49ers area scout Todd Brunner checks in with his latest blog update from the road. Brunner gives an update on his travels since the early parts of October. He also shares a few thoughts on his favorite city to visit on the road.**
I would say the biggest game that I've gone to since my last update in early October was also one of the better games I've seen all year and that was the Notre Dame-Pittsburgh game a couple of weeks ago.
There was a lot of national attention to it and some good build up with Notre Dame visiting Pittsburgh. It was a nationally broadcast game with an 8:00 pm kickoff time for the East Coast and that allowed a lot of build up around the city. At the time of the kick-off, the place was going crazy. It was real exciting to be there and be a part of it.
Pittsburgh is playing really well after not knowing how they were going to be as a team this year. Everybody's playing good football for them from top to bottom. That's the reason they're 9-1 right now, heading in to their Friday night game against West Virginia. They are playing really well as a team and it should be interesting to see how they respond in a big game.
The first time I made it around to Pittsburgh this season, Coach Wannstedt made a point to tell me that we got the steal of the draft because of where we got linebacker Scott McKillop. He obviously loved what Scott did for them. They know that he's going to be an excellent pro.
It's nice to have an ongoing dialogue with the coaches from year-to-year and see how the programs are developing. Pittsburgh is one of those places that continues to grow – they have a lot of good underclassmen. And that means they should be good for the next couple of years.
Another memorable experience from my scouting trails happened when I was at the University of Connecticut. I was there when they conducted their first practice as a team after the death of cornerback Jasper Howard.
It was a very surreal experience.
Howard's parents attended practice. It was very quiet and somber. There was no laughing or carrying on that happened that day. The team knew that they had to move on with themselves as football team and deal with it the best they could.
In my opinion, they have played extremely hard since the incident. They lost three tough close games right in a row, but then followed it with a double overtime victory at Notre Dame. You really start to feel for the group of guys there and the staff. They were able to go in there and finally win a hard fought game at the end and you feel good for them. It's easily the biggest win in UConn football history.
Other than the major conference and Division I FBS schools that I've seen, I've kept my eye on IUP (Indiana University – Pennsylvania). There's a player there that I've been in a couple of times to see, because I think he is a good prospect. He's a safety/corner and a kick returner. He's got all of the tools. He's a well-built kid too. In my eyes, he looks like he could play at a Division I school. He's a guy who people are going to come to know about on draft day.
I went home for Thanksgiving this year which was really nice. I had one school to visit on Wednesday, but I made it home for Thanksgiving to be with my family. Thanksgiving every year we go to my in-laws. My mother in-law cooks a great meal. Their place is not far from where we live and the food is very excellent. You can't ask for anything else.
At this point of the year, we are pretty much winding up our fall schedule right now because reports are due the first weekend in December. That's when Trent Baalke (our director of player personnel), Dave McCloughan (our director of college scouting) will have meetings in Indianapolis during the second week of December, and our information needs to come into them before those meetings.
I've been working on my second round of visits lately. The reason we go back to a school for a second time is if we've given a kid a good grade which is a free agent grade or better. I also like to go in and see guys play at the end of the season. For most of the big schools, that's when they get the bulk of their conference play in too.
One place I always like to visit whenever I can go back is the city of Pittsburgh. I always love visiting that city. I was there for our Thursday night game against the Beats, watching the game at Jerome Bettis' sports bar. I just enjoy the city every time I go there. It's easily my favorite road stop every year.
I'm a creature of habit and as boring as can be to be perfectly honest. Every now and then I will venture out to try new things, but when I'm by myself, my favorite thing is to find a sports bar and sit down to eat a burger.
With time remaining in the season, I'll have more chances to do just that. But I'll be sure to update everyone from the road about my visits in the upcoming weeks and how we finalize our reports.