Ladies and gentlemen, it's football season.
Well, sort of. Pitt held its first spring practice of the 2014 season tonight. If you missed it in today's paper, here's a look at the five biggest questions Pitt will look to address this spring.
Now, here are a few notes and observations from today's session...
- Pitt practiced today in just helmets (and, you know, other clothing, but no pads). This is the first of three NCAA-mandated helmets-only practices. The second one will be Tuesday's, and then the third one can be at any point during the spring.
- There were a good number of visitors at today's practice, including 2013 signees Phillipie Motley, Shane Roy, Mike Grimm, Alex Bookser, and Dennis Briggs. Former quarterback Tom Savage was also in attendance as he prepares for May's NFL Draft.
- The following guys are coming into the spring with lingering injuries that may hold them out of practices: LT Adam Bisnowaty (back), OL Gabe Roberts (shoulder), LB Zach Poker (shoulder), DE Devin Cook (knee) and WR Kevin Weatherspoon (foot).
- Bisnowaty sounds like the most serious of the injuries, with the lingering back issues that has hounded him for a while. That said, Paul Chryst was still optimistic that he would be able to return in some capacity later this spring.
"Obviously we want to get something out of him, but it's still the spring and not at the expense of any type of setback," Chryst said. "You don't really know, so you just kind of keep taking it practice by practice and see what he can end up giving us. We'd err on being caution with Biz. He's a young player, but he's played alot of football."
- With Bisnowaty out, redshirt freshman Jaryd Jones-Smith got most of the first team reps at left tackle. As with all personnel things at this point, it's so early that everything must be taken with a huge grain of salt, but Paul Chryst said after practice that he envisioned Jones-Smith and TJ Clemmings getting most of the reps at tackle with Bisnowaty out. John Guy and Carson Baker were the two tackles on the second team.
- Along that vein, it seems like Dorian Johnson is settling in at guard. I know there was initially some question as to whether he would settle at guard or tackle (and it's still early enough that he could go either way) but he spent today's practice at the left guard spot left vacant by the graduation of Cory King. I think Pitt's ideal starting line next year would be Bisnowaty-Johnson-Rowell-Rotheram-Clemmings.
- In addition to Tyler Boyd, Manasseh Garner and Ronald Jones got the first reps with the first team today. Garner is moving towards being more of a true receiver this year, and coaches have been pretty effusive in their praise of Jones as he comes back from last year's suspension. I wouldn't be surprised if these were the first three receivers on the field next season. Chris Wuestner and Dontez Ford got the first reps with the second team.
- We all had a bit of a laugh when Trey Anderson was the first quarterback to get first team reps in offensive drills, but, alas, there will be no quarterback controversy as Chad Voytik took over with the first unit after only a few snaps with the second team.
- Jones and Boyd got most of the action as punt returners during special teams drills.
- I should also note that, despite Chris Haering now being special teams coach, there wasn't a big difference with how practices were run with regard to special teams. It was still a team effort, coaching-wise, with everyone helping out.
- One thing I was interested this spring is how Chryst would divide his time, now that he's the quarterbacks coach. He definitely spent more time with Voytik and Anderson than other position groups today, but also bounced around to the other position groups during individual drills. He did spend most of the practice working with the offense.
"I want to make sure that those guys [the quarterbacks] get a little break from me too," he said. "I still want to be around, see what's happening with other position gruops and all that. I feel good with the number of coaches around and [quarterbacks GA] Jon [Budmayr] that I can balance it out pretty good."
- James Conner has apparently changed his number to 24. When asked about possibly playing defense this year, he said he would do whatever the coaches asked of him. But it does sound like any defensive work Conner does will be on a situational basis at most.