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Former Pitt star Aaron Donald misses start of Rams OTAs with reported contract negotiations

Former Pitt defensive tackle left the Panthers only a few years ago and is one of the top defensive players in the NFL. Now entering his fourth year in the league, it sounds as if he is (understandably, I might add) hoping for a big payday.

The Rams' OTAs (offseason organized training activities) began this week but Donald was noticeably absent. A report seemingly suggests he could be staying away to avoid an injury before a new deal can be reached. His agent, reportedly, did not deny that.

None of this is really all that out of the ordinary. While it might be ideal to have Donald there, it's not a big deal that he isn't. And there wasn't any indication that a deal wouldn't get done so having Donald for training camp in the fall still seems likely.

It's beyond obvious at this point but Donald deserves to be paid like one of the top defenders in the league. In three years at tackle, he's amassed 28 sacks and four forced fumbles to go along with 163 tackles.

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.

Jamel Artis reportedly working out for Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers, and Houston Rockets ahead of NBA Draft

Pitt guard/forward Jamel Artis is preparing for the NBA Draft. He didn't have a great showing at the NBA Combine, but he will also have plenty of time to impress teams.

Artis has a busy week. On Monday, he reportedly worked out for the Sacramento Kings. Today, he's working out for the Los Angeles Lakers. Tomorrow? The Houston Rockets will get a look.

Artis is probably still a bit of a long shot to be taken in the NBA Draft, which is on June 22nd. But while these teams might not take him with a pick, they could eye him up for a potential summer league spot.

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 baseball drops series against Wake Forest to end 2017 season

The Pitt baseball team's season ended over the weekend when the Panthers lost a series to top ten Wake Forest. The team did manage to pull out a 5-4 upset in Game 2 over the No. 19 Demon Deacons but dropped the first game (7-4) and the third one (14-4).

That put the team at 23-30 on the year and gave them their fourth season with a sub-.500 record. Most of the time, the team has been well under .500 - in three of the four seasons, they've finished at least seven games under. Like the softball team, the Panthers will miss the ACC Tournament.

wrote at the beginning of the season that the team needed to show improvement and, well, that didn't happen. The Panthers nearly got to the .500 mark last year (25-26) but regressed this season. To be fair to coach Joe Jordano on this, though, in a lot of ways, that was to be expected.

The team lost five players to the MLB Draft, including first-round pitcher T.J. Zeuch and Charles Leblanc, who was one of the top shortstops in all of college baseball last season. Three other key players were selected as well and the Panthers were in a virtual rebuild.

Still, Pitt was in a position to get to .500 but stumbled badly down the stretch.

First, the Panthers were swept against Georgia Tech - a team that finished a modest 27-26 on the season. After needing extra innings to beat Youngstown State, they were swept by North Carolina State then defeated in a single game by West Virginia. Both teams are solid, but unranked, so not winning even one game there was disappointing. Pitt then dropped two out of three with West Virginia to close out the season.

I don't know that this was so much a bad season with all of the losses they had than just one that was disappointing. The team lost a lot from last year - there's no doubt about it. The ACC schedule is daunting, no doubt. But Pitt still needs to find a way to win more games. No one is (or should be expecting) this team in its current state to go out and win series against ranked ACC teams. But the Panthers were also swept by Louisville, swept by Virginia, swept by Georgia Tech, swept by North Carolina State.

That simply can't happen.

Losing two out of three games isn't ideal because it puts you back in the race for .500 by another game. But you can live with it, right? However, when you lose all three, that puts you three games back. And when you do that four times in a season, well, you get the idea. Getting at least one game out of a series is absolutely critical to teams like Pitt that are scratching and clawing every step of the way.

I don't necessarily need Pitt to win their ACC series right now. That needs to eventually come but the program is still building itself up. This is a tough conference and I get that. Some of those games were competitive but the bottom line is that Pitt can't suffer through so many sweeps. That's simply too much ground to make up for a team that is, at best, one that's about .500.

The Panthers' also need to at least be reaching the ACC Tournament. Even if you're not among the strongest teams in the conference, being one of the weakest shouldn't be an option. 12 teams make the conference tournament (here's this year's bracket, if you're interested) and the Panthers and Virginia Tech were the only schools left out.

Jordano likely will (and probably should) get a bit of a break this season because of how much the team lost. But next year should be a crucial one for him and, at some point, the baseball program needs to take a bigger step forward.

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.

Cardiac Spill: Sheep Game!

I’m bored and sad and want to run a game out of this blog I barely write for. Let’s play the Sheep Game!

Here’s where the preamble about not having written for Cardiac Hill would go if anyone asked. We’re in the Deep Offseason, which is the time for dumb lists, endless season previews, and, apparently, the dissolution of a prestigious basketball program.

But that’s neither here nor there. Let’s play a Sheep Game.

