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News, Notes and Observations from Camp Day One

Written by Paul Zeise on .

The first day of camp was not particularly eventful, but that's not a surprise given that the players are not allowed to be in pads until the fifth day.

So today was a lot of drill work, some 7-on-7 and very little 11-on-11 stuff because guys were in  helmets, t-shirts and shorts.

That being said - and keeping that in mind - here are some observations....

** Well, I lied, there was some news - Panther linebacker Bryan Murphy is academically ineligible, which is a tough loss for the team. Murphy is a very good football player and more importantly, was ready to play and contribute. Now, obviously Pitt will recover from this as the Panthers do have some depth at that position behind Brandon Lindsey but it is untested. But frankly, here is the key -- it is now or never time for Shayne Hale, who seems to be the next guy in line (at least in terms of skill set). Hale has played some defensive end as well and may ultimately end up at that spot but he now needs to be a factor in all of this and his time needs to be now as his time is running out. Also, Greg Williams and even a Todd Thomas, who are playing mostly spur linebacker but could move to Panther linebacker, need to show they can handle both positions. We have a long way to go to get to the Buffalo game and these things tend to even themselves out but this could be a sticky situation until a couple of guys rise up and prove they can handle the position. And in case you don't already know - the Panther linebacker position is basically a stand-up defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. It is named after Hugh Green, who Todd Graham believes was the best stand-up end in college football history.

** Interestingly enough, Murphy is the second player from Don Bosco Prep -- which is allegedly  an excellent academic school -- to be ruled academically ineligible as the now departed Brandon Sacco was also a casualty of academics.

** Two players who are likely out for the season are fullback Derrick Burns (shoulder surgery) and linebacker Dan Mason (knee). Mason's injury was severe obviously and there is some fear he may not be able to play again. There are some other bumps and bruises, like receiver Drew Carswell has some sort of cast-like apparatus on his hand, but for the most part the team is healthy. So far, there have been no reports of exotic bug bites, either, and a number of players on the team likely enjoys eating a lot of spaghetti.

** Brendon Felder made a valiant attempt to circumvent the transfer eligibility rules but his request for a waiver was denied by the NCAA clearinghouse. That means, Felder, who is from Gateway and transferred from North Carolina, will have to sit out then and have three season of eligibility remaining after this season.

** Kevin Adams has apparently become the new Craig Bokor/Marcus Furman as he is moving positions - again. This time he is going from linebacker to H-back, which is interesting because he is listed at the top of the spur linebacker position on the preseason depth chart in the media guide. If he truly is the next Bokor, one can only surmise that Adams will probably be an H-Back for a while before he moves back to linebacker for the spring.

** The offensive line is doing some shuffling again as the coaches are scrambling to find two guards who can play. So far this has been a fruitless exercise but there is a long way to go. The team went into some 11-on-11 stuff late in the practice tonight and this was the starting offensive line left to right -- Jordan Gibbs, Chris Jacobson, Ryan Turnley, Cory King, Lucas Nix -- and the obvious move is Turnley taking a shot at center. The bottom line is coaches are looking to find the best combination of two guards and a center and so far they are struggling to come up with one. Jacobson could be the center but he right now is so much better than any of the other guards that if Turnley can snap the ball and man the center position at a reasonable level, it would really go a long way towards solidfying things. The second five was Juantez Hollins, Arthur Doakes, Greg Gaskins, Matt Rotheram, Zenel Demhasaj. That's a bit of a motley crew but coaches seem to think a few of those guys are going to be able to contribute this year. Just for what it is worth - Turnley's snaps in tonight's practice were pretty good while Gaskins has a lot of work to do.

** Tino Sunseri threw a lot of deep balls tonight in a drill that they were running tonight and while he is still not as good as he needs to be on those throws, it appears like he is better at it. He connected with a couple of receivers in stride, then threw one to Cam Saddler which was just a little bit long, but Saddler stretched out and made a great over-the-shoulder-catch but was running so fast that he couldn't stop and he nearly took out the mobile clock behind the endzone. But that wasn't the only mishap involving a Saddler as his mother was sitting on the sidelines observing practice and got hit in the face with an errant throw. Now, here is what I will say about that - the ball knocked her glasses off and frankly had it hit me that hard, it would have knocked me out. But she didn't even blink, proving to me that she is tough as nails and someone I'd never want to get into a fight with......Saddler, the junior, meanwhile, also didn't even flinch when he ran into that scoreboard and now we know where he gets his toughness from.

All of this - including Saddler's highlight reel worthy catch and another catch he made on the sidelines where he dove and caught the ball - would have likely been tweeted about last year by the Twitter-happy observers of practice except EJ Borghetti made it very clear when he went over the new rules for practice that "tweeting is strictly prohibited from practice." This rule has made Chris Peak extremely sad but he will overcome it, we're sure of that.

** In talking to Executive Vice Chancellor Associate Athletic Director Vice President of Operations Dean of Student Development Assistant Associate Head Coach of the Defensive Line Paul Randolph today, the most fun position battles to watch will be along the defensive line. And that's because there is so much talent AND all those guys are extremely competitive. Randolph said quite simply "these guys know they better bring it every day if they are going to get on the field." He is, and rightfully so, extremely excited about the interior line guys and apparently Aaron Donald really was impressive in the weight room this offseason. This group really does have a chance to be dominant and it is going to be fun watching these guys battle for the starting spots.

** Again, no pads, only shirts and t-shirts, but here is a guy I really like a lot - Wisconsin transfer Zach Brown - I think he can add a lot to this team. He is fast, faster than I thought, has quick feet and to me, looks like a guy who nobody really wants to tackle when he gets rolling. And he catches the ball well out of the backfield as well. His arrival may turn out to be one of the biggest developments of the offseason because he really adds quality depth at a position that was thin. He could be a big-play guy and also a guy who gets some tough yards when they need them.

** The freshmen, for the most part, looked like they were in good shape with the exception of defensive back Jason Frimpong, who I will point out looks like he could stand to lose a few pounds. Also, quarterback Mark Myers looks like he is perhaps a pound or two heavy.

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