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Cardiac Hill Poll of the Week: Will Pitt safety Jordan Whitehead return for senior season?

Okay, I'm modifying my poll expectations around here. Trying to do a daily one has been a little daunting since I've been so busy lately, so let's try to stretch these out to a week now.

FOX Sports raised some eyebrows earlier this spring when they released a mock NFL Draft for 2018. The site is not only projecting Whitehead will make the leap to the pros but even called him a first-round selection for the Dallas Cowboys. Heading into his junior year this fall, that would mean he leaves a year early.

When Whitehead signed with Pitt, many of us believed he could easily be a three-year player. But the projection came after a year when Pitt's secondary was among the worst in college football and when Whitehead himself even had a bit of a down season after his outstanding sophomore year.

Whitehead doesn't have the gaudy pass defense stats that you might expect to accompany a first-round pick. In his two years with the Panthers, he only has two interceptions. His real value for the Panthers has come in helping to stop the run and he has routinely put up double-digit tackle numbers.

A good chunk of that, though, has been due to his position. He's expected to move to the field safety spot this season and that will likely lead to more interception opportunities. As he acknowledged earlier, the new position is a little more difficult, however.

Given all of that, do you expect to see Whitehead to leave early for the NFL Draft?

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 Will Jordan Whitehead leave early for the NFL? Yes No   1 votes | Results

Pitt track and field performers earn several All-American honors

Pitt's track and field members participated in the NCAA championships this past week and earned numerous All-American honors in the process.

Leading the way was Desmond Palmer. Palmer reached the finals in both of his events - the 400m hurdles and 110m hurdles. He finished fifth in the 400m hurdles event and seventh in the 110m hurdles. That earned him First-Team All-American honors in both events.

Gillian Schriever set a new Pitt record in the 10K race, finishing 13th overall and winning second team All-American honors. In addition, the women's 4x400m relay team and hammer thrower Andin Fosam both received All-American honorable mentions.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlogfor our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Pitt transfer Cam Johnson granted full release to North Carolina without restriction

I wrote quite a bit on what I thought of the Cam Johnson situation earlier this week so I don't want to rehash much here. But the news that dropped on Thursday that he will receive a full and immediate release to North Carolina was notable.

We all know the story by now. Cam had several significant offers from major programs and, as such, it became big news when he decided he wanted to transfer inside of the conference to play at North Carolina. Pitt said that was fine, but he would need to sit out a year. Cam wasn't happy with that and after a battle that played out in the media, Pitt eventually released him to allow him to play this season.

Part of me is a little annoyed because Pitt was held to a different standard than other schools who have placed the same restrictions for years without so much of a whimper. Part of me is also kind of relieved this entire mess is over. Regardless of how you feel Pitt should have handled this, I think we can all agree that the longer it went, the bigger the distraction it was. Both sides needed to move on and this, if nothing else, allows them to do that.

As I've said already, if the idea is that we should restrict college players from transferring out of conference, I can live with that. I think there are reasons to object but if everyone is playing by the same rules, it's less of a problem for me. My point of contention is that all schools should be required to do that and not only Pitt just simply because this was a high-profile case that the national media decided was worth their attention as opposed to the gaggle of transfer restrictions that are constantly placed and go unnoticed. If all schools don't play by the same rules, then Pitt is at a disadvantage.

Case in point - Pitt allowed Cam to play for North Carolina where he could be for the next two seasons. That obviously hurts Pitt in a head to head matchup because they not only lost their best player but he joins an already strong team they are trying to defeat. Now say, for example, a star at another ACC school decides he wants to transfer to Pitt but they tell him to kick rocks and go out of conference. Pitt could potentially lose out on that player simply because a school doesn't want to play by the same rules.

How often does that scenario happen? Beats me. But the idea that Pitt, or anyone, has to play by different rules simply because their cases are more in the national spotlight is wholly unreasonable.

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.

