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UnScripted: The Cardiac Hill Podcast w/ Corey Cohen (FB Season Preview)

Corey Cohen and Jim Hammett record a complete season preview for the 2017 Pitt Football season.

In this episode of UnScripted: The Cardiac Hill Podcast, Corey Cohen and Jim Hammett record a season preview for Pitt Football. Topics include Paris Ford becoming eligible, an extensive look at the depth chart, and predictions for the season.

Max Browne to start at QB, officially

The USC grad transfer will start for Pitt, Pat Narduzzi announces

It was assumed right when Max Browne announced he was transferring to Pitt, but he’s officially been named the start for Youngstown State by Pat Narduzzi.

Pat Narduzzi announces Max Browne as Pitt's starting quarterback— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) August 22, 2017

Max Browne was the starter for USC going into the 2016 season, but after a rough few games, was replaced with now Heisman favorite Sam Darnold.

The reports from practice have indicated that Max Browne’s competition mostly came from RS Sophomore Ben Dinucci, who saw some action in last year’s bowl game after Nate Peterman got hurt. There is a certain amount of buzz about true freshman Kenny Pickett as well, but the logic is likely to redshirt him this year and compete for the starting job next year.

Browne is Pitt’s 3rd grad transfer quarterback to start in 4 years (Nate Peterman, Tom Savage). However, both of those former Pitt quarterbacks are on NFL rosters, and Pitt had good play out of both while they were here, especially Peterman. While it’s not great to have a new starter every year, Pitt has taken advantage of using grad transfers at a position it’s had very little depth at the last few years.

Hopefully, Browne’s season at Pitt goes as well as his predecessor’s did.

Cardiac Hill Poll of the Week: Will Paris Ford redshirt in 2017?

Pitt's football team got some great news that top recruit, Paris Ford, has finally been ruled eligible to play. Nearing the end of training camp, he's joined the team for practices this week, as JD wrote on Monday.

Should Pitt fans get their hopes up for this year, though? Head coach Pat Narduzzi downplayed his addition, at least in terms of this year. Narduzzi actually believes Ford will need to redshirt this season.

The head coach said on Monday, "We aren't going to say, 'okay Paris, let's go, you are the savior.' That isn't going to happen. In my opinion, he is going to redshirt, and if something else happens besides that, it's a miracle. It is just too hard to come in as a kid like that. We are just happy he is here, he's in school and that's the main thing."

That will be disappointing to some, especially with Pitt's secondary needing all the help it can get. That's magnified not only by the fact that the unit was abysmal last year but also that the team is missing arguably its top defensive back in Jordan Whitehead, who is suspended for the first three games.

Do you believe Narduzzi here or is this just a smokescreen? Even if he legitimately believes that Ford will need to redshirt this season, do you think that changes?

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 soccer freshman Edward Kizza named to Top Drawer Soccer preseason All Freshman Team

Earlier, I wrote about a top 50 recruit that Pitt men's soccer coach Jay Vidovich landed for this season in forward Edward Kizza (name up for debate as I've seen him referred to as Kizza Edward and Edward Kizza - the Pitt website says Edward Kizza). It was an astonishing grab for a program that has been at the bottom of the ACC since they joined the conference.

Kizza is already gaining some early recognition and is primed for a big first year. Top Drawer Soccer recently named him to their national preseason All Freshman team. He is one of 11 players in the entire country to make the team and one of three forwards.

Pitt's soccer team has a long way to go, obviously. They are 1-1 in their two exhibition games this year, defeating American, 4-1, and losing 1-0 to VCU. The team was only 2-13-3 last year and in one of those victories, they needed double overtime to defeat Duquesne. It's hard not envisioning some kind of improvement this season. And as I said before, if Vidovich can land kids like Kizza and Chandler Vaughn (a 2018 top 20 recruit) without winning anything yet, imagine what he'll be able to do if the Panthers start to improve.

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 Signal: Marquis Williams commits to Pitt

Pitt lands a three-star corner from Florida

Pat Narduzzi left everyone guessing after tweeting out a “Pat Signal” late last night. It appears the mystery is now over as Marquis Williams committed live over Twitter just moments ago.

#CardinalGibbons HS (FL) 2018 DB Marquis Williams (@Williamsisland4) commits to the #Pittsburgh #Panthers— Sleeper Athletes (@SleeperAthletes) August 22, 2017

Marquis Williams is a 5’9” 165 cornerback from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He chose Pitt over two finalists from the Big Ten, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Williams also held offers from Clemson, Ole Miss, Penn State, and Michigan State among others before narrowing his choices.

Williams is graded as a three-star by Rivals and 247Sports. He is ranked as the 35th best cornerback in the country by Rivals. He will play for Cardinal Gibbons High School this season after playing for Coconut Creek last year.

In an article by David Furones of the Sun-Sentinel, the Cardinal Gibbons coach had some high praise for his senior cornerback.

“They’re getting a really fast guy with a lot of speed,” Cardinal Gibbons coach Matt DuBuc said. “And a guy with ball skills because he can play receiver too, special teams guy. A guy that can do a multitude of things.”

