We've reached the mid-point of the month and we have the answers to your questions. We had to cut out a few redundant questions from the mailbag in September, but keep the questions coming and we’ll do our best to answer them. The best way is to comment in the article or tweet at us.
As always, JD will be handling the football-related questions while Jordan and myself will answer the basketball ones. We’re a little more than three weeks away from the start of the hoops season, so we’ll be able to answer all your preseason questions before the first tip.
Please feel free to use the comments section of this article as a place to leave questions for our end-of-month mailbag.
From the Comments section of our initial October Mailbag post:
PGHPanthers - Am I crazy to still be optimistic about the future of the defense?
JD: Notwithstanding how the defense has looked so far in the Narduzzi era, I still think the depth is developing, and I am optimistic for the defense in 2019-20. My reasoning is that we are still seeing Chryst era recruits playing major roles (Wirginis, Idowu, Zeise,etc.) whereas there appear to be some quality depth behind that, with significantly more raw talent (according to recruiting rankings and my personal, valueless opinion). The defensive line appears to be a few players away from being top level ACC caliber. I think it is the most stable, consistent unit. And my belief is the depth at LB and DB is coming through, but still quite young. Narduzzi has recieved a lot of criticism for his development of players thus far, but a lot of the guys he has been tasked with so far were either Chryst guys, or guys that he got on half of a recruiting cycle (not to mention the erosion of the 2016 class). There’s obviously a lot more context to all this, but I want to be as brief as I can. Are my hopes misplaced?
For context, this question was asked prior to both the Cuse and Notre Dame games, where Pitt turned in its best defensive performances of the year. So no, you are not crazy. I think even more than the players, I think Narduzzi has (FINALLY) started to adjust his scheme a bit by putting more DBs on the field against a pass heavy offense like Cuse’s. In terms of talent, Pitt lost its best defensive player in Wirginis, but the defense had its best game of the year against Notre Dame. There is indeed a lot of youth behind some of the starters at different positions on D, but there are also some Narduzzi guys that have been around a while that haven’t quite blossomed fully. For example, Dewayne Hendrix has not really turned out to be the player many were hoping he’d be. Hendrix was a transfer that Narduzzi brought in, and has dealt with a few injuries as well. .
You brought up a good point with the 2016 class erosion, but those were still Narduzzi guys. There was some bad luck with a guy like Zach Gilbert who had to retire from football due to a heart issue, but guys like Kaezon Pugh and Henry Miller were guys who made it here, and simply didn’t pan out. A few guys like Damar Hamlin and Phil Campbell seem to be finally hitting their stride though, so there may be hope yet. Campbell was particularly impressive against Notre Dame.
I’m curious to see how the defense develops (or doesn’t) over the course of the year. The Syracuse and and Notre Dame games seem to have taken a little bit of the heat of Narduzzi, and putting more of the focus on Watson and his offense.