Sooners coach Bob Stoops announces retirement

Bob Stoops will retire as head football coach of the University of Oklahoma Sooners after 18 years, according a release from the university on Wednesday.

The university said Stoops is "the winningest coach in Oklahoma history" and has an overall record of 190-48.

>> Read more trending news

He led the Sooners to the national championship in 2000.

Stoops will remain as special assistant to the athletics director.

University officials said Stoops is the only coach to win the Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl and national championship. They said he accumulated more wins in his first 18 seasons than any coach in the game's history.

According to a statement from the University President David L. Boren, he will be succeeded by current offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.

The statement said Stoops, 56, believed it was the appropriate time to conclude his time coaching in Norman, Oklahoma.

Below is an excerpt of a statement from Stoops, obtained by the Associated Press and provided by OU:

“After 18 years at the University of Oklahoma, I've decided to step down as the head football coach. I understand there has been some speculation about my health. My health was not the deciding factor in this decision and I've had no incidents that would prevent me from coaching. I feel the timing is perfect to hand over the reins. The program is in tremendous shape. We have outstanding players and coaches and are poised to make another run at a Big 12 and national championship. We have new state-of-the-art facilities and a great start on next year's recruiting class. The time is now because Lincoln Riley will provide a seamless transition as the new head coach, capitalizing on an excellent staff that is already in place and providing familiarity and confidence for our players. Now is simply the ideal time for me and our program to make this transition. ... “I'm especially thankful for being able to coach so many talented young men over my 18 years here. It has been so rewarding to see these players come to OU and mature over a four- or five-year career, and not just on the field. To play a small part in their growth is what I will always cherish the most. None of my success would have happened without the best fans in the country. I can't tell you how much I appreciated the 110 consecutive home sellouts. The passion of our fan base is unmatched, and their support has played a huge role in not only home games, but road games and all 18 of our bowl games, as well. ... “The coaching life is like a relay race and I'm thankful for my turn and am confident as I pass the baton. Carol and I intend on staying in Norman - it is our home. I will be available to Coach Riley and the athletic department in any manner. Thank you all for a lifetime of memories we shared together of 10 conference championships, the 2000 national championship, strong relationships with players and coaches, and the great Oklahoma football fans. Boomer!”

Cardiac Hill Poll of the Day: 1,000 Yards for Jester Weah?

Last year, Pitt wide receiver had a breakout year with 36 catches for 870 yards. A whopping ten of of those grabs were for touchdowns. Sometimes you'll see tight ends have that kind of ratio when it comes to catches vs. touchdowns since a lot of them see more action in the red zone. But, without looking it up, that had to be among the highest in college football for a guy that recorded as many catches.

Not bad for a guy who had his first college reception just last year.

Weah could be utilized even more this year and the 36 catches he had was a pretty modest number. With James Conner and his 1,000-yard season missing in terms of returning production, there's probably a little more opportunity to throw the ball even though Pitt has a lot of talented backs returning and some highly-touted recruits.

Pitt also is breaking in a new quarterback and has a new offensive coordinator. The offensive line, while good, is certainly downgraded with the loss of two NFL Draft picks (one of which, Dorian Johnson, was an All-American). And not only will Quadree Henderson be looking to catch more passes but Pitt has some younger receivers looking to make their marks.

With all of that said, will Jester Weah hit 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career? Keep in mind, that's not necessarily a prerequisite for Pitt to be successful this year because of the other weapons at the team's disposal. But do you think he'll get there 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.
Poll Will Jester Weah have 1,000 receiving yards next season? Yes No   0 votes | Results

With Cam Johnson headed to North Carolina, how should Pitt react?

Pitt basketball transfer Cam Johnson had numerous attractive options in terms of finding a new basketball home for next season. After announcing he was leaving the team, he's settled on the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Cam will transfer in conference, but as of now, Pitt has not budged on its stance of wanting him to sit out a year to do so. Johnson, though, is not backing down on this:

Johnson also told ESPN he is prepared to go the legal route if necessary. — Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) June 6, 2017

And, according to Cam, North Carolina is pretty confident that he will able to play for them this season.