The coach also mentioned about why Williams chose Pitt later in the article.

“Charlie Partridge did a great job recruiting him. We’re close with Charlie, and it ended up working out,” DuBuc said. “I think the ACC was better for him than the Big Ten.”

So in all, it seems like a solid commitment for Pitt. They are getting an athletic corner with good offers from a talent-rich program in a talent-rich state. Williams becomes the 13th recruit in the class of 2018. He is also the first commitment from the state of Florida, a bit surprising after Pitt brought in seven guys from the Sunshine State last year.

Here is a closer look at Williams as a player.

Marquis Williams is the second corner in this class, joining Judson Tallandier of Maryland. They appear to be two totally different players with Tallandier being an imposing 6’2” and Williams checking in at 5’8”. Obviously this is an important position for Pitt, and bringing in talent of any size is important for this program.

Sports teams poke fun at eclipse through social media

Several sports teams had some fun with Monday's solar eclipse, taking to social media to put their own spin on the celestial rarity. The Atlanta Hawks gleefully blocked out the Suns, who were only too happy to block them back. And there was a total eclipse of the Hart in Philadelphia.

>> Read more trending news

Let’s start in Atlanta, where the Hawks’ Twitter account noted that “in honor of the sun being blocked today, here are our best blocks against the @Suns over the past few years!”

The Suns were not about to have the Hawks throw any shade on them, so they responded in kind: 

The Philadelphia Eagles had some fun with the 1983 Bonnie Tyler song, “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” using defensive tackle Tyler Hart as their focal point: 

Was that Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo protecting his eyes during the eclipse? Only the Spartans know for sure.

There was plenty of creativity to go around in the sports world. Now, players have until 2024 to think of something new.

Paris Ford Eligible for 2017, Practicing with Team

Better late than never for Pitt’s most important 2017 recruit

It came out of nowhere, but Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi revealed that former 4* DB Paris Ford would indeed be eligible for the 2017 season. Narduzzi had Ford come out during his daily Q&A with reporters.

Narduzzi went on to say that Ford had actually been practicing the last few days with the team, but had his players keep it quiet.

As for Paris Ford playing in 2017, Narduzzi added it’d be a “miracle” if Ford didn’t redshirt. However, I’m not sure I buy this. Ford is obviously very late for camp, and has a lot of catching up to do in regards to schemes and the defense, but his talent is off the charts. I would not be surprised in the slightest if Ford appeared in a game by mid-October or so.

However, it’s reasonable for Narduzzi to downplay expectations on a young kid who’s just now getting thrust into the college game. If he doesn’t play, then he has a year to add some weight (one of the few concerns about Ford’s game) and get acquainted. Narduzzi is shown he’s not afraid to burn a redshirt if he thinks a player will help.

Welcome to Pitt finally, Paris.

James Conner makes NFL debut with Steelers

Pitt’s No. 2 all-time rusher topped 100 yards Sunday

The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t look like themselves on Sunday due to some shaky quarterback play, but they were able to eke out a 17-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons in their second preseason game, thanks in large part to ex-Pitt running back James Conner.

In an impressive debut, Conner, who missed the Steelers’ matchup with the New York Giants last week, racked up a total of 101 yards, including 98 rushing yards on 20 attempts and three yards on one catch. He didn’t find the end zone, but he was instrumental in the drive that ultimately put the Steelers on top, breaking off 17- and 19-yard runs.

After the game, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin seemed pleased with Conner’s performance, per

“I thought he represented himself well, particularly from a conditioning standpoint,” Tomlin said. “You can’t underscore that element of it. I know that as a professional athlete, generally he’s in shape. But he hadn’t played a lot of football, and to be able to execute the large number of snaps that he did is encouraging.”

Conner also briefly acknowledged his success, but his focus after the game was primarily on the ways he needed to improve moving forward.

“I have a lot of things to do to get better on,” Conner said, per “I’m definitely gonna get on those JUGS machines after practice and make sure my hands are ready for the next game.”

Drops were Conner’s only notable issue on Sunday. Tomlin mentioned one of them in his postgame press conference, and Conner was reportedly consoled on the sideline by teammate Coty Sensabaugh after his second drop, according to Bryan DeArdo of 247Sports. But that was the lone lowlight of an otherwise exciting day.

By all accounts, Sunday was Conner’s big chance to show Tomlin what he could do, and he did not disappoint. Though he was sidelined for nine days after suffering a shoulder injury in the team’s first padded practice, he was able to make up for lost time against the Falcons and put his best foot forward.

With that said, Conner obviously won’t be ousting star running back Le’Veon Bell from his starting role any time soon, as Bell is reportedly expected to end his holdout before the regular season kicks off, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. But Conner set himself apart from the backups and may have earned himself consideration for a higher spot on the depth chart.

Any such promotion is almost certainly contingent on Conner sustaining this level of play through the remainder of the preseason, but that seems well within the realm of possibility for him. And considering Bell has only played one complete season in his career, a backup role could still lead to significant playing time for Conner.

