I'll be off tomorrow and Charlie MaGovern will be covering the practices so he will be blogging and I'll be back Thursday.
However, camp is coming to an end (amazing, I know) which means the position battles are all winding down as well. Saturday is the second scrimmage of camp - it is closed to everyone - and after that the team will begin preparing for Buffalo and will be in game week mode.
That means the players have Weds, Thurs, Fri and the scrimmage on Saturday to make a real impression before the depth chart is pretty much locked in.
Today we had some interesting movement at quarterback as both Todd Graham and Todd Dodge talked about Anthony Gonzalez, Mark Myers and Trey Anderson and where they fit in on the depth chart behind Tino Sunseri.
Gonzalezis still wearing a green shirt like the other quarterbacks and both Dodge and Graham said he is the third quarterback but he has taken almost every rep at the threeback or receiver spots over the past few days and he is going to play somewhat of a "slash" role according to Graham. He is suspended for the first two weeks, though, so we won't see him until the Iowa game but he has been extremely impressive as a receiver. That isn't a surprise because he is a great athlete but what has surprised me is how well he blocks - he is tough. Graham said watching him is amazing because he looks like a guy who has been playing that position his whole career.
Anderson is a walk-on from Texas who has been the surprise of camp. He is also now the back-up quarterback according to both Graham and Dodge. In fact, Dodge said of Anderson he is "one play away" right now. Dodge, who used to be the head coach at North Texas, recruited Anderson (who is listed at 6-foot but I doubt he is not quite that tall) but when he was fired, the new staff didn't and Anderson, because of his size, slipped through the cracks. He was headed to junior college but Dodge convinced him to walk-on at Pitt and he has clearly made the most of things. Graham has been talking about Anderson almost since Day One of camp so it isn't a surprise that they are so high on him - but I don't think anybody thought he'd be the back-up quarterback by the second week. Dodge made it clear that the competition between Myers and Anderson is ongoing so this is something to watch, but like I wrote - there isn't that much more time for Myers to take back his job. Dodge said that based on the scrimmage and the way that both of them performed, Anderson moved ahead of him.
That doesn't bode well for Myers, however as he was supposed to be the next quarterback. The one thing I will say is that he was going to be in a fight with Gonzalez - who this new coaching staff really likes - so it wasn't a given (like it would have been had the old staff been in place) that Myers was going to be the guy. And Dodge also said that he wanted to see Myers "step up" and he wanted to see how Myers responds to the challenge, so this could just be a little bit of a test of Myers and in the end he will work his way back to the No. 2 spot but I don't think anybody saw this coming, including some of the coaches.
So that is pretty much where the quarterback competition is and, as spoken to us by coaches it is --- Sunseri, Anderson, Gonzalez or Myers.
I've briefed Charlie on this and he will keep his eyes on this as well as on some of the other positions to be decided.
Here is a quick look at where these other positions stand right now based and what the major position battles are that are going on based what we've seen and more importantly, what coaches have told us over the past few days:
The defensive line right now is not surprisingly Aaron Donald, Myles Caragein and Chas Alecxih with the second unit being two of Tyrone Ezell, TJ Clemmings and Justin Hargrove with Khaynin Mosley-Smith in the middle.
This unit is deep obviously and interchangeable in a lot of ways and what Keith Patterson told me he likes the most about it is there is very little drop-off between the first and second units and some of the guys on the second unit could start at any number of schools.
The Panther linebackers are Brandon Lindsey and Ejuan Price and Graham said today he was impressed with both so far in camp. He said he likes the explosiveness they bring to that position and he likes that they are both versatile enough to perhaps play other positions as well.
The Spurs are Todd Thomas and Greg Williams and Graham said today he was extremely excited about both and that this competition was as stiff as any position. Both have made a lot of plays at the practice sessions and Graham said they both had a couple of sacks in the scrimmage. One other name who Graham mentioned is Eric Williams, who is a redshirt freshman. I like what he said about Williams - he said they wanted to get him a little tougher so they moved him inside for a few days and then moved him back out to spur because that is something they do from time to time. But they think he can factor in here as well. The inside guys seem to be three guys fighting for two jobs - Shane Gordon, Tristan Roberts and Max Gruder, though Gruder seems firmly entrenched at one of the spots. This is probably a situation a lot like corner where there are in essence three starters.
