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Pitt adds Texas offensive lineman transfer Brandon Hodges

Pitt got a bit of a surprise addition on Tuesday with the late pickup of Texas offensive lineman transfer Brandon Hodges.

Next stop! — Brandon Hodges (@BHoD_31) July 25, 2017

Hodges is a graduate transfer with one year of eligibility. He'll be available to play immediately this season. As of now, Narduzzi hasn't yet acknowledged it but it's being reported by numerous outlets.

Pitt seemed mostly set at offensive tackle with returning starter Brian O'Neill (now moved to left tackle with the departure of Adam Bisnowaty) and Jaryd Jones-Smith but Hodges' addition gives Pitt more experienced depth. He was a starter at right tackle last year at Texas but looked to be a potential backup in 2017. That was looking more like a possibility after sitting out part of this spring with academic issues.

I'm not sure where this leaves Jones-Smith, to be honest. My guess is that he gets the first shot to start but will have Hodges breathing down his neck. Hodges can also play guard, so if Jones-Smith is dominant at tackle, he could also potentially push for playing time there, too. This could be the second time Jones-Smith has a starting job taken from him. In 2015, it was due to injury. Now, it could be to competition from a late addition. That's kind of a bummer for him if he doesn't hold onto the job but Pitt also has to improve the team whenever they can. This move does that, if even just from a depth perspective.

As I said with quarterback Max Browne, I can't imagine Hodges is transferring for his final year to ride the bench. I expect he'll have a legit shot to start somewhere and if he doesn't start, he'll be playing a lot, I would imagine.

Another guy that stands to potentially lose playing time is freshman Jerry Drake. He was highly-touted as a four-star recruit and was listed as the backup right tackle in the most recent depth chart. He almost certainly gets leapfrogged by Hodges if Hodges stays at right tackle. Freshman Justin Morgan was listed as the backup at right guard behind Alex Bookser. If everyone stays healthy, this has the look of a redshirt year for Drake, which is probably a good thing for the team.

But we're still a long way from having this completely sorted and training camp will clear a lot of things 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.

Police drop charges against former Cowboys receiver Lucky Whitehead

Police in Prince William County, Virginia, have rescinded a warrant to arrest former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Lucky Whitehead.

“Upon reviewing the June 22, 2017, arrest of an individual named ‘Rodney Darnell Whitehead, Jr.,’ the police department is confident that the man charged with petit larceny, and who is subsequently being sought on an active warrant for failure to appear in court, is not Lucky Whitehead of the Dallas Cowboys,” said a statement from the Prince William County Police Department. "The police department regrets the impact these events had on Mr. Whitehead and his family."

>> Read more trending news

TMZ reported Monday during the Cowboys’ morning walk-through that the receiver was arrested for shoplifting on June 22 and had a warrant out for his arrest after failing to appear for a July 6 court date.

When informed of the matter, Whitehead said he knew nothing of it and the allegations were false.

In a press conference, coach Jason Garrett said the Cowboys had just discovered the situation as the walk-through was concluding and that the team would “respond accordingly.”

Later that day, the Cowboys released him.

When Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones was asked if he had spoken with Whitehead’s agent about the possibility of it being a case of mistaken identity, as was being reported from Whitehead’s camp, Jones said, “I’m not going to comment on that.”

Whitehead was the example the Cowboys used to demonstrate accountability after an offseason that has seen defensive end David Irving suspended for a performance-enhancing drug policy violation, linebacker Damien Wilson arrested on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and running back Ezekiel Elliott allegedly involved in a night club incident.

Falcons won’t be able to open stadium roof for first games

The retractable roof of Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be in the closed position when the new Falcons stadium debuts next month and for an undetermined period of time beyond that, the CEO of Falcons parent company AMB Group said today.

Steve Cannon said construction delays have the project behind schedule on fully mechanizing the roof.

