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Thread: Talent of '80 Pitt team still overwhelms Sherrill

      
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    Default Talent of '80 Pitt team still overwhelms Sherrill

    Talent of '80 Pitt team still overwhelms Sherrill
    Sunday, August 08, 2010
    By Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
    Peter Diana / Post-GazetteHall of Famer Russ Grimm

    View all related imagesTo hear the head coach tell it, the head coach is the one who screwed everything up, and Jackie Sherrill barked out a chuckle that fell somewhere in the neutral zone between only half-kidding and only half-serious.

    "That team was probably the best array of talent assembled at one time in one place that I'd ever been connected with," he said on the phone last week. "I mean very, very talented. The head coach should have been fired for not winning every game."

    Thirty years ago this month, Sherrill brought together at the University of Pittsburgh a roster so athletic and so endowed with menacing football instincts that it was positively scary.

    "The first day they were in full pads, I put the ball on the 3-yard line at the end of practice," Sherrill remembers. "If the offense scored, they could go in, and the defense had to run. If the defense stopped them, they could go in, and the offense had to run. I ran two plays, and I stopped it. We never wore full gear again. They would have hurt each other.

    "Even in just shoulder pads, they'd go at each other. We had a week off before we played Penn State, and I had them in sweats, but they were at each other all the time and I had to put the shoulder pads back on them."

    Two of them -- a classic mauler named Russ Grimm and a virtually unblockable defensive end named Rickey Jackson -- were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday, and a third, Dan Marino, beat them there by five years.

    The 1980 Pitt Panthers had three players taken in the first round of the NFL draft, 11 in the first five rounds, and 18 in pro training camps the next summer. And very few of them came onto Pitt's campus as freshmen thinking about Canton.

    Grimm was a quarterback and a linebacker from Scottdale with few big-school options. Jackson was better regarded as a basketballer.

    "The amazing thing about it was the very thing I've been trying to explain to coaches for years," Sherrill said. "We all get mesmerized by the beauty recruit. We don't spend enough time in the evaluation of how to get players.

    "Rickey Jackson [out of Pahokee, Fla.] was not recruited by Florida, Florida State or Miami. Russ Grimm was not recruited at all by big schools. Grimm was 215 pounds. You say, 'Why did you make him an offensive lineman?' Because we knew he was a player, like Rickey Jackson. They could play anywhere. They're players."

    Grimm nearly transferred when Sherrill put him in a three-point stance, and if Jackson was clearly a nice player, he was no Rooster Jones.

    "Everybody in the South wanted Rooster Jones [a Mississippi kid], but that whole class had only three really high-profile recruits, Hugh Green, Benji Pryor and Rooster Jones."

    All five offensive linemen on that team played in the NFL, as did eight defenders from a unit that led the nation in total defense.

    Naturally, on a sweaty night in Tallahassee, Oct. 11, Florida State beat them by two touchdowns.

    Maybe it was the seven Pitt turnovers, maybe it was the deafening venue, but the blemish that would ultimately relegate those Panthers to No. 2 in the final polls (but still No. 1 in the New York Times computer rankings) went into history as a 36-22 spanking by a very good Seminoles team.

    Sherrill, to this day, blames Sherrill.

    "I made a mistake," he said. "We had a lot of players from the South. I allowed their families to come and see the kids at the hotel. By the time they got to the game, they were worn out, with all visiting with the cousins and the three or four other distant cousins ... that was my fault."

    The following Saturday at Pitt Stadium, Marino hurt his knee against West Virginia, essentially ending his season. But what appeared in the moment to be a revolting development actually introduced the mountain of evidence that this was a Pitt team like no other, superior even to its national championship edition of 1976.

    Rick Trocano, the quarterback Marino replaced the previous autumn when Trocano injured his knee, pretty much knew he wasn't getting the job back. He talked Sherrill into letting him play safety, telling him he'd played it in high school. He lied. But Trocano started at free safety until Marino went down, switched back to quarterback in that instant, and Pitt scored four touchdowns in eight minutes on the way to thumping the Mountaineers 42-14. Challenged only the early winter gloom at Penn State, where the Panthers won, 14-9, Pitt outscored its final seven opponents, 251-74. Nine of its 12 opponents scored nine points or fewer.

    "I told you," said Sherrill, "that coach should have been fired. Who the hell was that coach?"

    Should you be wondering, as was I (which caused a two-hour clickfest on the Pro Football Hall of Fame website), there was another college football team that had three future Canton inductees, and it played that very same autumn. The 1980 Southern California Trojans included Marcus Allen, Ronnie Lott and Bruce Matthews. They went 8-2-1.



    Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10220...#ixzz0w7cikNHh
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    Default Re: Talent of '80 Pitt team still overwhelms Sherrill

    I would absolutely love to see Pitt play in and win a national championship game.

    And I'm a Penn State Alumni. If the Lions can't be there I want Pitt!

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    Default Re: Talent of '80 Pitt team still overwhelms Sherrill

    Pitt eats ****.


    Older Pitt fans swear up and down Jackson was better than Green even then. He just didn't get the pub.

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