Pittsburgh En Sabah Nur
So far this season, the buzz has been about Pittsburgh En Sabah Nur and their outstanding Freshman talent. Names like Christian Pitts, Joe Bender, Pat Earles, Max Thorne and Trent Dillon have become household names to anyone who had been paying attention during the month of February. Earles and Bender played together on numerous occasions and have formed an unstoppable tandem on Pittsburgh’s defensive line, with Earles usually tallying the assist. Dillon (Southpaw) and Thorne (Oakland) add more Club Nationals caliber experience to an already stacked offensive line, making it very clear why En Sabah Nur did not get broken once at Classic City Classic last November.
Isaac Saul is the centerpiece of the offensive line, acting as the main distributor with his quick breaks from a variety of release points. Tyler DeGirolamo continues to rule the cutting lanes and the skies as he has for years, but has significantly improved his skills behind the disc. Certainly influenced by Saul, Alex Thorne and many of the other great throwing talents that Pittsburgh has seen in recent seasons, DeGirolamo has added an arsenal of deep and break throws, making him a less one-dimensional player. Opponents will certainly have their hands full as they have to game plan against the Thorne brothers, as if it wasn’t hard enough to stop one of them. While Max is definitely used as more of a receiver on Pittsburgh’s offensive line, he is certainly a threat with the disc in his hands. Alex Thorne (1st Team All Region, Skyd All-American) is one of the most complete offensive players on En Sabah Nur’s roster and probably the entire country. If teams are going to have any success against Pittsburgh, limiting the older Thorne is an absolute must. However, if teams focus too hard on these stars, they’ll look past Michael Brenner and Jason Kunsa who do more than just hold their own.
Their offensive line is unquestionably rock solid, but it isn’t like Pittsburgh wins all of their games on universe point. The true strength of this team lies in its defensive lines, which boast a ton of depth. Captains Zach Kauffman and Colin Conner anchor the ferocious defensive attack with names like Bender, Pitts, Earles, Michael Van Ness, Marcus Dropcho and Julian Hausman, who was an absolute manslayer in the Finals victory against the Central Florida Dogs of War. The roster depth, which kept Pitt fresh through 9 games of tough ultimate in Tampa’s heat, along with the immense amount of talent should prove to be too much for the rest of Pool A as En Sabah Nur is sure to take a straight path to Sunday’s Quarterfinals.
Minnesota Grey Duck
The one team that stands in Pitt’s way on Saturday is one of the North Central superpowers, Minnesota Grey Duck. The Stanford Invite is Minnesota’s first real test of the 2012 season as their first tournament was an abridged Mardi Gras (due to weather) where they sported a 65-21 point differential over 5 games. The only 2011 College Nationals qualifier in attendance in Louisiana was Texas, who lost in the Quarterfinals to the eventual runner-up Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Minnesota finds themselves in solid position, where making Pre-Quarters should not be too difficult of a task. While winning the pool is certainly not out of the question, they will have to go through a red hot Pittsburgh squad. Interestingly enough, Grey Duck Captain Greg Arenson is quite familiar with En Sabah Nur, having faced off against Oakland Ultimate during his tenure on the NexGen tour. With 15 out of the 27 members of the Haiders being active Pittsburgh players, Arenson should be able to give his team some level of strategic preparation in order to keep the game tight. The Stanford Invite will be this author’s first look at Grey Duck, who needs to perform well throughout the 2012 season in the hope of providing another bid to Boulder for the North Central.
Stanford Bloodthirsty & Texas TUFF
Rounding out Pool A are Stanford Bloodthirsty and Texas TUFF. Lucky for them, this pool is the easiest to advance from as either team will most likely only need to win the 4:00 PM head to head against one another in order to advance to Pre-Quarters. Making it this far will ensure tough competition for Sunday, where any wins would significantly boost their respective rankings and make their lives easier in early May. James May, Will Driscoll (Doublewide) and Texas’ vertical stack offense will battle Jordan Jeffrey, Ben Funk and the consistent Stanford offense. Last year at Nationals, Bloodthirsty had a solid reputation of punishing their opponents by converting a high percentage of their break chances. Their break heavy horizontal stack offense will have to be clicking if they hope to take down the physical and deep game of TUFF. Though you should be watching NexGen’s stream of the Pittsburgh vs. Minnesota game, keep an eye out for Twitter updates as this can be the game that helps to tip the scale for the allocation of bids for Nationals.