Johnson said he will head to Chapel Hill soon. He is optimistic he will be able to play for the Tar Heels -- who defeated Gonzaga on April 3 to win their sixth national championship in program history -- for the next two years. "It's still in limbo, but Coach Williams and the staff are confident I will be able to play next year at North Carolina," he told ESPN. "I trust them."

Then there was this pretty funny line that any Pitt fan will recognize from the Todd Graham fiasco. One of the reasons for selecting the Tar Heels?

"I have family in the area."


The stance of restricting in conference transfers, of course, has been not only widely used at Pitt but at the majority of programs around the country. In-conference transfers do happen (as North Carolina fans love to point out on the Twitters and such, btw, that they allowed one in football) but they are rare.

So if it's Common, why the Outrage?

None of that, however, has led to the furor surrounding Cam's case dying down, primarily because it has been a high-profile situation involving a player whose stock has risen dramatically. Few people aside from Jay Bilas (who has been highly critical of Pitt over this) had done so much as batted an eye in the case of past transfer situations restricting such moves. But Cam's situation has drawn the ire of a lot of people because it's been in the news so much in the past few weeks.

Bilas' tweets ran over the course of several days and, while he later briefly criticized Duke for doing the same thing earlier this year in the case of quarterback Thomas Sirk the damage was done because he harped on for so many days. Did Bilas' piling on contribute to the piling on in general? Given the fact that he has more than two million followers, I'd argue it did. A lot.

The result? The story snowballed and it went from something that typically wouldn't draw much notice outside of the fanbases of the schools involved and became, ZOMG PITT IS A VILLAIN.

What's the Solution? All Schools Should Play by the Same Rules.

My stance on this is basically that everyone needs to play by the same rules. And, to his credit, Bilas wants the same thing.

This has been made out to be a Pitt problem when it is much greater than that. I can see both sides of the argument but what is needed is some sort of consensus across college athletics, regardless of whatever that stance is. Either players are restricted or they're not and in my mind, it shouldn't even come down to the schools making the decision. The players' argument (including Cam's) is that administrative personnel and coaches move on without restrictions so why shouldn't they? Fair, right? Of course it is. But if only some schools are allowing in-conference restrictions, that isn't fair.

Should Pitt concede here and allow him to play? I know that's what a lot of people want to see happen but, unless there's an NCAA ruling on it, it would also create a sticky situation for the school with regards to future transfers. If they do it for Cam, you have to do it for everyone. And if other schools aren't following suit and allowing the same sort of freedom, that puts Pitt at a disadvantage. Again, not fair.

He's a Graduate. Let Him Play!

Let him play! Let him play!

Then, of course, there is the argument that Cam has graduated so he should be able to go where he pleases. That's fine and I not only understand the logic but can even agree with that. But it then must be a uniform standard across college sports and no such uniformity exists.

Bilas' beloved Duke even took things much further than Pitt did in the case of a recent graduate transfer. They blocked the aforementioned Sirk, who also had already graduated, from all ACC programs. And get this - Sirk not only could not go to ACC schools, but was banned from several other non-conference programs as well. Schools like Baylor, Northwestern, and Army. Oh, and North Carolina Central. Not North Carolina - North Carolina Central.

They blocked my man from a team in the freaking MEAC. Cold.

So, why would they not allow Sirk to go to such a small school? Simple. North Carolina Central, along with those other programs, makes up Duke's 2017 non-conference schedule. Schools not only routinely restrict players from going to conference opponents but even any other team they face, even if it's only once. Excessive? Maybe. I mean, if Pitt is playing Robert Morris in two years, it seems kind of silly to prevent a kid not playing here at all to go there. But it's something you see quite a bit. It wasn't because Duke feared him lighting up the MEAC. It was because they were facing them the next year on the field. Just a hunch here but I'm guessing this was less about disliking Sirk and more about it being protocol for their transfers.

