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Cardiac Hill Poll of the Day: Favorite Pitt football win from 2016?

Last year, Pitt's football team produced some great moments. From an individual standpoint, it was great to even see James Conner back on the field. But in terms of team wins, there were two big ones in Penn State and Clemson.

The Penn State win came early in the year when not much was expected of the Nittany Lions. They, of course, went on to finish with 11 wins and narrowly missed getting in the Playoff. The other big Pitt victory came against an unbeaten Clemson team that would go on to win the national championship. The lone blemish on the record was the loss against the Panthers.

To get specific here, I'm asking for your favorite win - maybe not necessarily the most important.

There's no right or wrong answer here, but which was your favorite win from the season? Beating in-state rival Penn State or defeating the national champions on the road?

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.

Pat Signal: Jake Kradel commits to Pitt

Pitt lands a highly coveted local lineman

‼️STAYING HOME‼️#L1TS8URGH pic.twitter.com/JFINupzQ0C— Jake Kradel (@JakeKradel) May 30, 2017

Pat Narduzzi tweeted earlier that Pitt received a new commitment. That commitment kept everyone guessing for the past few hours, until recently. Jake Kradel confirmed he was the newest member of Pitt’s 2018 recruiting class with that tweet just moments ago.

Jake Kradel is a 6’4” 290 pound offensive lineman from Butler, PA. He is graded as a three-star recruit by all four of the major recruiting services. ESPN goes as far as to call him the 15th ranked recruit in the state of Pennsylvania. Kradel chose Pitt over offers from Ohio State, UCLA, Virginia Tech, and Wisconsin most notably. In all, Kradel had 25 division one offers, with most of them coming from power five schools.

Here is a better look at Kradel’s 2016 season for Butler High School.

Kradel now becomes Pitt’s fourth recruit in the 2018 class. He joins defensive end Noah Palmer as the second prospect from the WPIAL in the class. He is the third offensive recruit, joining quarterback Nick Patti and tight end Jay Symonds.

Pitt’s recruiting efforts typically pick up in late May and June under Pat Narduzzi, and it appears that trend may continue this season. Pitt’s class was off to a very slow start, but things look like they can snowball a bit in the coming weeks with visits and prospect camps on the horizon.

Landing Kradel is a pretty big deal for this staff. Not only is he a quality player, they were able to beat out national power Ohio State for his services. Pitt is always able to land some local prospects, but Notre Dame and Penn State made some serious in-roads last season on Pitt’s home turf. Landing a player of Kradel’s caliber is a strong win for Pat Narduzzi and his staff.

Former Pitt women's basketball player Brianna Kiesel gets another shot in the WNBA

Brianna Kiesel was drafted by the Tulsa Shock (now the Dallas Wings) in the 2015 WNBA Draft. Kiesel looked somewhat promising as a rookie but ended up being waived last July.

She remained unsigned until February of this year when the Atlanta Dream signed her to a multi-year deal (terms not disclosed).

The season just got underway this month and while Kiesel isn't starring, she is getting minutes off the bench. Through three games this year, she is averaging 1.7 points and an assist per game.

Last year, Atlanta reached the Conference Finals before losing to Chicago.

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.

Blowout? Pitt football opens as 19-point underdogs against Penn State

Last year, Pitt opened as a big nine-point favorite against Penn State for their football game later in the year. When that line first dropped, I cautioned that it was too high and Vegas seemingly agreed. By the week of the game, that line was cut in half, falling to Pitt -4.5.

But that early line was nothing compared to what Vegas is predicting right now. Penn State opened as a 19-point favorite against the Panthers for this year's contest.

Nineteen.

Nineteen points is, suffice to say, a lot. I would have probably expected something like 13-14 points if you asked me to take a shot at it. When you get up to 18, 19, 20, etc., those types of numbers are most often reserved for teams facing off against non-FBS opponents. And even then, you don't see it all the time. It's also somewhat ironic that Pitt was a 19-point underdog against Clemson last year, too. So just throwing that out there.

