Thursday, November 6, 2008

Morr-is More

Over the past week a lot of credit has gone to the toughness of this Pitt team. I think a lot of that credit needs to be directed to Pitt's strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris. I believe that Morris is one of the reasons that Pitt teams are started to be labeled as tough under Wanny. Forget the 5-star and 4-star recruits, Wanny's biggest get for the program is the Panther's strength coach.
Think back to the first couple of teams under Wannstedt. They seemed to play with a lack of grit aside from a few players, and often looked tired and not physical in games. I can specifically remember sitting at a game and watching Tommie Campbell from Aliquippa playing LB. Campbell had a clear angle to make a tackle on the sideline for a 5 yard gain. Instead Campbell choked it down, looking too tired, and too afriad to attack the ball carrier. Bam, 15 yard run. And I don't mean to single Tommie out, there were many other examples, but this was one that has clearly stuck in my head. I turned to the people next to be and said, "This team has no heart, don't they ever get pissed off." See, Wanny has always been known as a players coach. Guys love him because he treats them well. Often the wrap on his team was that they were too soft. Wanny was a good cop, but needed someone to play the bad cop role.
Enter Buddy Morris.
Morris was hired, I believe in the offseason following that 2006 season that I mentioned above. Check out some of the quotes from when Morris first arrived at Pitt in an article by Kevin Gorman from winter of 2007:

"We," Morris said, "were fat."
Several Panthers body fat measure 30 percent or higher, which Morris found "embarrassing."

My personal favorite about Morris:

Those who don't meet Morris' standards
are subjected to wearing pink shirts that read,
"I work out at Curves," the women's fitness center.

Morris tried to instill the following attitude:

"Training is about an attitude," Morris said.
"Don't show me a sign of weakness.
Don't show me that you're tired."

Even Scott McKillop one of the hardest workers on the team seemed to be surprised by what Morris brought:

"It's definitely a shock to me," redshirt
junior linebacker Scott McKillop said. "You have
two different personalities. Coach Kent was more
of a laid-back person; Buddy is more in your face.
He's basically breaking us down and starting us from scratch."

I have to say that starting form scratch was exactly what those Panthers needed. It takes some time to buy into an attitude like the one Morris employs. But, once it happens, watch out, ordinary teams can do extraordinary things. I'm not sure that when Gorman printed this article in '07 many people thought it a big deal. New strength and conditioning coach, big whoop. Don't be fooled, Morris has had a tremendous impact on the program. Looking back I believe this is the most important move Wanny has made (that and locking up LeSean McCoy). The team never ever looks tired, the lineman look fit, and they fight four full quarters, and overtimes if necessary. As long as Wanny can keep Morris, the bad cop at his side, this team will continue to work and grow in toughness. Attitudes are contagious on a football team, and on this team toughness seems to be spreading like the black plague. Where many teams wear out as the season goes on I look for this team to continue to get better. They know when the circumstances are tough that they have been through worse. Look for the Panthers to play their best football in the next four games.

1 comment:

  1. Morris for Ultimate Badass Position in Wanndstedt's cabinet. Middle East has problems. Send Ultimate Badass there. Problem solved.