It was a hot day out there, so hot those of us in the media became 38 hot and needed to take our hind parts under a shade tree just to watch practice. Unfortunately, I did not see Ricky Gary under the shade tree, which is a surprise to me because he seems to have an affinity for shade trees these days.
Despite the fact that it was 38 hot out there, the players had a productive day and the practice was fairly crisp. I thought the the two quarterbacks --- Tino Sunseri and Trey Anderson -- really threw the ball well. Mark Myers appears to have fallen into the third spot right now.
Quarterbacks coach Todd Dodge actually clarified that for us and said that appearances are not deceiving and that Anderson is in deed now the backup.
"[Anderson] is a guy that has a lot of intangibles, a lot of moxy," Dodge said. "He is nothing to write home about yet, but we've been very pleased. And after the first scrimmage, he is taking the reps with the twos right now. There is still a competition for who our backup quarterback is going to be. Right now, if we played tomorrow, he would be the guy who is one play away [from stepping into the starters role]."
Dodge then said of Myers, "he still needs to step it up, there are a lot of good things that he does but the young kid [Anderson] has just come in and really does some good things. I want to continue to see how competitive Mark is going to be in this situation and how bad he wants it. Nothing is going to be given around here, you are going to have to compete."
I usually don't get too excited about freshmen walk-ons who are camp wonders, but I have to be honest this Anderson can throw the ball and he's fun to watch. He's small, but he really throws the ball well. And he is extremely accurate and for a small guy, he has a strong arm -- and now he is the back-up.
Sunseri was especially 38 hot out there as he didn't seem to miss a receiver in both the drills and the 11 on 11. He really seems to be picking up the offense and has command of things and I think he really enjoys playing in it because it plays to his strength.
The offense last year asked him to make a lot of throws that he probably isn't best suited to make. But the other thing is -- he's worked hard on the deep ball all summer and I've seen him connect more of those this camp than I did all of last year.
Early in camp he struggled with the deep ball but really, in the past four or five days he has done a nice job of finding those guys down the field. Yesterday he connected with Ray Graham, today he hit Salath Williams. Every day he seems to be doing good stuff.
*** By the way Dodge said that a quarterback's height is not really a big factor for them in recruiting because of their system. He said they look for a certain skill set - Sunseri has it, Anderson has it - which is a quick release, a player who is a good athlete and smart and has a strong enough arm to make all the throws. He said if they had recruited here when Sunseri was still in high school, they definitely would have offered him a scholarship and the reason they didn't offer Anderson one is they didn't have one to give. But they openly recruited him as a preferred walk-on and I'm assuming it won't be long until he has a scholarship.
*** As I wrote yesterday, the Pitt-Notre Dame game on Sept. 24th is officially set for noon.
*** The other quarterback, Anthony Gonzalez, has actually been taking a bunch of snaps at the three-back (H-back) position as well as even a few at receiver. "Anthony is doing a good job for us," Graham said. "We are using him in a different role, we called him slash today. He is too good of an athlete to be sitting on the sideline as the third team quarterback so we asked him to come in so we could take a look at him at some receivers stuff so we were somewhat impressed. So we're going to use him in a dual role. He still has to be a third quarterback and we're going to use him." It was obviously something that they have been doing for a few days but didn't want to get it out there.
That's why if you read this blog yesterday I referred to a great catch without naming the player. We had some fun with it, though, because the reason we were even able to reference the catch was Graham's wife, Penni, tweeted about it, a fact that Graham laughed at and then quipped "Our Twitter ban is fixing to expand. EJ Borghetti is going to handle that personally."
Gonzalez has had a rough summer, he had knee surgery and he had a little issue involving the chronic and he's suspended for the first two games, a fact he is 38 hot about, but as Graham said, he looks very natural at his position and today he even threw a few really nice blocks.
*** One injury update - Devin Street has what sounds like a concussion - "bell rung deal" is the official line from Graham but he was not at practice today, not even in the building and this was the answer Graham gave us when we asked about him. "He is recovering, it will be a process and everything is going good. It happened yesterday, he didn't get a lot of sleep and stuff and we just had someone kind of monitor and let him get some rest today and didn't want him standing out in the sun." Again, it has not officially been called a concussion but when you have someone "monitoring" a guy in bed, it sure sounds like one. Obviously the hope is he gets back quick but that's an injury you never know about.
*** The same can be said about Todd Thomas, who only wears number 8 so he is apparently 30 degrees less hot than he needs to be. Thomas has played a lot of reps with the first team lately which leads me to believe that he may just nudge his way to the first team at the spur position by the time the Buffalo game rolls around. I talked to him last week and he is excited about playing the position and it is definitely a position that fits his skill set well. Thomas had a sack today and also knocked down a pass so he showed his versatility in a matter of two plays. However, with Thomas taking away first team reps, it means Greg Williams, who really is 38 hot, needs to step it up as he has far more experience than just about anyone else on the defense. He obviously didn't participate in the spring and so he started a little bit behind the eight-ball and I think he is catching up but they need him to really take a step forward this week. That is obviously a key position. Pitt coach Todd Graham said that Thomas and Williams are locked in one of the most competitive position battles of the camp and that both are playing extremely well. Another spur is redshirt freshman Eric Williams
** The other outside linebacker spot, the Panther linebacker, should be one of the most productive spots on the defense this year. For one thing, that position enables a guy to make lots of tackles for loss and sacks, but the other thing is Brandon Lindsey and Ejuan Price both have done extremely well at fitting in that spot. I asked Price yesterday if he likes the position and he said "yeah, I feel like James Harrison out there." That's a good thing on the field, well, to a point, but let's hope that Price doesn't have a Twitter account or have any sit down interviews Men's Journal scheduled any time soon.
** The offensive line is pretty set based on Todd Graham's comments from today and it is clear to me that the coaches are going to move forward now and try to get the unit to come together. The starters have been pretty much the same (left to right) "Jordan Gibbs-Chris Jacobson-Ryan Turnley-Cory King-Lucas Nix"so there is nothing new going on there. Barring injury, that should be the starting offensive line come camp. The interesting part is the depth - Graham said today that Greg Gaskins would be the first tackle off the bench (followed by Juantez Hollins) and Matt Rotheram (followed by Arthur Doakes) would be the next guard in the game if one of the starting guards went down. He then said there is a very big drop-off to the next group of linemen, which confirms what we've suspected for years - the last staff didn't do a great job of recruiting offensive linemen. The fact that there are only six or seven guys who the staff feels comfortable using is not a good thing because linemen get banged up all the time. Graham talked about Nix's flexibility then showed his Texas roots when he tried to describe the difference between Nix and Gibbs in terms of athleticism and flexibility.
"I was watching him warmup and he is kicking his leg above his head, you don't usually see linemen do that," Graham said. "A little contrast between him and Gibbs. I mean, Nix does it way up here [puts his hand above his head] and I told Gibbs he'd be lucky to do the Cotton Eye Joe. That's a country dance, that's a southern deal, you probably don't know about that."
Well, in case you've never been to the South - or a Penguins game or for that matter a West Virginia basketball game, here is the Cotton Eye Joe........