It should also be noted that Vegas is calling for an easy Penn State win against Michigan, favoring the Nittany Lions by 14 in that game.

Just as I felt last year, that opening Pitt game line seems high. Now, Penn State clearly looks like they will have the better team and also have the game at home. But you just don't see Pitt manhandled like that too often and 19 would be the biggest margin of defeat suffered by the team since Pat Narduzzi took over as head coach.

The Panthers going on the road to take down undefeated Clemson last year doesn't seem to have done much to persuade folks that Pitt can win in hostile environments. The argument will be that this is a different team. No doubt about it. But given how seriously Narduzzi took the game last year, limiting media access and such, I don't know. I would be surprised if the Panthers were unprepared and if they're ready, hopefully that translates into a closer game.

None of that means Penn State can't win by that much. The Nittany Lions are hoping to contend for a spot in the College Football Playoff and return a lot. And this is, after all, a Pitt team playing on the road, retooling on the offensive line, starting a new quarterback, starting an almost entirely new defensive line, and without last year's starting running back James Conner. That doesn't even hit on the fact that the secondary was an absolute bust last season and is replacing players, too.

But despite that, this is still a rivalry game. I'm not a gambling man at all but I would be quite surprised if that line remained that high by game day.

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.

Larry Fitzgerald has chance to move up NFL career receiving yardage rankings in 2017

Over the weekend, I mentioned Larry Fitzgerald's NFL future beyond 2017 is up in the air. But assuming he has a relatively productive season next year, he will make a significant jump up in the career yardage rankings.

Currently, Fitz is ninth in all-time receiving yards in the league (with 14,389) and no active player is even within 2,000 yards of him. But he is only about 800 yards away from Randy Moss, who is currently third. Another 1,000-yard season would push him past Moss and behind only Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens.

While Rice's 22,895 yards are likely out of reach, Fitzgerald is only about 1,500 yards away from Owens - a manageable number if he committed to playing two more years.

With any luck, the former Pitt receiver will be third on the all-time list after this year and will hopefully play another season with a more than realistic chance at passing Owens for second.

In terms of career receptions, Fitzgerald is already third on that list behind only Rice and tight end Tony Gonzalez. Fitz sits exactly 200 catches back from Gonzalez for 2nd place so moving up there won't happen next season or maybe even in the next two years. But that number is also within reach - especially if Fitzgerald plays three more 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.

Cardiac Hill Poll of the Day: Aside from Cam Johnson, who is the Pitt transfer you wish was still here?

The Pitt basketball team lost a ton of transfers after the season ended. Some, it seemed, were mutual and expected. Others, like Cam Johnson's were out of the blue.

When you combine it with the graduating players, the roster has turned over almost entirely in one year. Add it all up, and there will be a lot of fresh faces on the court, including some younger guys who will be forced into action from the start.

Heck, Pitt even lost a player in recruit Aaron Thompson before he even played his first collegiate game. Technically I didn't count him here since he was simply released from his LOI. Also not counted was Justice Kithcart, who was dismissed from the team in the middle of the year.

Aside from Johnson, who is the guy you most wish was still wearing a Pitt uniform this fall?

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 Aside from Cam Johnson, who is the Pitt basketball transfer you most wish was still with the team? Corey Manigault Rozelle Nix Damon Wilson Crisshawn Clark   2 votes | Results

Lesean McCoy hopes to catch more passes in Buffalo's new offense

After Rex Ryan was fired in Buffalo, the Bills hired Sean McDermott as the new head coach. McDermott brought in Rick Dennison as his offensive coordinator and that means the team will have a new offense in 2017.

Dennison worked with running back Arian Foster who was known for catching a lot of passes in his system. Former Pitt standout Lesean McCoy hopes he'll be able to do the same with the Bills.

"The running backs getting the ball in the passing game," McCoy told reporters on Thursday. "That’s something I’ve been a part of, but it’s been a while since I’ve actually got the ball a lot in the air — we do a lot of that. [Rick Dennison is] big on that, you look at all the successful running backs that’s been in his offense, from Arian Foster who I’m a big fan of, he did it on the ground and in the air."