Therefore, he said the roof will be closed when the stadium opens for a Falcons-Arizona Cardinals exhibition game on Aug. 26 and for the Falcons’ regular-season home opener on Sept. 17.

Cannon said he could not provide specifics on when the first event might be played with the roof open, although he said it would be at some point during the Falcons’ and Atlanta United’s 2017 seasons.

He said it typically takes 40 days to “mechanize” such a roof after its last “contruction move.” Since three more construction moves of the roof are scheduled in the coming weeks, the 40-day clock won’t even begin until after those moves. And Cannon indicated the process could take longer than 40 days because it will be sandwiched around a heavy schedule of events in the stadium.

Although there long have been questions about whether the roof would be fully operable when the stadium opens, Falcons officials have previously insisted they would have the ability to open the roof for events from the outset.

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Cardiac Hill Poll of the Week: More or Less Than Seven Wins for Pitt Football?

Last week, Bovada set the Over/Under for Pitt wins and losses for the 2017 football season at seven. Most predictions have about that number of wins for Pitt (I'm still clinging to eight, for what it's worth) so that seemed about where it should be.

I know we discussed win expectations for football already (and probably will again by the time the season actually starts) but since this was an over/under, I wanted to see in general where more people leaned.

But if you had to pick, are you going over or under that number? Even though you may want to say seven exactly, let's take that out of the equation.

Given that, are you taking the over or under here?

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.
Poll Is Pitt football more likely to win more than or fewer than seven regular games in 2017? More than seven Fewer than seven   0 votes | Results

Lucky Whitehead cut from Dallas Cowboys after link to shoplifting arrest

Dallas Cowboys receiver Lucky Whitehead has been cut, sources tell

WFAA-TV reporter Joe Trahan was the first to report the third-year receiver had been let go.

The news came just minutes after NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Dave Rich, Whitehead’s agent, said it was near logistically impossible for Whitehead to have committed a June 22 shoplifting for which he was allegedly arrested in Prince William County, Virginia.

According to The Associated Press, Prince William County police said Rodney Darnell Whitehead Jr., 25 – Whitehead's real name – was arrested about 1:30 a.m. June 22 for stealing about $40 of items from a convenience store.

>> Read more trending news

Police couldn’t confirm that the man was the NFL player, but records matched his birthdate, the AP reported.

According to online records, a court date was missed July 6, leading to another charge. Another court date was set for Aug. 10.

Rich claimed that this was a case of mistaken identity, the AP reported. Whitehead told reporters that he “didn’t know about” the incident.

Rich told Rapoport that Whitehead could not have been in the area because he didn't fly to Virginia until 7:20 a.m. June 22 – several hours after the incident reportedly took place.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Brian O'Neill, Pat Narduzzi talk quarterback Max Browne

The Roanoke Times is churning out some ACC football preview stuff with a look at the various programs in the conference. They put together a Pitt preview and a lot of the focus was on new quarterback, Max Browne.

There's not a ton there but both Pat Narduzzi and Brian O'Neill talked about Browne. One thing O'Neill said about Browne got my interest:

"He's not afraid to try to throw the ball into a tight window," O'Neill said. "Max is very good at going through his reads, from his first read to his second read all the way down to his check-down [receiver] — able to keep the play alive, not necessarily with his feet, but through his reads and being able to hit different players in different spots. "I don't think there's a throw on the field he can't make."

Typically, I take things like this with a grain of salt. I mean, teammates won't generally offer much but praise for each other. But the specifics of what O'Neill says about Browne checking through, making his reads, and finding different guys will be important this year.

The Panthers do have deep threat Jester Weah and he could be one of the conference's top receivers. But the Panthers also have a gaggle of unproven guys that will need to make plays this year. That's particularly true now with the loss of assumed No. 3 man Tre Tipton for the season.

Not only that, but the other starting receiver, Quadree Henderson, has proven he still needs work. Much of what Browne does in the passing game this year might involve the need to repeatedly move off of his first option and find someone else if that receiver isn't open and if Henderson or another guy doesn't prove to be all that reliable at getting open.