Where was the outrage? The furor? It was nowhere to be found because, well (you know the answer by now) it's pretty common. But when national articles are popping up left and right on it, it's everywhere and you sure as heck aren't putting out that dumpster fire with a Dixie cup by that point.

Another argument that I've heard from others is that by allowing players to suit up in conference doesn't matter. You only see them one, maybe two times a year, right? Every conference matchup is important. Don't believe me? Just ask the softball team that finished over .500 and missed even getting into the ACC Tournament, despite finishing 21 games ahead of North Carolina State (a team that did get in) in the overall standings because of their in-conference work. Conference matchups are vitally important. Important enough to restrict transfers? That's another question. But the idea that it's only a game or two here or there falls flat with me.

So, Change the Rules

Fine! But, here's what you should know.

Even if we're implementing a rule barring any transfer restrictions, it still creates an unfair advantage to the better programs because you'll see in-conference transfers at a much higher rate. Schools that previously blocked them will not be able to do that so it stands to reason that you would see much more of that.

Also, the majority of them would likely be previously undiscovered players like Cam getting scooped up by the Dukes and Carolinas of the world. That, of course, already exists out of conference where you have mid-major players routinely going to better programs. It just usually doesn't happen in conference where you then have to suit up against said players. If you open that up, the non-elite programs get punished even more when the players have more options and really want to stick it to their former team.

Should they have more options and be able to do that? Maybe. I'm not making the argument that they shouldn't, I'm merely stating that they will.

Now, it should not go unsaid that Pitt's basketball program has itself benefited from getting transfers from lesser programs. Quite a bit, actually, since they've brought in so many transfers in recent years to help fill out rosters. One case I always come back to is that of Central Michigan's Trey Zeigler. Zeigler isn't the best example when you consider the little impact he had at Pitt. But he was a star at Central Michigan and the team's best player. He up and left, came to Pitt, and that was that. Pitt, like other major-conference programs, has really benefited from transfers coming aboard if only to create additional depth.

If the rules change, here's the likely result.

The top programs only get stronger. Them losing a kid that isn't playing to a lesser school doesn't really hurt their bottom line outside of major injuries or something like that. The middle-of-the-road majors (looking at you, Pitt) probably benefit a little and get harmed some. The bottom-feeders mostly suffer because, other than playing time, they have little to offer in the way of basketball-related substance.

Is it fair that college athletes should be responsible for keeping a competitive balance across the board. Not really. But by removing restrictions of any kind, there's little doubt in my mind that one result of that would be the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Hence, bigger and more successful programs will be on board and the smaller ones won't.

In Summary: Pitt not to Blame

The rules are so wishy-washy on this because, well, there aren't any firm rules. Schools can handle this how they want and that's why Pitt shouldn't be blamed here. Why, after all, should Pitt remove all transfer restrictions in this case and going forward when other schools (even ones in the ACC like Duke) are not willing to do the same thing?

Legislation needs introduced to create some sort of guidelines on this. I know that most people hear 'NCAA' and 'more red tape' and immediately conclude it's overkill. But in some cases rules need to be developed and this is one of those times.

Either put a rule in place barring all restrictions for transfers or stop demanding that schools cannot exercise their right to block said transfers. It's that simple.

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.

Devin Street signs with New Jork Jets

Former Pitt receiver Devin Street is on the move. Again.

Street was picked up by the New England Patriots in early May but lasted less than a month before he was released. The good news for him is that he didn't last long before signing with the New York Jets this week. Street was added by the team after they placed receiver Quinton Patton on injured reserve.

How long his stay is in New York, however, isn't clear. As SB Nation's Jets site Gang Green Nation points out, Patton himself was going to have difficulty in sticking with the roster as the team has quite a few young receivers with potential. At 26, Street isn't exactly old. But he will be entering his fourth NFL season and with four teams having taken a chance on him, he's already sort of a known commodity.