McCoy as a pass-catcher isn't a new idea so he should be at home in Dennison's offense.

He's caught at least 50 passes in four of his eight NFL seasons but he's done less of that in recent years. He had 50 last year, but had only 28 and 32 in 2014 and 2015, respectively. He hasn't caught more than 50 since his days with the Eagles and while I'm not betting on him getting the 78 he did as a second-year player, he could be more involved in the passing game than in years past.

McCoy will be 29 next season and is obviously at the tail-end of his career. But I'm excited to see what he can do in a new offense where he's potentially utilized a little more as a receiver.

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 baseball star T.J. Zeuch enjoying solid second season in minors

Last year, Pitt ace T.J. Zeuch was selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft, going to the Toronto Blue Jays. Zeuch signed quickly and spent the rest of that year in rookie ball and at the Class A level.

In 2017, Zeuch still finds himself in Class A, but in the advanced league with Dunedin. And the move up the ranks hasn't slowed him down much statistically.

So far this year, he is 3-3 with a 3.23 ERA through nine starts. Zeuch has given up only two home runs in 53 innings of work and has 42 strikeouts. His K/inning ratio has dropped slightly but his ERA is more than a full run lower than it was last year in the same amount of starts.

Zeuch still has quite a while to get to the big leagues but so far, he seems to be progressing well.

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 Day: Who will win the Pitt football running back job in 2017?

With the loss of James Conner to the NFL Draft, the Pitt football running back situation is up in the air. Recently, Qadree Ollison was Athlon's pick for the All-ACC Third Team so they believe he'll come out with the job. But the Panthers have several candidates.

Ollison, of course, is one. He won the 2014 ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year Award with more than 1,000 yards on the ground but he was mostly benched last year behind Conner and others. Then there's Chawntez Moss, who looked promising when he got a chance to play and, at times earlier in the year, even looked like the team's best back. There's Darrin Hall, who was ahead of Ollison on the depth chart last year and had a slightly more productive season. On top of that, Pitt has two four-star recruits coming in the fall in Todd Sibley (a one-time Ohio State commit) and A.J. Davis, who had offers from a boatload of major programs.

Who do you think comes out on top for the starting running back job next year?

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 Who will be the starting Pitt running back in 2017? Qadree Ollison Chawntez Moss Darrin Hall A.J. Davis Todd Sibley   1 votes | Results

Pitt baseball players not in demand for 2017 MLB Draft?

Last year, the Pitt baseball team lost five players that were selected in the MLB Draft. This year looks like a different tale, however.

The Panthers not only don't have the highly coveted player they did in starting pitcher T.J. Zeuch, but they might not even have anyone on the radar for quite a while. Mock baseball drafts beyond the first round or two are pretty rare, but here's one that has projections on 14 (yes, 14) of the 40 rounds. It includes precisely zero Pitt players.

None of that is too surprising. Pitt's only .300 hitter was freshman Alex Amos (who isn't eligible) and no one hit more than seven home runs on the year. The team's best starting pitcher was Josh Falk and he was 3-7 with an ERA of 3.92. Just not much that screams, 'draft me' - at least not in the earlier rounds.

That's sort of a two-way street, obviously. In some ways, it's a bad thing. You always want to be sending guys to the pros since it not only helps them but proves to recruits that your school can get them to the next level. But in some ways, it also helps with some continuity into the next year and can be good in the sense that you don't have to worry about prematurely losing guys to the pros. The argument can be made, of course, that if you don't have any or only 1-2 guys taken, that you don't have enough talent. That's valid and the trick is to always have guys going to the pros and still having a core of players ready to fill their shoes.

With the team finishing only 23-30 this season, that didn't happen.

None of this means that Pitt won't send any players to the pros via the draft this year. The link provided is only one mock draft and, even if correct, still only represents about 1/3 of the entire draft. Pitt could still send some players in later rounds. But for now, Pitt may not have guys going in the early rounds and even players with eligibility still left that are selected could opt to return if they are taken late.

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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