pitt-watson
Pitt Athletics

Pitt hires veteran OC Shawn Watson as Matt Canada’s replacement

Leave a comment

Veteran offensive coordinator Shawn Watson has been hired to become Pittsburgh’s next offensive coordinator, the Panthers announced Thursday evening.

Watson replaces Matt Canada, who followed a trail of Benjamin Franklins to take the same post at LSU.

“Shawn Watson was one of my first mentors in this business,” head coach Pat Narduzzi said in a statement. “He sat me down as a young coach and taught me how to work with wide receivers in my first full-time job at Miami in the early 1990s. Ever since that time, we have always talked about being able to reunite on the same staff again. I’m really thrilled that the time has finally arrived and he’ll be joining us at Pitt as our new offensive coordinator.

“Shawn is, first and foremost, a wonderful person and father,” Narduzzi added. “As a football coach, he is extremely knowledgeable, an excellent recruiter and will be a tremendous strength in the quarterback room and offensive staff room. I’m really looking forward to having Shawn and his wife Anita join us in Pittsburgh.”

Watson has previous coordinator experience at Colorado, Nebraska, Louisville and Texas, but was demoted after one game in the 2015 season in Austin and pushed off Charlie Strong‘s staff at the conclusion of that season. He spent the 2016 campaign as a quality control assistant at Indiana.

“I am tremendously honored and excited to join the staff at Pitt and be part of what Pat Narduzzi is building there,” Watson said. “Pat is one of my closest and dearest friends. I’ve known him for a very long time and have always admired the passion and energy he brings to coaching and teaching. Pat and his staff have accomplished so much in such a short period of time at Pitt. I can’t wait to join them, meet our players and get ready for spring ball.”

He inherits an offense that was one of the most improved nationally, as the Panthers jumped from 56th nationally to 13th in yards per play and 68th to 10th in scoring from 2015-16. That success led Canada to become a Broyles Award finalist as one of the nation’s best assistants and to the LSU job.

But the Panthers are likely due to take a step back in ’17 no matter who calls the plays. Starting quarterback Nathan Peterman graduated, leading rusher James Conner left for the NFL Draft and most of the offensive line leaves the roster as well.

Watson should gel with Narduzzi in terms of tempo. The Panthers have averaged around 65 plays per game over the past two seasons — generally good for around 90th nationally — which is slightly below the 68 snaps Watson averaged in his last two full seasons as a play-caller at Louisville and Texas.

ACC National Signing Day recap: Florida State, Clemson impress once again

CLEMSON, SC - NOVEMBER 07:  (L-R) Head coach Jimbo Fisher of the Florida State Seminoles talks to head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers before their game at Memorial Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Few leagues have transformed their reputation on the field more than the ACC has the past several seasons and the biggest reason for that has been because Clemson and Florida State captured national titles. As a result, it should come as no surprise that those two programs once again paced recruiting for the league when all was said and done on National Signing Day.

The Seminoles remained among the national elite with another stellar class while the Tigers used their limited number of scholarships to land some top-notch talent, possibly including Deshaun Watson’s successor in five-star QB Hunter Johnson (who’s already on campus).

In addition to the league’s two powerhouses, Miami put together another solid class to help them close the gap under Mark Richt while other schools like Pitt and North Carolina pleasantly surprised with some good hauls. It should all make for an even more competitive ACC in the coming seasons and allow us to look back to Wednesday and see where it all began.

Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 2 overall Cam Akers (RB, Florida State), No. 6 overall Marvin Wilson (DT, FSU), No. 19 overall Tee Higgins (WR, Clemson), No. 28 Khalan Laborn (RB, FSU), No. 30 overall Hunter Johnson (QB, Clemson)

Top 25 classes: No. 7 Florida State, No. 13 Miami, No. 16 Clemson, No. 25 Virginia Tech

Biggest storyline: Florida State and Clemson continue to keep pace with college football’s elite, Miami closing the gap

Same ol’, same ol’ in the ACC when it comes to the recruiting rankings. The league’s past two title winners both turned in great classes full of impact players and continue to keep pace with the elite programs in the sport. The Tigers’ class wasn’t as highly rated as many expected coming off that championship down in Tampa but a lot of that has to do with the limited number of spots that the program had and nothing to do with the talented that signed with Dabo Swinney. The Hurricanes once again signed a quality group and even went outside the state to land speedy four-star receiver Jeff Thomas from Missouri.

Biggest surprise: Wilson heads to Tallahassee.

Wilson was one of the few recruits that had any drama surrounding his decision on Signing Day. While many expected it to come down to either LSU or Ohio State, it was the Seminoles who closed strong to add another top 25 player into the fold. The last five-star defensive tackle the team landed from the Lone Star State worked out well and history might repeat itself with the very talented Wilson.

