Le’Veon Bell

Pat Narduzzi’s offensive system at Pitt a continuation of Michigan State’s

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The Pitt Panthers already utilized a ball-control offense under former head coach Paul Chryst. Pitt fans can expect much of the same with new head coach Pat Narduzzi leading the way.

Pitt’s foundation will be built on playing strong, aggressive defense under Narduzzi’s supervision with a run-first offensive led by new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.

“It doesn’t matter what their problems were in the past, we’ve got our system we need to put in and focus on that,” Narduzzi told ESPN.com’s Andrea Adelson.

Last season, Pitt ran the ball 610 times and averaged 5.3 yards per carry. Chaney’s, who previously served as the Arkansas Razorbacks’ offensive coordinator, called 557 running plays for an average of 5.1 yards per carry.

Narduzzi clearly found the right man to lead his offense.

“When you look at running our style of offense and what we’ve done here in the past, he’s one of the top names that comes to mind,” Narduzzi said. “He’s a perfect fit.”

All of this boils down to basically one thing:  expect a ton carries for James Conner in 2015. The 250-pound back is an absolute workhorse who carried the ball 298 times as a sophomore.

The 2012 season was last time Narduzzi was part of a coaching staff that featured a running back over 240 pounds.  Le’Veon Bell carried the ball 382 times that season.

Conner should expect a heavier workload.

CFT Predicts: the Big Ten

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As the 2013 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we examine the Big Ten.  

While we’re at it, be sure to check out our other conference predictions: SEC, Pac-12

Leaders Division

1. Ohio State (Last year: 12-0)
What happened last season?
Urban Meyer‘s first year with the Buckeyes was flawless, at least as far as things go in the win-loss column. Though Ohio State had no postseason to look forward to thanks to NCAA sanctions, it went undefeated during the regular season. That’s propelled OSU to become one of the preseason favorites to appear in the final BCS championship.

So why are they ranked here?
The more appropriate question would be why wouldn’t the Buckeyes be ranked here? Meyer is easily one of the best in the game and quarterback Braxton Miller is now the betting favorite to win the Heisman. There are some concerns along the defensive front for this team, but it doesn’t have the appearance of something that will be an insurmountable problem.

Anything else?
The Game against Michigan can go either way, but there’s really only one spot I can potentially see Ohio State slipping. That would be an Oct. 5 game at Northwestern. The Wildcats enter 2013 with some hype (there’s something you don’t type everyday) after winning 10 games last year.

2. Wisconsin (Last year: 8-6; lost to Stanford in Rose Bowl) 
What happened last season?
The Badgers can thank the NCAA for getting to the Big Ten title game as both Ohio State and Penn State watched from home. The Badgers struggled with offensive consistency throughout the year even though Montee Ball was among the leading rushers in the country. 

So why are they ranked here?
Gary Andersen takes over for the departed Bret Bielema. Though Ball is gone and the quarterback situation needs to be figured out, this is a veteran team with some recognizable names still around like running back James White and receiver Jared Abbrederis. The bigger concern lies on defense, which will be moving to more of a 3-4 this year.

Anything else?
The Badgers avoid Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska this season. It may not help Andersen win the Leaders Division in his first year, but it should help with a few more W’s. Also, QB Tanner McEvoy has started getting some looks at receiver and should help in that department.

(more…)

Mich. St.’s top RB undergoes hernia surgery

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Nick Hill’s quest to replace Le’Veon Bell as Michigan State’s starting running back has suffered a bit of a hiccup, the player himself revealed Wednesday.

In a tweet posted to his Twitter account, Hill confirmed that he had recently undergone surgery recently to repair a sports hernia.  Hill stated that he is set to commence the rehab process today.

While MSU has yet to provide any details, the surgery is not expected to impact Hill’s availability for the start of summer camp in early August.

The Spartans concluded spring practice this past Saturday with the annual spring game, in which Hill scored the lone rushing touchdown.  Hill has been atop the Spartans’ depth chart at running back throughout the spring.

Last season as a redshirt sophomore, the 5-8, 193-pound Hill finished third on the team with 48 yards rushing and was the only player aside from Bell who scored a touchdown on the ground.

Gholston gives Sparty early NFL trifecta

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After officially losing running back Le’Veon Bell and tight end Dion Sims to the NFL draft two days ago, Michigan State’s taken an expected early hit to the defensive side of the ball as well.

While the school has yet to officially announce his departure, defensive lineman William Gholston confirmed to 247Sports.com Friday that he has decided to eschew a final season with the Spartans and will instead ply his football wares at the NFL level.  Gholston said he informed head coach Mark Dantonio of his decision Friday.

“After thinking everything over and talking to coach Dantonio, I knew it in my heart leaving for the NFL was the best decision for me,” Gholston told the website. “I want to thank everyone who helped me get to this point in my career and everything the entire Michigan State has done for me.”

Despite his immense talent, there was one little reason that played a significant role in his decision.

“Every snap, every down and every step I take throughout life is for him,” Gholston said of his three-month-old son. “My son means everything to me because he is part of me in everything I do.”

The 6-7, 278-pound Gholston led the Spartans this season in sacks (4.5) and tackles for loss (13).  The former five-star recruit is viewed by most draft analysts as a first- to second-round talent.

Le’Veon Bell leaving Spartans; Dion Sims likely to follow

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Michigan State has officially lost one important piece of its offensive puzzle, and has all but officially lost another.

In a tweet posted to his Twitter account this afternoon, running back Le’Veon Bell announced that he was leaving the Spartans early for the NFL draft.  While MSU has not yet confirmed Bell’s status for 2013, a school official acknowledged to CFT that Bell has informed head coach Mark Dantonio of his decision.

“As hard as it was to leave [S]partan nation, it was even harder to pass on such a great opportunity I have in front of me!” Bell wrote on Twitter. “But I love and thank [S]partan nation for everything! I will always be a Spartan!”

Bell is currently third in the nation in rushing yards per game at 137.9, while his 12 rushing touchdowns were tied for fourth in the Big Ten.  He was named first-team All-Big Ten after rushing for 1,793 yards, second in school history to Lorenzo White’s 2,066 in 1985.

In addition to Bell, ESPN.com‘s Joe Schad among others are reporting that tight end Dion Sims is set to make the same early leap as his teammate.  Sims finished the 2012 season third on the Spartans in receptions (36) and receiving yards (475).

When Sims’ decision becomes official, he’ll become the first player at his position to declare thus far.

UPDATED 12:58 p.m. ET: A short time ago, Sims also tweeted that he has played his final season in East Lansing.

“I want to thank #SpartanNation for 4 of the best years of my life! I’ll always bleed green & white!!!”