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Cardiac Hill Poll of the Week: How closely will you follow James Conner with the Steelers?

Pitt fans have a unique connection with former running back James Conner being selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL Draft this year. Conner will not only stay in the area, but he'll be working out with current Panthers over at the shared training complex in the south side.

With the news that Conner's jersey leads all NFL rookies to date, I'm curious about how many people will be following his pro career. I think in general that Pitt fans, like other college fans, tend to not pay close attention to what ex-players are doing in the pros after they move on from the program. But Conner's situation is really unique because he was a star player at Pitt that will now be playing for the pro franchise that a good number of fans consider their favorite as well.

All that said, how closely will you be monitoring Conner's rookie year in the NFL?

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 How closely will you follow James Conner's career with the Steelers? Very closely Somewhat closely Meh   0 votes | Results

Does Max Browne have competition for Pitt quarterback job? Pat Narduzzi says yes.

Max Browne, once a highly-touted quarterback prospect, transferred from USC to Pitt for this season. The idea is that, in his last year, he will be the unquestioned starter.

According to a recent Post-Gazette article, however, Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi says, not so fast:

"Max Browne is leading the way," Narduzzi said last week, "but he's got a guy right on his footsteps, Ben DiNucci." ... "It's a tight race, and there's not a lot of separation," Narduzzi said. "At the end, E.J. came to my office and said hey, we need somebody, so I said here's what it looks like to us right now. We talk about it every day. But Ben DiNucci has done a great job of developing."

By the way, Narduzzi is referring to the preseason depth chart he had to assemble for the athletics department in that last part.

My general thought on this is no different than it is whenever high-profile transfers move to a program - they expect to play. I won't come out and say Browne was guaranteed anything here but there is zero chance (in my mind) that he would come here if he didn't feel he was going to be the guy going into the season. Any number of teams are looking for quarterbacks and no coach will ever sell me on the idea that a kid like Browne, who could go to a lot of programs and start immediately, would come here with only the expectation that he might play. It's common sense.

Now, if Browne comes here and struggles with the job, he obviously won't keep it. Or if he gets to camp this fall and is so bad that even he realizes he shouldn't have the job, I could see an exception there, too. But if both guys are reasonably close, he's getting the job.

You also have to keep in mind that playing transfers doesn't only have an implication on the current team, but the future. Pitt has been fortunate in the transfer game in landing Nathan Peterman and others who have been above average. If they want to continue to land guys they need to play the ones that come here so they can point to some past successes. You don't think what Peterman did here at Pitt had an effect on Browne?

I'm all for Narduzzi putting this out there and keeping pressure on his top guy (and no, not these top guys). Browne should be under pressure to play well. But do I buy that there's a chance Browne doesn't start to the season unless it's due to injury?

Not necessarily.

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.

Max Browne on Unitas Golden Arm Preseason Watch List

The watch lists keep coming. Pitt quarterback Max Browne was named to his first one this year as he finds himself on the preseason list for the Unitas Golden Arm Award.

That award is a little different than most in that you have to be either a senior or a fourth-year junior to win it. So a lot of the top quarterbacks will automatically be out of consideration for it right away.

Browne is one of the biggest question marks for Pitt heading into the season. He's only attempted a little over 100 passes over three years with USC before transferring to the Panthers. He is the team's unquestioned starter at this point but until we see him working with the offense in actual games, his effectiveness will remain a mystery. But on a watch list with so many quarterbacks (47) and the class specification of needing to be a four-year player, it makes sense that he would be added to the list.

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.

Brian O'Neill, Quadree Henderson named to All-ACC preseason team

Brian O'Neill and Quadree Henderson have both gotten their share of preseason recognition through various award watch lists. They added another honor this week with the news that both made the All-ACC preseason team.

The team was voted on by the media attending the Media Days last week.

As a consensus All-American last year, Henderson was a no-brainer. And by the amount of recognition that O'Neill is racking up while going into the season starting for his third consecutive year, it's no surprise seeing him there as well.

Others, such as Jester Weah, Jordan Whitehead, Ryan Winslow, and Alex Officer all got more than ten votes. Alex Bookser and Avonte Maddox recorded a few votes, and fullback George Aston even got a vote at running back largely on (I'm guessing) the strength of his impressive ten touchdowns last 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.

Former Pitt running back James Conner leads all NFL rookies in jersey sales

Former Pitt running back James Conner was selected in the NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this year. A wave of Pitt fans vowed to buy his jersey when it was released and, well, that seems to be happening. So far, Conner leads all rookies in jersey sales across the league. Not only that but Conner's jersey is close to tops in the NFL.