I was introduced to the concept by the Something Awful forums a while back, although other people have apparently played it on cruise ships. I have reproduced the rules here, as written by “Xenophon” ten or so years ago:

The game is not complicated. 1. There will be a list of questions at the bottom of this post. The object of the game is to provide the MOST COMMON response from the people playing the game, kind of like Family Feud. You receive one point for each person who provided the same answer. In other words, if the question was "What is best in life," and 10 players said "To crush your enemies," each of those players would receive 10 points. If 5 players said "The open steppe, fleet horse, falcons at your wrist," they would each receive 5 points. If 1 player said "Hello Kitty," he would receive 1 points (and the public condemnation of his peers). 2. Every question scores points, even if only one. The player with the MOST points, after all the questions are added up, wins the game. 3. There are no right or wrong answers - your job is to provide the MOST COMMON answer. So even if you really, really think that "The open steppe, fleet horse, falcons at your wrist" is best in life, it might still be in your best interest to answer "To crush your enemies." This means that even a factually incorrect answer can score the most points! You have to decide what you think everyone else will say. 4. Some of the questions are vague - intentionally so! It's your job to interpret them as you think the majority will.

Got it? The goal is to give the answer you think everyone else is going to give. I’ll be checking answers for misspellings, same general concept, etc., so that for a question like, for example, “Penn State is what?”, “Terrible” and “Way Terrible” both count in the same group.

Scores and results (the good part) will be posted whenever I think there are enough entries. You may never see scores and results. To ensure that scores and results are posted, share this post. (I’d love to do a general-audience version of this eventually.)

THE QUESTIONS:

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I’ll Venmo the winner $1, maybe. Probably.

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

North Carolina in play for Cameron Johnson but Pitt would force him to sit a year first

Former Pitt player Cam Johnson already had a list of potential suitors a mile long. Now, North Carolina is also in the mix for him.

Johnson can transfer to the Tar Heels, but the Panthers would force him to sit a year first.

Count Jay Bilas among the outraged:

No school should restrict the transfer of an unpaid, amateur student for any reason. Period. Pitt is wrong here, and should let Johnson go. pic.twitter.com/QFAa8lE5a9 — Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) May 21, 2017

Personally, I'm a pretty big fan of Bilas. Love his analysis, insight, and generally think he's right on most topics. And he's even been gracious enough to preview some Pitt games in the past for us against Duke and also against Villanova. But the idea that he's specifically calling Pitt out here as if the school is some sort of standalone villain here is kind of amusing given that, well ...

This. Happens. Almost. Everywhere.

Even if Bilas' tweet didn't mean to come off that way, that's the way it sounds. Really, it should be clarified so that he's addressing the larger issue in general.

Bilas didn't stop there, however. He actually sent out another tweet (again, Pitt-specific) asking if the school's players were students or employees:

Restricting Cam Johnson's transfer is the same as a non-compete provision in an employment contract. Pitt athletes: students or employees? pic.twitter.com/YQkpDZAA9i — Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) May 21, 2017

Again, the idea in general may not be a bad one. But by trying to make this specific to the Panthers is where Bilas is wildly wrong. In-conference restrictions are not only allowable, they're commonplace. Right or wrong, that's the widespread environment.

Schools routinely block players from transferring in conference. The ACC doesn't have any such rule but it's pretty standard operating procedure. The idea, really, is that you don't want players giving their new team an advantage against you in head-to-head matchups.

There will undoubtedly be talk about Kevin Stallings previously blocking Sheldon Jeter from coming to Pitt when the pair was at Vanderbilt. But that isn't even remotely the same type of situation since Jeter was going out of conference. Stallings' problem then, it seemed, was that Pitt had talked to Jeter when they shouldn't have. That, in and of itself, is an entirely different issue.

I have no problem with the bigger issue that Bilas wants to raise - removing these kind of transfer restrictions in general. You won't get much argument from me on that even though I do think it opens up some very slippery slopes. In general, though, giving kids more freedom is fine by me. But this idea that this is a new thing and that the Panthers are somehow in uncharted territory here isn't accurate.

At all.

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.

James Conner, Adam Bisnowaty sign NFL rookie contracts with Steelers and Giants

I've been trying to keep an eye out on the contract status for the five Pitt players drafted. But in reality, it doesn't mean a whole lot. None were taken extremely high so a holdout situation isn't something that would be huge news, even if it happened.

But a couple of Panthers are already signed to their new teams. About a week ago James Conner signed a four-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Earlier today, news was released that Adam Bisnowaty signed a four-year deal with the New York Giants.

To date, I haven't heard anything about Nathan Peterman, Dorian Johnson, or Ejuan Price inking deals yet.

Two things of note on each of the signees is that Conner is apparently slimming down a bit with the Steelers and while Bisnowaty played left tackle at Pitt, the Giants are trying him out at right tackle for now.

The move for Biz isn't unexpected. Left tackle is generally the more important position for teams with right-handed quarterbacks (which Eli Manning is) and he'll probably need to work his way up a bit. Conner losing weight will be something to watch. So much of his game is based on a bruising style of running so you wonder if that will have any impact on how he holds up and how much punishment he gives to defenders. But anything within reason shouldn't affect him too much.

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 women's basketball player Brenna Wise headed to Indiana

Two years ago, guard Josh Newkirk transferred out of Pitt's basketball program to Indiana. Women's basketball star Brenna Wise is doing the same.

