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Pat Signal: Cameron O’Neil commits to Pitt

Pitt lands a wide receiver from Alabama

PITT IS IT!! #L1TS8URGH #H2P— Pat Narduzzi (@CoachDuzzPittFB) August 1, 2017

The Pitt football program received some good news this afternoon, as Cameron O’Neil committed to the Panthers. Jerry DiPaola of the Tribune Review was the first to be able to verify that O’Neil was the commit following Pat Narduzzi’s “Pat Signal.” O’Neil is a 6’3” 190 pound wide receiver from Phenix City, Alabama. He chose Pitt over additional offers from Virginia, Illinois, and Wisconsin, along with a slew of mid-major offers.

O’Neil plays for Glenwood High School, and helped lead his team to an 8-4 record in 2016 and a trip to the AISA class AAA state semifinals. This marks the second straight recruiting class that Pitt has landed a player from Alabama, as he joins linebacker Cameron Bright from Montgomery in the class of 2017. Here is a better look at O’Neil on the gridiron.

In an article for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer in May, Glenwood High School head football coach, Jason Gibson, praised his star wide receiver, and gave a description of his play,

“He’s the best player on the field,” Gibson said. “He can run, he catches the ball better than anybody in this area, he’s physical and he can block. He’s the prototypical Division I football player. He’s what you’re looking for.”

O’Neil will likely be the only wide receiver in the class of 2018. Pitt has added three receivers in each of the past two recruiting classes, and this class is not expected to be very big, thus wide receiver is not a high priority.

Cameron O’Neil is the 12th player to join this class of 2018. Pitt won’t be taking many more, some are expecting a class size of about 16-18, and the numbers suggest that’s probably the case. This may not be the last recruiting news before the season. Brian Asamoah, a highly touted linebacker from Ohio, announced he will be making his college choice this week, and many feel he is between Pitt and Oklahoma.

Secondary news on first day of Pitt football training camp

With the first day of training camp, there was a lot of news from head coach Pat Narduzzi. Several things related to the Panthers' secondary.

The biggest question, from an eligibility standpoint, is regarding Paris Ford, who is trying to get eligible. Ford isn't quite there yet and, as a result, isn't practicing with the team. But he and Narduzzi are hopeful that he'll get academically cleared before the season.

"We’re obviously in constant contact with him," Narduzzi said. "He’s doing well. He’s doing better than expected at this point, and we’ll just wait for a decision to be made. I am hopeful with him and so is he.”

Then, there's the case of one of the Panthers' suspended players, Jordan Whitehead. If you were hoping to hear from Whitehead about his recent suspension, well, think again. Arguably the team's best defensive player, Whitehead wasn't at camp and a clear reason wasn't given. Narduzzi's only explanation was that he is dealing with some stuff from a 'university standpoint.' Not only was Whitehead not there today, but he will apparently be 'in and out' for the next two weeks.

There was also some news regarding players who were actually in camp. Prized recruit Damar Hamlin, who had a disappointing first season last year, was there and is going to be playing some safety in addition to cornerback.

“He’s played a little of both," Narduzzi said. "He ran a lot of the stuff with the corners in the summer. I didn’t get to see much of it. He’s going to meetings with the safeties, but he’s getting the mental load back there. I think that there is more mental in the safety area, but he can line up and play corner. So we expect him to play both. We want him to be a utility guy depending on how healthy he really gets, but we’ll decide that when it comes.”

Hamlin at safety is still a big question mark to me. What Pitt has really needed are corners and if Ford can gain eligibility, he would bolster the safety unit even more. Part of this could be to help cover things while Whitehead is suspended for the first three games but part of me also wonders if we're going to see him end up at safety as Whitehead did, even though Whitehead was expected to be a corner.

If Hamlin turns out to be as good at safety as Whitehead has been, it's hard to argue. And if Whitehead leaves at the end of this season for the NFL Draft as some have projected, the Panthers will need help there. Plus, right now, Hamlin seems buried on the depth chart not even cracking the two deep. If this is a way to get him on the field then maybe it's the best way to go.

But Pitt really needs to find some corners. That's especially true as Maddox, who will have started for most of his four years at Pitt, graduates after this year.

Speaking of Maddox, Narduzzi also casually mentioned the struggles of being in camp and also taking classes at the same time.

“Everything is sped up here with our kids going to classes and writing papers," Narduzzi said. "Avonte [Maddox] was up until midnight worrying about a poetry class. The issues that we are dealing with here are not just football. It’s university-related, which is great, but we are a week early, so it’s like spring ball. We’re practicing in the morning and have the afternoon off.”