Again, the competitions are not over, but the two-deep is starting to take shape and these are all the guys who seem to be separating themselves from the others.
Buddy Jackson, Antwuan Reed and Kwaun Williams are the three top corners right now and it Graham said today he views all three as starters. It seems like Williams has consistently been the starter and Reed and Jackson have split the time but all three will play the bulk of the time. What's interesting is the next two in line seem to be true freshmen, Lloyd Carrington and Lafayette Pitts. We've seen a lot from both and both have had a lot of reps with the second team so they seem to be on the fast track but Patterson said both of them, after getting off to fast starts, have had a little bit of leveling off which is not a surprise given they are freshmen.
The safeties have been pretty consistently the same four guys - Jarred Holley and Jason Hendricks followed by Andrew Taglianetti and Brandon Ifill. There have been some other guys thrown into the two deep but for the most part, Patterson said these guys have sort of been a little ahead of the group. One thing that Tony Gibson told me about Taglianetti that I found interesting is that is he such a smart player, that coaches have to make sure they are telling him the right thing in a certain formation or play because he'll correct them if they are wrong. "He's one of the smartest players, in terms of the books and football smart, I've been around," Gibson said.
Like I wrote yesterday based on Graham's post-practice comments, the offensive line is settling in as Jordan Gibbs and Lucas Nix at tackles, Cory King and Chris Jacobson at guard and Ryan Turnley at center. I think that Turnley still has to prove he is consistent enough with the snap before coaches are completely sold on him as the starting center but they are hoping he can get the job done. Jacobson has worked with the second group at center, which means he gets very few breaks, but Graham said he needs the work in case something happens to Turnley. Graham also said the next two guards would be Matt Rotheram and Arthur Doakes while the next two tackles are Greg Gaskins followed by Juantez Hollins. It seems like, based on Graham's comments, the coaches are growing comfortable with the starting five but really need to see more from this next group in order to really feel good about the line for the long haul. That means these next few days are crucial for these guys to get it right.
Hubie Graham and Drew Carswell have manned the H-Back spot mostly - Carswell has been really an interesting player to watch as he's made a number of plays over the course of camp -- but now they face some competition from Gonzalez, who has come on fast. He obviously isn't available yet, but these guys will have to play at a high level to keep him from taking away snaps from them.
The running back field behind Ray Graham and Zach Brown is crowded and depending on which coach you talk to on which day, seems to have a new leader. But there is a reason for that - they are all freshmen and thus they have all had flashes. The one coaches have talked the most about is Corey Davis and he has been really good. But Calvin Magee told me Isaac Bennetthas done a lot of nice things once they put the pads on and so this competition for the third tailback spot is probably headed for a fantastic finish. Obviously injuries to one of the first two guys could change this but from what we've been told, the third guy will play, the rest will likely redshirt so this is a key battle to watch over the next few days.
Finally, the receivers group seems to have four guys who are definitely going to be in the rotation - Mike Shanahan, Cam Saddler, Salath Williams and Devin Street (provided he gets healthy) which means there are two or three spots remaining (Mike Norvell said he'd like to have six or seven ready to play) for guys who want to play. The other guy who seems to be getting a lot of work is the junior college transfer Joshua Brinson. That probably means freshmen Darius Patton, Ronald Jones and Justin Jackson are locked in a battle for one, maybe two spots at the most. And Ed Tinker is another veteran who is fighting to get into the two-deep but he's been nicked a bit and I'm not exactly sure where he stands health wise, but he is in the mix of about four or five guys still fighting for one or two spots.
Again, a lot of the frontline positions are settling in and that means these reserves will have to step forward and make something happen in order to try and get onto the two-deep. I would be willing to bet they will over the next few days start to give some of the starters a few more breathers so they can take a longer look at some of these young guys and sort out the rest of the positions and figure out who will be redshirtting.
I think it goes without saying that this coaching staff makes it very clear that everything is earned, every single day. We see it in how things change each day in terms of who is starting at what spots and who is on the second team. It is truly an "every day earn your spot" kind of camp so even though coaches have said these guys who are ahead of the pack right now are starting to pull away, none of them should feel comfortable just yet.
Like I wrote at the start, Charlie will be covering Wednesday's practices and I will be back Thursday but this is where we are at heading into the final few days of camp.