Don’t sleep on: Louisville

It was a banner season in many ways for the Cardinals and that was true even if the ending was a bit rough on the field. After seeing quarterback Lamar Jackson capture the Heisman Trophy, Bobby Petrino’s staff really went after addressing needs along the offensive line while also adding size and speed on defense. It may not be as highly rated as the top tier ACC programs, but this a good effort on the recruiting trail for Louisville once again.

We’ll see about: Everybody else

The ACC is full of programs that are hard to peg when it comes to recruiting classes simply because they rely so much on developing recruits over several seasons. Duke landed a top 50 classes while Georgia Tech was right around the same area in most team rankings. We probably won’t know about those two or the Wake Forests of the world until a few years down the road so stay patient if you’re a fan of an ACC program that isn’t in the top 25.

Top-rated DT Marvin Wilson commits to Florida State

marvin-wilson
Rivals.com
4 Comments

In a somewhat surprising move, 5-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson announced a commitment to Florida State on Wednesday afternoon.

Wilson ranks as the nation’s No. 6 overall player and the top-ranked defensive tackle, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. He hails from Houston’s Episcopal High School, where he was a teammate of the nation’s No. 10 player and No. 3 offensive tackle Walker Little, a Stanford signee.

Industry experts pegged Wilson to LSU at a 59 percent rate on the Crystal Ball forecasts, and Ohio State also pursued him hard.

Wilson also represented the Big 12’s last shot at landing a true blue-chip recruit through Oklahoma, who were truly only tangentially connected to the Wilson hunt.

As for the team Wilson is joining, he joins a class that already contains 5-star running back Cam Akers, 5-star all-purpose back Khalan Laborn and 5-star defensive end Joshua Kaindoh among the Seminoles’ 24 signees. Florida State is ranked sixth among all teams and tops in the ACC in the 247 Composite rankings.

Report: Miami blocking Gus Edwards from transferring to Pitt, Syracuse

RALEIGH, NC - NOVEMBER 19: Gus Edwards #7 of the Miami Hurricanes runs with the ball against Josh Jones #11 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Carter-Finley Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Miami won 27-13. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Getty Images
5 Comments

While the head coach at Georgia, Mark Richt had a (very classy) policy of permitting his transferring  players to move onto any other institution they desired with no restrictions, including other SEC schools or even teams on the Bulldogs’ non-conference schedules.  Apparently, though, that policy hasn’t followed him to Miami.

A Staten Island native, Gus Edwards has opted to transfer from the Hurricanes in order to be closer to his home as he became a father earlier this month.  It had been reported that teams such as Boston College, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse and Temple would be of interest to the running back.  Two of those potential landing spots, however, reportedly won’t be an option.

From Scout.com:

According to a source close to Edwards, the Hurricanes and head coach Mark Richt are blocking the running back from picking a school who is on Miami’s 2017 schedule. That means two potential landing spots that are close to home and therefore meet his criteria, Pittsburgh and Syracuse, are blocked by the program.

Not only is that an about-face from his stance at UGA, it’s a 180-degree turn away from Richt’s own words during his first summer camp at The U just five months ago.

“I’ve unconditionally released any guy that ever wanted to leave, because I think life’s too short,” Richt said back in August according to the Miami Herald. “I would call the commissioner and say, ‘The kid wants to go. Wherever he wants to go, let him go.’ I think we had two kids go to Alabama, at least one went to Auburn, maybe two. But I don’t put any limitations.”

The driving force behind Richt’s apparent change of heart appears to be his boss.

“Institutionally, our policy has been that we would not do that for a school we’re going to play in the upcoming season,” UM athletic director Blake James said according to the Palm Beach Post.

Edwards, who will be leaving the football program as a graduate transfer, has yet to formally request a transfer, James added.

Shai McKenzie details restrictions Virginia Tech placed on transfer

BLACKSBURG, VA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Running back Shai McKenzie #22 of the Virginia Tech Hokies breaks a tackle against the Western Michigan Broncos in the second half at Lane Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Blacksburg, Virginia. Virginia Tech defeated Western Michigan 35-17. (Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Right or wrong, but unsurprisingly, Shai McKenzie‘s departure from Blacksburg comes with some strings attached.

Nearly two weeks ago, McKenzie took to Twitter to announce his decision to transfer from Virginia Tech and continue his collegiate playing career elsewhere.  On the same social media site Monday, the running back revealed that his future elsewhere won’t include any ACC schools as well as none of the teams on the Hokies’ 2017 and 2018 non-conference schedules.

The latter group includes Notre Dame, West Virginia, East Carolina, Old Dominion, Delaware and William & Mary.

A four-star 2014 recruit, only one signee was rated higher than McKenzie in Tech’s class that year.

The Pennsylvania native’s career actually began with promise as he was second on the team in rushing as a true freshman when he went down with a torn ACL in the fifth game of the season.  At that time, McKenzie had 269 yards on the ground; in the two years since, he ran for a combined 126 yards.  His 2015 season was limited to two games because of the lingering effects of the ACL injury.