backs that could be in for breakout seasons.

No Panther was listed but that got me to thinking a little about Pitt's running back situation, which we know could be wide open. The starter, for now, looks like Qadree Ollison, who, ironically, had a small role last year after a big 2015 season as a freshman. But how long that lasts is anybody's guess since the Panthers have a lot of candidates for carries.

Given that, who would be your pick for breakout running back for the Panthers this year? Will Ollison hold everyone off? Calling him a breakout player might seem a little odd since he was a 1,000-yard rusher in 2015. But because he had such a down year last season, rebounding this year to lead the pack would make him a breakout of sorts.

Does Moss, who looked great at times last season, seize the job? Does Hall get back in the mix? Will one of the freshmen emerge? Heck, maybe it's nobody in your mind, which is fine, too, if you don't think anyone will have a particularly great season.

What's your pick for breakout running back for Pitt in 2017?

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.

Bookmaker tabs Max Browne significant favorite to start season at quarterback for Pitt

Gambling on Week 1 college football starting quarterbacks? Yep.

Bookmaker.eu has some odds on starting quarterback selections for various teams expecting to have a battle in training camp. Pitt was one of the schools listed and Max Browne was listed as a significant favorite (-330) over Ben DiNucci (+260).

Interestingly, only a dozen quarterback jobs were listed, meaning they believe that most of the jobs are probably already settled or there's not enough information in some cases.

We just discussed this here recently. Pat Narduzzi is on the record as saying it's a close battle but, as I wrote before, I have a hard time believing Max Browne won't be the opening day starter.

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.

ACC vs. SEC All-Star Game?

With all of the recent talk of ACC coaches staking their claim for their conference being the best in all of football, Athlon pitched an interesting idea of selecting all-star teams from the ACC and SEC. ACCFootballRx then tried to determine which conference came out on top at each position. They deemed that the ACC won the most position battles.

Joining the 'team' from the ACC was two players you would expect - Brian O'Neill and Quadree Henderson. Both were also preseason All ACC First Team media picks. Henderson was given the nod over SEC kick returner Evan Berry but O'Neill lost his matchup with the SEC's Ross Pierschbacher. That matchup isn't a true head-to-head, however, since O'Neill is a tackle and Pierschbacher is a guard.

These things are always arbitrary, obviously. Still, an interesting idea to compare the top players in the conferences.

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 makes annual trip to Mel Blount Youth Home

Pitt's football team takes freshmen players to the Mel Blount Youth Home every year before the season starts. The Panthers have been participating for the past decade. While there, the players interact with the kids and have them doing football-related activities.

This year was no different and the Panthers made their usual trek this week. The Post-Gazette has a good recap of the day as well as some interview material from incoming running back Todd Sibley and quarterback Kenny Pickett. The Trib also has a recap of the day.

It's easy to see why the school remains involved. Overall, it's a great way for the program to not only give back but also to get the freshmen introduced to community work early in their careers.

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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