Just another reminder that these kids have more on their minds other than football.

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 Football Training Camp: Qadree Ollison continues to lead Pitt's crowded backfield

As we've reviewed a few times this summer, one position of strength for Pitt seems to be at running back. The Panthers lost James Conner but returned a stable of capable backs, including Qadree Ollison, the 2015 ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Ollison struggled to gain any traction last year. Part of that was because of the return of Conner but part was simply being beaten out on the depth chart. Ollison wasn't only topped by Conner for carries and yardage, but also by backups Darrin Hall and Chawntez Moss.

This year, though, Ollison seems to have the edge to be the team's starter. First, he looked good in spring practices. He was listed as the starter on the team's initial depth chart at ACC media days, earlier this month.

And at training camp, head coach Pat Narduzzi confirmed that (for now, at least), Ollison is the guy.

“We’re obviously excited," Narduzzi said. "We have a great backfield replacing James Conner. We’re looking forward, whether it’s Darrin Hall or Chawntez [Moss]. [Qadree] Ollison right now is leading the way I believe, at least after today. We’ll see what he did after today from the video, but I’m excited with what they are doing.”

We'll see how this plays out. I honestly thought that Moss was Pitt's top back early in the year until Conner got going. Moss did slow down a bit later but it's still surprising to see Ollison leapfrog both he and Hall when he (Ollison) was the fourth back last year.

All of that sort of speaks to the fluidity of the situation. When Conner was out in 2015, Narduzzi went back and forth quite a bit with Ollison, Hall, and Chris James, who was still here. I'm not still not sure we'll see a stranglehold on the job like Conner had when he was here and healthy but for now, Ollison is getting rave reviews. It will also be fun to see if one of the two freshmen, A.J. Davis and Todd Sibley, can get into the mix for carries.

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 Football Training Camp: Pat Narduzzi discusses recent suspensions

Pitt football's training camp opened today so we'll have a pretty busy month. Head coach Pat Narduzzi still isn't opening up the bulk of the practices to the media so any hopes to hear about how guys are doing will be extremely limited.

But the coaches and players will be available to talk after practices and, of course, Narduzzi was asked about Pitt's recent bombshell suspensions from last week.

If there was one theme from the head coach, it's that his team will be disciplined.

“First thing, this is going to be a disciplined program," Narduzzi said. "We’re going to go by details inside too. I was a coach’s kid growing up and if I was one minute late, I’m not going out for the next month. That’s just the way it is. We’re going to be disciplined. And as soon as you lose your discipline, you lose your credibility as a football coach and as a program. And we’re going to have discipline. It’s going to be little things and it’s going to vary from time to time, but that’s all in the accumulation of pride.”

He added a little more to the credibility thing, also mentioning something I said when this news happened - these aren't rookies.

“I think it’s just being consistent," said Narduzzi. "I think you have to be consistent with what you are doing."

It’s consistent to what we have done in the past. Those are older guys and we hope they make smarter decisions than some of the other guys.”

One interesting thing that Narduzzi hinted at was while it was a first-time deal one of the two players suspended for three games (Jordan Whitehead and Quintin Wirginis), the other seemed to have multiple offenses.

“Maybe one of them is a one-time deal and one is a few different things," said Narduzzi before adding, "It is what it is.”

I'm not going to get into the speculation of who did what or who was the multiple-time offender. But you can gather from that statement is that one of the two guys has been in some trouble before or had several issues with this specific incident.

Either way, Pitt will be disadvantaged in their first three contests 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.

Cardiac Hill Poll of the Week: Impact of Pitt football suspensions

On Friday, Pitt released some pretty rough news that three players were being suspended and senior defensive end Rori Blair was dismissed entirely from the program.

In addition to Blair, Pitt will be without two other expected starters (Jordan Whitehead and Alex Bookser) for the team's opening game against Youngstown State and missing one (Whitehead) for the Oklahoma State and Penn State games.

Given what the team has to replace for the first three games, how much do you think the losses will impact the Panthers' ability to win in those contests?

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 After the recent suspensions, how have your feelings about the team's ability to win during the first three games changed? Those games will be considerably harder to win Those games will be a little harder to win No significant change   0 votes | Results

Revisiting ACC Football major bowl game history

ACCFootballRx has a look at the ACC's history of participating in major bowl games. It's an interesting table, despite the lack of much of a Pitt presence on it.

Pitt's last major bowl game was the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, obviously. That didn't go all that well with Pitt being shellacked by an undefeated Utah team, 35-7. Before that, you need to go back to the 1970s and 1980s for the Panthers' other major bowl game appearances. Pitt is on the list as a current member, even though they didn't join the ACC until a few years ago.