With not much proven beyond Weah, having a quarterback work through his reads and looking beyond his primary target might be more important than usual this season.

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.

ACCFootballRx ranks best, worst home ACC football schedules

Whenever I talk to Pitt fans about their reasons for attending (or not) games, two things generally stand out in addition to the time: the quality of the opponent and the quality of the Pitt team. In other words, fans don't want to show up to Heinz Field to see a mediocre Pitt team take on a weak opponent.

Recently, ACCFootballRx decided to rank all of the home schedules of ACC football teams this year. The Panthers finished squarely in the middle with four of their games coming against quality opponents (Oklahoma State, North Carolina State, North Carolina, and Miami). There are three duds in there with Virginia, Youngstown State, and Rice.

Among teams they've frequently played, Pitt will always have its best chance to sell tickets against Penn State, West Virginia, or Notre Dame. But the Panthers can also do reasonably well if they're playing solid ACC competition (think North Carolina) and if the they are playing well themselves. The attendance for the Panthers' last two games of the year, home contests against North Carolina and Miami, will depend in part on if the team is playing for anything.

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.

Athlon ranks 2017 Pitt football schedule opponents

With Penn State, Oklahoma State, and more on the 2017 Pitt football schedule, the Panthers will have their hands full. Athlon recently took a shot at ranking all 12 opponents.

Leading the way? That game with Penn State:

1. Sept. 9 at Penn State Pittsburgh knocked off the Nittany Lions at home early last year, before PSU really got rolling. This time the Panthers will have to go to Happy Valley and face an explosive offense led by quarterback Trace McSorley, running back Saquon Barkley, and a deep receiving corps.

That's a pretty easy pick, in my opinion, for any number of reasons. Of the three most difficult games by most measures, it's the only road contest for Pitt. It's a rivalry game. Penn State will also be looking for some measure of payback while trying not to let a chance to get into the College Football Playoff slip through their fingers. Oh, and the Nittany Lions are a pretty good team, too.

The list is pretty by the book to me. There are a few things that will likely stand out. First, Georgia Tech is ahead of Virginia Tech on the list. North Carolina State is also ahead of North Carolina. Those are two teams that have been decent but the Hokies and Tar Heels would typically be ahead of them in terms of difficulty.

Anything stand out to you as being right/wrong?

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.

Incoming Pitt women's basketball player Pika Rodriguez impressing at FIBA World Cup

I've been tracking the U.S. U19 women's basketball team that Suzie-McConnell Serio is leading at the FIBA World Cup in Italy. But there's another Pitt connection to the event as incoming freshman Pika Rodriguez is playing for Puerto Rico.

Rodriguez isn't only playing in the event but is one of the best players.

Through two games, her Puerto Rico team is 0-2. However, Rodriguez isn't the reason why. She's scored 19 points in both of the team's games and is second in the entire tournament in scoring. Amazingly, she's doing it all from the field. Her 38 points have come without the benefit of a single free throw attempt.

When Rodriguez was announced in the team's recruiting class for this season, McConnell-Serio said she can 'flat out shoot the ball and with deep range.' That last part has been true as well as she's connected on four of her ten three-point attempts.

Interestingly, from the sounds of things, Rodriguez might actually be the least-heralded of the players coming into this year's class. Sounds like a strong addition by the way she is playing in the FIBA World Cup.

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.

Suzie McConnell-Serio leads U19 team to 2-0 start with 91-51 win over China

Pitt women's basketball coach Suzie McConnell-Serio led the Team USA U19 team to an easy win in their first game of the FIBA World Cup on Saturday.  The team was back to it on Sunday and cruised to another easy victory - this time an easy 91-51 win over China.

So far, so good. The team cracked 90 points in each of their first two contests and has won both by an average of 38.5 points.

Next up for the team is the last game of Group play as they will face Italy, the host country, on Tuesday.

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