The Panthers have just a few more days before camp breaks and they begin to work on Utah. The last day of training camp is Tuesday with FanFest on Monday. Then Wednesday will be considered a normal game-week practice and that is when the focus of practice will turn away from evaluating and towards game planning.
One Pitt-related programming note: Tonight and every Thursday night at 10:35 you can catch me and either Bob Pompeani or Jory Rand talking Pitt football on the Nightly Sportscall on CW 15 (which is the sister station to KDKA-TV). The show will be entirely Pitt on Thursdays and we will have interviews, take phone calls and talk Pitt football from now until the end of the season.
** The offense wasn't very good in the scrimmage on Wednesday and this much has been well documented by all who cover the team. I think there are two things that should be of at least a little bit of concern -- Tino Sunseri was very good early in camp last year and seemed to hit a wall where he never got better and even regressed a bit. I'm not saying that has happened this year but he is not progressing in terms of becoming more consistent the way you'd like. He is still missing throws, he is still struggling with some throws which by now should be easy and he is still just having a hard time with his consistency. He still has two weeks to get it together and I think he will but I thought we would see a much better performance yesterday than we did. The second issue is that the offense yesterday again showed that it could be tough to not have Henry Hynoski on the field. Simply put Mike Cruz is not Nate Byham in terms of being a blocker and the offensive line isn't quite good enough to block without the help of a fullback. Again, there are still more weeks to get things cleaned up but at least for now there has to be a little bit of concern that the offense is not going to be as good as it was last year.
** The improvement of Ricky Gary, the progress of Chas Alecxih and the maturation of Dan Mason has solidified the defense. Those three positions are in good hands and Gray's progress has meant the secondary is going to have a chance to be very good. Gary is a great story - he is a player who really has committed himself to not be the weak link on the defense and frankly, he's gotten better just about every day and he has had to cover Jon Baldwin a lot so he's been challenged plenty this camp.
** The one position on defense which is still a work in progress is the weakside linebacker. Tristan Roberts is figuring it out but he's still not consistent and he is still not as physical of a player as you'd like. But he has ability and he has certainly improved and that's a great start. If he can continue to improve and become the player the coaches think he can be - well, then the defense has a shot to be special.
** The starting offensive line is going to be Jason Pinkston, Lucas Nix, Alex Karabin, Greg Gaskins and Chris Jacobson. I know we've been told there is an open competition at some of the spots but Gaskins has taken pretty much every snap with the first team and Karabin's primary "competition" at center was from Jack Lippert, who coaches are talking about moving to guard. The good news is this unit of five has played together all camp, so they should have some chemistry by the time the Utah game comes around. But as yesterday showed, the unit still has some work to do in order to prove it can be the kind of unit which can dominate defenses.
** Fanfest is Monday night from 6 to 8 p.m. but it is not much more than just a glorified autograph session with lots of bells and whistles. The players will sign autographs from 6:15 to 7:45. But there is no open practice involved in the event which calls into the question the usefulness of it given that a number of fans over the years have told me they liked being able to get a sneak peak of the team prior to the season. I can't understand why you wouldn't want to showcase Jon Baldwin and Dion Lewis and Dan Mason and company a little bit before the season. But I don't make the big bucks to make such decisions so I'll just stick to letting you know what the when, how much and where ----- Admission to the event is free but parking for the event is in Gold Lots 1 and 2 and it will cost $10, though there is no word on whether or not parking in the gold lot will also require a Panther Club donation.
** Speaking of parking concerns, it is utterly ridiculous that people are angry at Pitt for the lack of parking spaces on the North Shore. It isn't the university's fault that there are two new hotels and an amphitheatre over there taking up spaces. That being said - Pitt comes off as being less than honest in the way they handled the situation. In fact that is the most common complaint I've received - it isn't the lack of parking or that Pitt is trying to cash in on the demand through Panther Club donations - it is that they've created this ridiculous atmosphere of a silent auction by using the old "well, we don't know how much you have to donate to get the good parking, so you better just donate a lot!!!" That is what has caused the outrage, at least from where I sit reading my e-mails and talking to fans. People don't want to be lied to and people don't want to be given the runaround. It isn't really that hard - put a number, any number, on a donation for parking passes, and people will pay it. That is what fans do - they don't mind being fleeced as long as the person or team doing the fleecing is up front about it. And spare me the official spin - that priority points are designed to protect the long time donors -- because I have a sneaking suspicion if a guy walks in with a big check, he'll jump as high on the list as he needs to. Hopefully next year the athletic department puts together a better system than this one. Oh and one other thing -- spare me the whole "this proves we need our own on-campus stadium" stuff also because that is utter nonsense as well. There is less parking in Oakland than there is in the North Shore and the problem would be ten times worse.