The first day of Pitt camp is meaningless for the veterans because while it is the first chance to get back to playing football - NCAA rules prohibit teams to be in full pads and have full contact practices for the first four days.And the first two days are even more brutal to watch because they aren't even in shoulder pads - so there is absolutely nothing interesting to watch other than trying to grasp what the two-deep looks like.
So today (Saturday) and Sunday's practices are in T-shirts and shorts then Monday and Tuesday there will be at least some contact as the players are in shoulder pads. Wednesday will be the first day of full contact so that will be the first day we will really get a good opportunity to start to see how the offensive line is shaping up and just how much young guys like Tino Sunseri and Dan Mason have progressed.
The units were split today in to two groups and will be again tomorrow. Dave Wannstedt favors the format because it gives the coaches a lot of opportunity to work with the freshmen and get them all reps before camp really gets into swing. I don't expect many, if any of the freshmen, to play a significant role this year but injuries are always a wildcard and it is good to get guys ready.
That being said there are plenty of interesting tidbits to come out the first day, particularly from the second session which was made up of all the freshmen and other reserves who aren't on the two-deep yet but are trying to move up....
** The weakside linebacker spot has, as expected, been given to Tristan Roberts and it is now his to lose. Greg Williams has had the spot for the past two seasons but he is coming off a very inconsistent season and he was passed by Roberts in the spring. Roberts was a guy who it appeared was about to be left behind but something clicked in the spring and he really came on strong and made a good case to be the starter. This is an interesting battle to watch as Williams has ability and will get an opportunity to work his way back into the job but he has a lot of work to do in order to reclaim his old spot. And just in case you are counting, Roberts took almost all of the first-team snaps today.
** Greg Gaskins is the starter at right guard for now but, much like strongside linebacker, this isn't a position I'd write in pen (unless it is erasable) any time soon because it is not close to being settled. Ryan Turnley will be the main competition at this spot and now that he is completely healthy will be able to make a real run at wrestling away this spot from Gaskins. Stay tuned on this one because it could go on through the season unless one of these two really emerges and seizes the job.
** THE LOOK TEST PART I -- It is early so this is all we have in judging the freshmen but my goodness, the Panthers defensive line of the future looks like it is going to be ridiculous. And I mean that in a good way. That starts with defensive end T.J. Clemmings who is 6-foot-6, 280 pounds and can run like the wind. He is athletic enough no doubt and I've heard comparisons to Greg Romeus but having seen them both at the start of the careers there is no doubt he is much further along than Romeus was at this stage. And he is also much bigger. And Aaron Donald from Penn Hills reminds me already of Mick Williams in his body type and his first step off the ball and watching him chase plays. Then there is Bryan Murphy (a Jersey kid from Don Bosco), who is small (245) but very quick and from what I am told (they haven't put on pads yet) tough. And finally there is Woodland Hills product Khaynin Mosley-Smith, who is a little (OK maybe a little more than a little) overweight right now but like the other three is athletic, can run and looks like a nose guard of the future. I don't know if this unit will pan out ultimately but from what I saw yesterday, they are all at least as athletically gifted as advertised.
** THE LOOK TEST PART II -- The two new quarterbacks - Anthony Gonzalez and Mark Myers - lined up and took snaps and frankly all of the scouting reports on both appear true. Gonzalez is athletic, fast and has a good arm but he isn't very accurate and he has a lot of work to do on his fundamentals (they did plenty of drill work) and his footwork. Myers on the other hand throws a really pretty pass and he has a very strong arm. It was impressive to watch him throw the ball 50 yards down the field with a mere flick of the wrist. It is very clear what the coaching staff saw in both of these guys, though I am not sure Gonzalez's best position will be quarterback in the end. Myers really impressed me, though, with his arm strength and the zip on the passes he threw.. Heck, I had to think about the last time I saw a Pitt quarterback with that kind of arm strength and I'd have to say it was probably Joe Flacco and we all know how well he has done for himself.
** THE LOOK TEST PART III - I had to do a double take and make sure I didn't arrive in a silver Delorean that travels back in time because I was taken aback by the size of some of the offensive linemen, particularly the youngs ones. In a word, they were overweight. And in the case of a couple of them, that is probably being kind. Generally Dave Wannstedt has favored athletic linemen, guys who could play defensive line, guys with good feet. That meant he had moved away from the practice of the last head coach -- which was to try and find the biggest, fattest guys around in hopes they would form a wall as pass blockers (even if they couldn't move). There is no question that Buddy Morris has his work cut out with some of these guys because I know there is no way they will be able to play at their current weight, nor will Wannstedt and company be able to use them given the things offensive linemen are asked to do in this pro-style offense. Morris has often said when he arrived a few years ago he was disgusted by how fat the Panthers as a team, and the linemen in particular, were and he has done a great job of creating an environment that favors lean and strong over big and slow.
** Some other quick notes: Todd Thomas is dressed but he has seven stitches in his elbow and won't be available for full contact for at least a few days. ... The only "scuffle" so far (if you can call it that) occured when Carl Fleming teed off on Andrew Devlin after Devlin caught a pass accross the middle. Devlin took exception to the hit - and with good reason, nobody is in pads - but the shoving match was quickly broken up. I have no doubt after watching one practice that hands down the toughest guy on the field is Bernard Clark, of course given that he is the linebacker's coach that might not be a good thing! ...There were ten recruits at today's sessions but only three of them - St. Peters Prep (N.J.) tackle Keith Lumpkin, Woodland Hills defensive end Quinton Jefferson and Clairton defensive end Desimon Green -- are not committed to the Panthers. And while we are at it, speaking of the look test, Lumpkin, who is 6-foot-8, 300 pounds, is one of the biggest prospects I've ever seen come through these parts. I mean, my goodness if the kid were any bigger he'd need his own zip code. Four other prospects who, at least really look the part, are Timber Creek linebacker Quinton Alston, Dallastown linebacker Ben Kline, Bishop McDevitt running back Jameel Poteat and Terrell Chestnut from Pottstown. Again, I don't know if any of these guys can play a lick, but they certainly would be first teamers if I were putting together and All-Airport team.