If you're looking for a bit of quick historical perspective on which ACC teams were dominant, this is it.

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, USA U19 Team fall to Russia in FIBA World Cup finals

Pitt women's head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio and her USA U19 Team had been chugging along through the World Cup with little competition. Team USA was undefeated in the event but also faced an undefeated Russia team in the final. Russia pulled out an 86-82 victory on Sunday to win the event.

For the Americans, it ended a long winning streak of gold medals. They hadn't lost the event in that age group since 2001 when they finished third. Team USA has dominated the competition winning the gold medal seven times out of the 12 it was played.

The loss against Russia isn't quite the same magnitude as when the Dream Team loses a game at the Olympics but it is an upset given how much Team USA has dominated the event lately. Most of the Americans' losses in the tournament were in the earlier years in the 1980s. Since 1997 when they won their first gold medal, they've had a stranglehold on the games. This was only the second time since they (the other being 2001, as mentioned) when they didn't win gold.

McConnell-Serio talked after the game and was pleased with the team's effort.

"It was just a great game," said USA U19 and University of Pittsburgh head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio. "Russia is really good. They are very talented. They have two great players that made play after play. We tried a number of different things. We played hard. I give our players credit - they played their hearts out. I'm proud of their effort. They never quit." The game featured 24 lead changes, and the USA's largest lead was only eight points, while Russia's largest lead was six points. "It was a game of runs. Russia made a run, and we seemed to answer," said McConnell-Serio. "We gave ourselves a chance down the stretch, and we just couldn't convert. It's disappointing. We came here to win the gold. We just missed some layups and free throws that could have been the difference in the game. I'm just proud of the way our players continued to fight the entire game."

Russia lost by only eight to Team USA in the last final back in 2015 and is generally a tough out in the things. And a silver medal is still quite an achievement, obviously. But there's no doubt that there's going to be some disappointment over this one given the U.S.' dominance in the event for the past 20 years.

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.

Former Pitt standout James Conner confident in first training camp with Pittsburgh Steelers

Former Pitt star James Conner is officially in his first NFL training camp with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Conner, who will be a popular media target in training camp, talked a little about making the jump to the pros.

One thing he's sure of is that he's capable of playing in the league. Conner acknowledged his entire game needs to improve but that's been something that's happened his whole life. He's met every challenge so far.

"I believe in myself and my ability to overcome odds. I have since high school," he said. "The game speed’s faster, the people get better, but I got better. I know I can play."

Don't misread that quote. Conner is planning to work plenty hard and knows he needs to improve:

"It’s just surreal, man, to finally be in NFL training camp, trying to make the team," said Conner, a former McDowell High School and University of Pittsburgh standout who became a third-round pick of the Steelers in April. "I’m just gonna do my best to soak it all in and work hard and try and be successful in every aspect." ... Asked where he needs to get better, he said, "In every category." "My speed, my strength, everything," he added. "You’re never good enough."

Conner was underrated when he came to Pitt and became a star. This situation is a little different since people expect him to be a solid contributor and, eventually, become a starter. But given how hard Conner worked at Pitt, it would almost be a surprise if he wasn't successful in the NFL. Kid just looks ready.

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 earns mixed reviews with New York Knicks in summer league

Former Pitt guard/forward Jamel Artis played with the New York Knicks in the summer league this year after moving on from the Panthers. As I mentioned before, he landed a partially-guaranteed contract with the club and will join them in training camp to have a shot at making the roster.

Artis did some good things in the summer league but also showed he has plenty of work to do, according to SB Nation's Knicks blog, Posting and Toasting. The sight has a great look at the good and the bad of what Artis did with lots of videos of his play in the league to enhance their points.

Overall, Artis played pretty well on offense in limited minutes. In only 18 minutes of action per game, he averaged 8.8 points per game and shot 49% from the field (including 42% from three-point range).

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.

Steven Adams has unique free throw practice method

Former Pitt center Steven Adams isn't a great free throw shooter in the NBA. Adams is a career 57% shooter from the line and is even worse in the postseason. This year with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoffs, he shot an abysmal 36% from the stripe.

He's trying to get better, though, and that's what counts. Adams' practice regimen is even sort of unusual, per the Norman Transcript:

He plays one of the most physical styles of any NBA player. And he owns an unmatched, eccentric personality. So, when he's working from the charity stripe, he has Thunder assistant coach Darko Rajaković come out of nowhere and, every once in a while, upper-cut him in the stomach just when he least expects it.

Whatever works. Last year, Adams was near the bottom of the league in free throw shooting.

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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