The Jets did part ways with Brandon Marshall, who led the team in both catches and targets. But their other top two receivers, Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson, have both had more NFL success than Street and are younger. Compounding the problem for Street is that the team drafted receivers in the 3rd and 4th rounds of the NFL Draft earlier this year. Those guys will obviously get more priority than a guy like Street.

For now, this looks like a move to simply bolster the offseason/camp roster. But perhaps if Street impresses, he'll get a shot to hang around.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlogfor our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Cardiac Hill Poll of the Day: Pitt - Penn State line

Last week, a line came out for the Pitt-Penn State game. Needless to say, Penn State was heavily favored.

The Nittany Lions were 19-point favorites against the Panthers. That seemed a bit on the high side but, as I mentioned then, Penn State is poised for potentially a big season and while Pitt lost a lot of contributors to the NFL Draft, including a starting quarterback, starting running back, two offensive lineman, and their best defensive player - not to mention most of their defensive line.

Given that, where did you think the line should have been? Vote in the poll below.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlogfor our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.
Poll Where do you think the line should have been set for the Pitt-Penn State game? Penn State -15 to -18 Penn State -11 to -14 Penn State -8 to -10 Penn State -4 to -7 Penn State -1 to -3 Push Pitt should have been favored, fool Line is about right   0 votes | Results

Cardiac Hill Poll of the Day: Current Recruiting Vibe

Pitt football's recruiting got off to an incredibly slow start this year. That always seems to be the case with Pat Narduzzi classes, but with only three recruits in late May, there was some very real concern among fans.

The Panthers have been on a roll in the past week, however. On May 30, they landed offensive lineman Jake Kradel, a three-star recruit with offers from Ohio State, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, and others. On Friday, they picked up Wendell Davis and Judson Tallandier, two more guys with several P5 offers, albeit, not as impressive as Kradel's. Then on Sunday, they added John Morgan, a defensive end with several offers, including one from Penn State.

None of the guys Pitt landed were four-star or five-star guys according to Rivals, but they were solid gets and desired by some quality programs. Pitt nearly doubled its recruiting total in the past week and now has seven players committed. That still puts them behind the top programs in Rivals' team rankings in terms of volume, but they've now moved up into the Top 40. Work to do, but movement.

Based on the recent additions this week, how do you feel about Pitt's class as opposed to a week ago?

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlogfor our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.
Poll With the recent commits, how much better do you feel about the 2018 football recruiting class? Much better A little better Wasn't concerned before, not concerned now Worse - Pitt needs better talent   6 votes | Results

Pat Signal: John Morgan commits to Pitt

Pitt lands a three-star defensive end

PITT IS IT!! #L1TS8URGH #H2P #12— Pat Narduzzi (@CoachDuzzPittFB) June 4, 2017

It’s June, so that means recruits. Pitt landed their third commitment of the weekend as John Morgan made the call today while visiting Pitt for a prospect camp. Morgan is a 6’3” 248 pound defensive end. He is graded as a three-star by all four of the major recruiting outlets.

John Morgan plays for national power, DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, Maryland. ESPN calls Morgan the 11th best player from the state of Maryland, while Rivals calls him the 29th ranked weak side defensive end nationally. He is the teammate of recent Pitt commitment, Judson Tallandier. Morgan held offers from Penn State, Virginia Tech, and Maryland among others.

Morgan is now the 7th member of Pitt’s 2018 recruiting class. He is the fourth defensive player for this recruiting cycle, and the first defensive end. It figures to be a small class for Pat Narduzzi and his staff, as the majority of Pitt’s roster are underclassmen and they will only graduate 10 seniors.

Pitt’s class is rapidly filling up, and there still could be more commitments happening this month. Pitt figures prominently into the recruitment of many of the local WPIAL prospects, and the staff can deliver on some of those.

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