Steelers running back James Conner was the 105th player chosen in this year's NFL draft. But he's first in jersey sales. According to data released by Dick's Sporting Goods, Conner's jersey is the No. 1 best seller among NFL rookies this year. Among all NFL players, only Dak Prescott and Tom Brady have sold more jerseys this year.

Now, obviously established veterans that have had their jerseys available for years will be at a disadvantage when it comes to that second part. After all, if you've already got a Tom Brady jersey, chances of you buying another one this year are slim. But the fact that he's beating out practically everyone else in the league, including all of the newcomers is mindblowing.

Sales were expected to be pretty high. With him going from Pitt to the Steelers, a team that many Pitt fans also embrace, it's not a huge surprise that the sales are doing well. Conner's story of beating cancer, too, was an inspirational one that reached the entire nation. It was all sort of the perfect storm for selling a jersey. But ranking so high on the list is really impressive even despite that when you consider he wasn't a very high pick and is still outperforming all of the first-round guys, who typically sell a lot.

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.

Sports Illustrated joins CBS Sports in ranking Pitt basketball last in the ACC

You can probably expect to see a few more of these.

Recently, CBS Sports ranked Pitt's basketball team last in the ACC in their preseason rankings. They're not alone in that sentiment as Sports Illustrated says the same, slotting the Panthers dead last in the conference:

The cupboard is quite barren in terms of proven talent for Pitt, which loses its top five scorers (all starters) from a team that went 4-€”14 in league play. Senior Ryan Luther (5.7 ppg) is the top returning scorer and only returning Panther who averaged more than 10 minutes per game.

The only team that will probably give Pitt a run for its money in these sorts of early-season rankings at this point is Boston College. Even that is probably based more on a historical thing than actually looking at the rosters for this season. That's not to say that Pitt can't avoid finishing last in the ACC. But the Eagles return several key players, including their top three scorers.

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.

Pitt receiver Jester Weah named to Biletnikoff Award preseason watch list

On Tuesday, Pitt wide receiver Jester Weah was named to the preseason watch list for the Biletnikoff Award. The award recognizes the nation's top receiver.

Last season, Weah led the ACC in yardage per catch (24.2), which was also good for second in the entire nation. On the year, he had 36 catches for 870 yards and ten touchdowns. That was a pretty strong season for a guy who hadn't previously caught a pass.

Despite the late start to his career, Weah will have a chance for a big season and to get onto the radar of NFL scouts. 36 catches isn't much but he's a guy that can stretch the field and, as he proved last year, make some absolutely huge plays in the passing game.

I'm not sure he can win an award like this without a lot more volume in terms of pure catches but to even see him on this list is an accomplishment given where he was just two years ago.

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.

Brian O'Neill named to Wuerffel Trophy Watch List

Pitt offensive tackle Brian O'Neill was previously named to the preseason watch list for the Outland Trophy. On Tuesday, he added another preseason honor under his belt as he was named to the watch list for the Wuerffel Trophy.

The Wuerffel Trophy honors a college football player that excels in community service.

O'Neill's efforts to date have included a Haiti mission trip and fundraising for Haiti, visiting the Mel Blount Youth Home, and volunteering for Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Boys and Girls Club, and Christmas at Pitt programs.

The award is named after former Florida Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel.

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.

Pitt senior Ryan Luther one of 11 ACC players named to NABC Honors Court

Pitt senior Ryan Luther was one of 11 ACC basketball players to be named to the NABC's (National Association of Basketball Coaches) Honors Court. The distinction honors basketball players for their academic performances.

The Panthers technically had two honorees as departed transfer Cam Johnson was also on the list. Since it was for the previous academic year, he counts as a Pitt selection.

Here is the full list of those honored:

NABC Honors Court Selections from the ACCSchool -Total (Student-Athletes)Wake Forest - 3 (Britton Anderson, Troy Rike, Trent VanHorn)Pitt - 2 (Ryan LutherCameron Johnson)Louisville - 2 (David Levitch, Quentin Snider)Miami [Fla.] - 2 (Davon Reed, Chris Stowell)North Carolina - 1 (Aaron Rohlman)Florida State - 1 (Brandon Allen)

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.

Pitt women's basketball team to play international exhibitions in Italy this August

Today, Pitt announced that they will play some international games in August as part of a tour to Italy. As in, this August. I'm not sure how these things are usually scheduled but it seems like a fairly late announcement with the trip taking place in less than three weeks.

The Lady Panthers will play three games during the trip from August 6-16.

Even though the trip is to Italy, they will only play one Italian team. The other two are from Germany and Holland. The first game will be against TK Hanover (Germany) on the 8th. A game against All-Star Italy is next on the 11th. Wrapping things up will be a game against Holland's FSG Academy on the 15th.

The official Pitt site has full details of the trip.

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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