Tom Savage pulls ahead in Texans quarterback battle

The ex-Panther looks poised to win the starting job

The Houston Texans’ quarterback situation became a bit clearer on Saturday night, as former Pitt signal-caller Tom Savage set himself apart from rookie Deshaun Watson with his second straight impressive performance of the preseason.

He’s only seen limited action, but he’s accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. He also earned himself some praise from Texans head coach Bill O’Brien after the game against the New England Patriots.

“We moved the ball when he was in there,” O’Brien said, according to Drew Dougherty of Texans TV. “He threw the ball accurately. Went to the right people. Like I said all along: He’s got good command of what we’re doing.”

O’Brien, while complimentary, did not sound quite as certain in his assessment of Watson’s performance.

“I thought Deshaun did some good things,” he said, per Deepi Sidhu of “I think they were doing some things defensively that were tough. It wasn’t like a big schematic game, but they were playing a lot of man coverage. Guys had to work hard to get open, and I thought he made some plays.”

At this point in the preseason, Savage, who last played for Pitt in 2013, has completed 85 percent of his 20 passes and thrown for 167 yards and a touchdown over two games. His score came on a well-placed pass to Jaelen Strong in the back of the end zone Saturday night.

For comparison, Watson has completed 51 percent of his 35 passes and thrown for 281 yards, but he has yet to score with his arm. Instead, he’s put points on the board twice by darting into the end zone himself. His overall completion percentage also doesn’t tell the whole story, as it dipped from a respectable 60 percent on Aug. 9 to a disappointing 30 percent Saturday.

In addition to outplaying Watson as a passer this preseason, Savage has also received a vote of confidence from Houston’s star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

“If anybody should be a judge of quarterbacks, I’ve played with the most quarterbacks in NFL history throughout my first four years,” Hopkins told Dan Graziano of ESPN earlier this month. “So I put the stamp on Savage, and I think that’s all that needs to be said about that.”

Obviously, that wasn’t all that needed to be said about it, as this quarterback competition has raged on, spiraling into one of the most scrutinized position battles in the league. But Hopkins’ opinion is certainly a factor that could weigh in Savage’s favor if Watson is able to step up his play.

And to be sure, the starting job has appeared to be Savage’s for the taking all along, as he entered this preseason with three years of NFL experience and a few starts under his belt. But when a team takes a player like Watson in the first round, fans want to know what they have, and they want to know now.

Because of that, Savage has not only been competing against Watson on the field, but also against the notion that he’s a career backup holding back a franchise cornerstone, which has been peddled by both local and national media outlets.

Mark Maske of The Washington Post even suggested that Watson “would give the Texans a chance to reach elite status, to be a team capable of ousting the Patriots from the playoffs sometime in the next few years.”

While the operative word in that sentence is “years,” the whole idea stands on shaky footing since Watson has done little thus far to warrant suggestions he could catapult the Texans to elite status. And again, the argument leans on the notion that Savage has peaked after two league starts.

For his part, Savage doesn’t seem to think that’s the case.

When he spoke to Sarah Barshop of ESPN during a practice last Monday in which Watson was taking first-team reps, Savage laid out his view of the situation explicitly.

“My mindset is that this is my team. And I’m not going to let anyone take it,” he said.

“It’s a pretty simple equation I think a lot of people overthink, especially in this league. If you go there and you win and you play well, they can’t pull you. And if you go out there and you lose and the offense doesn’t look good, they can pull you. So the goal is to go out there and play well and win games. And that’s all you can really control.”

With that said, Savage has clearly kept this situation well within his control, and if he can close out the preseason playing at this level, the starting job should be his.

Watson, meanwhile, may well be the Texans’ quarterback of the future. In fact, it would be surprising if that wasn’t ultimately the case, based on his talent. But with three weeks to go until Houston kicks off its season, it seems unlikely he’ll make the leap from fledgling talent to serviceable starter in that short amount of time as he continues to struggle with accuracy.

Alabama’s Nick Saban on eclipse; ‘I’ll watch it on TV’

Alabama football coach Nick Saban is not impressed with the hype surrounding Monday’s total eclipse, ESPN reported. 

>> Read more trending news

“I watch the Weather Channel every day,” Saban said Saturday after a scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium. “They're already saying what it's going to look like in every city in America. So what's going to be significant? Watch the Weather Channel, and you'll see what it's going to be like in Portland, Oregon.”The solar eclipse peaks in Tuscaloosa around 1:30 p.m. Monday.

Saban said he would accommodate any players who wanted to watch the event.

“We'll set it up so if the players want to go out there and get some sunglasses,” he told ESPN. “I guess they can. That's not something that I'm really that focused on right now."

Saban said he has a lake house in Clayton, Georgia, that is in the path of totality. But he is not planning a road trip for himself or his players.

“Tell them to watch it on TV,” he said. “Maybe we should have a team meeting about how we want to do this. I haven't thought about it.”

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