Wise announced the move recently.

"Oh, my gosh, it was one of the toughest decisions I ever had to make," she said. "It came down to a lot of heart and soul. I fell in love with the coaching staff. "It's truly an honor to have the opportunity to play in the Big Ten. Indiana is a basketball mecca."

Funny enough, but the first thing I thought of after that were the comments made by Josh Newkirk about Indiana being a 'dream come true.'

Per NCAA transfer rules, will have to sit out for a season.

Wise said she was leaving the Pitt program earlier this year after the season ended. She's been one of the team's best players over the past two seasons and it was pretty clear there was sort of a rift between her and head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio.

As anticipated, she commanded a lot of interest. Other reported finalists included Ohio State, Michigan, Villanova, and Dayton. Those are all fairly close by for her (since she's from the area) so it looks like she wanted to stay pretty near home. I have to imagine that more offers from quality programs a little farther away were there, too.

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 will host Montana and UC Santa Barbara in Legends Classic

In March, it was announced that Pitt would participate in the 2017 Legends Classic. This week, the Panthers' opening round opponents were determined.

Pitt will face Montana on November 13th then play UC Santa Barbara on November 15th.

Regardless of the outcome of those games, Pitt will still advance to the semifinals along with Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and Penn State.

Ordinarily those early-round games would just be footnotes. But with all of the roster turnover Pitt has had, I don't think fans will be feeling overly confident in those games as much as in years past. Still, UC Santa Barbara was only 6-22 last year and Montana was 16-16 while playing in the Big Sky. If Pitt can't find a way to win those games (at home, no less), it will probably be a very long year.

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: Noah Palmer commits to Pitt

Pitt lands a local defensive end.

Proud and very excited to announce that I have fully committed to the University of Pittsburgh #H2P #L1TS8URGH pic.twitter.com/NUh6t28GCu— Noah Palmer (@npalmer_3623) May 18, 2017

Noah Palmer announced via Twitter today that he has committed to Pitt. Palmer is a 6’4” 225 pound defensive end from Jefferson Hills, Pennsylvania. He chose Pitt over offers from a number of MAC schools.

Palmer plays his high school football for Thomas Jefferson, a local powerhouse in the Pittsburgh region. He helped guide the Jaguars to a 12-1 record and a WPIAL championship in AAAA. Palmer posted 43 total tackles and 3 sacks along with two defensive touchdowns. Here is a look of his highlights from his junior season.

Palmer becomes the third commitment for this class, joining tight end Jay Symonds and Quarterback Nick Patti. Historically, Pitt’s recruiting efforts tend to pick up considerably in the months of May and June, and that looks to be the case again this season. Pat Narduzzi and his staff are still waiting to land a big time prospect, and perhaps by landing Palmer could help land his teammate, highly touted defensive tackle Devin Danielson.

Pitt offensive lineman Alex Bookser arrested and facing numerous vehicular charges, possible DUI

Well, this seems like fun:

Pitt offensive lineman Alex Bookser was arrested Sunday morning and charged with eight vehicular charges, including misdemeanor driving under the influence, after he was accused of crashing his SUV into two parked vehicles on campus, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The newspaper indicated Bookser was also charged with accidents involving damages to attended and unattended vehicles, failure to obey stop signs, driving at an unsafe speed, careless and reckless driving and operating a vehicle without an official certificate. He is scheduled to appear in Pittsburgh Magisterial District Court for a preliminary hearing on June 26.

Not good news.

Bookser, of course, is a key figure on Pitt's offense. With the Panthers' offensive line in a partial rebuild with the loss of two starters that were just drafted to the NFL, that unit isn't expected to be as strong as it was last year. Not a train wreck, mind you - just a little weaker.

Bookser is one of the reasons for some optimism on the line because he is a returning starter and played quite a bit two years ago. An experienced player, Bookser adds quite a bit to the line.

I don't want to get into the silly discussion of ranking DUIs/reported DUIs. I know there's going to be a lot of comparisons made to what Tyler Boyd did just prior to his senior season but driving under the influence is a bad situation no matter where you are. Even if it's not a populated area, you run the risk of hurting yourself.

All that being said, this seems like it could have been very, very bad. Hitting cars? Police officers drawing firearms? Yikes. Driving under the influence in Oakland is just a bad deal. Congested streets, one-way streets, and not to mention drunk students milling around all hours of the night. That no one was hurt as seems to be the case is obviously great news.

All eyes will be on Pat Narduzzi for this regarding a suspension. Boyd, you might remember, got a game. But he also had three fewer charges than what Bookser seems up against and Bookser is reported to have hit cars, hit a building, and there's some video of the incident.

The elephant in the room will be if Bookser plays against Penn State in the team's second game of the year. Missing the Panthers' game against Youngstown State wouldn't be as big of a deal. But if he's not there in Happy Valley, that would make winning an already difficult game even tougher.

Regarding that suspension, too, I'm not sure we can expect to hear a decision soon. While Narduzzi can act swiftly if he so chooses, he also didn't announce Boyd's suspension until about two months after the charges were reported - and that was in part because the season was closer to kickoff.

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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