You may all notice that this post isn't authored by Paul Zeise, but instead by a new guy. Hi there, Pitt faithful. I'm Charlie the sports intern and I'll be handling Pitt football today and tomorrow while Paul is in Milwaukee covering the Pirates for the weekend. I'll also make an appearance Wednesday while Paul is out.
While Paul has been on the beat for a believe 10 years, I've been on it for a whopping 3 days. So although Paul gave me a great crash course in Pitt football, my knowledge is nowhere near as extensive as his. I hope you can handle that for a few days. What I lack in in-depth knowledge of the program, though, I think I make up for in pictures, as I brought my camera the past two days in an effort to give you all a multi-media experience. I'm unexperienced at uploading them, so they might be a little large. But I think they'll be ok.
After spending just three days at camp, I think we should make a tradition for the rest of preseason that is centered around what head coach Todd Graham does during practice to nail home his coaching philosophy based on hustle and, as he called it after practice today, "old school values."
On Wednesday, it was him stopping the practice to threaten running the rest of practice the next time someone used the F-word. Yesterday he called out his kicker for walking on the field, and today harped to the safeties, "quit walking around, you're killing the grass!" They must've been moving pretty slowly, because last I checked it takes a long, long time for artificial turf to die.
In all seriousness, though, Graham hasn't backed down one bit from what he's been preaching, and the players are definitely responding well. The guys are flying around, working hard and already showing improvement, especially the offense.
Paul pointed out that yesterday the defense was buzzing around, taking chances and forcing turnovers. Though they still had a lot of energy today, it was the offense that stood out.
**Tino Sunseri looked very sharp today, and it appears that he and receiver Devin Street are very much on the same page. Between Sunseri's accuracy and Street's route-running, it's pretty safe to say the two will make a lot of plays this season.
**Sunseri and Street have looked good every day that I've been here, though. What really made the offense stand out was the play of the younger receivers, who are all vying to be part of the top six to eight players used in the offense this season. Freshman Ronald Jones (below), sophomore Ed Tinker and redshirt freshman Salath Williams all saw time with the first team and should provide some great depth to the receiver position. Tinker and Williams were both used in the vertical passing game and Jones appears to be a good fit to at Cameron Saddler's position.
**Williams (below) was finding ways to get open today and was targeted a few times on long plays. He made a very impressive catch along the sidelines against two defenders. Prior to that he ran a great route on an end-zone corner fade, but was unable to haul it in. He was wide open, though, and the ability to get open is what really makes a good receiver. Good hands are important, obviously, but that gets better with practice. Having the knack to elude defenders and end up in just the right spot is a little bit trickier.
**We finally got some answers about the situation at center, but there is still no decision about a permanent starter. Ryan Turnley (below) did take most of the first team snaps at center and despite getting chewed out by an unhappy Graham early in practice for multiple bad snaps, looked good in the second half. After practice, Graham said that center is now a battle between Turnley and Chris Jacobson but there's no doubt they would like to keep Jacobson at guard if at all possible. Offensive line coach Spencer Leftwich also added that Turnley will be staying at center regardless of whether he starts or not, which means we could probably see him later in the season. I did a more in-depth report about this for tomorrow's Post-Gazette, so check that out for more details.
**Practice started with kick return practice and the notable appearance of Ray Graham (below) awaiting the kicks and returning them. It woul certainly be a risky move to put one of their top offensive weapons on kick return, but Todd Graham didn't seem too worried and kind of dodged a question about it after practice when he said, "If he's the best one he'll return them."
**Speaking of Ray Graham, it appears that he did more than knock the wind out of Shane Gordon when they collided yesterday. Gordan sat out practice today, but it doesn't appear to be anything serious. Todd Graham said he was fine and said they were being "precautious" by keeping him off the field.
**Though both sides were flying around today, Graham would like to see his team move faster. He said he's glad that the team is no longer noticing that they're going fast, but sees the current speed almost as a baseline to work from. He then said, "We're fast. But we need to be fastest," which I thought was an intriguing word choice. It adds some subtle sincerity that he wants nothing but the highest level of achievement for this program. He doesn't want to be faster, he wants to be the fastest.
**Finally (and just like yesterday), kicker Kevin Harper continued to show that he has a booming leg. The junior booted another 50+ yard field goal today.