I think the most important development of the past few days is this - coaches are ratcheting up the competition and making sure guys understand that they need to earn their spots. I really think that is a big reason there has been so much "movement" in the two deep over the past few days - there are few guys who coaches are trying to light a fire under and know they need to get their attention quickly. I do think that the competition is ongoing for certain spots but I have a hard time believing it is as wide open as it appears. This staff is very big on sending messages as well as pushing and prodding guys to get better and pay attention to the details every day.
"There is not a position on the field right now where there isn't competition," Graham said.
So with that in mind, let's look at some spots that have had a little bit of movement...
** Right guard Cory King has been shaky, according to the coaches, but had been the best option so he played mostly with the first team throughout camp. But it is clear that his spot is in jeopardy -- or at least coaches want him to step up - as he has been playing with the second team the past few days. Again, that isn't to say he has been officially demoted - but it is to say that they are at least nervous about that spot and are looking for ways to shore it up. So far it looks like the answer has been Lucas Nix moving from right tackle to right guard and Greg Gaskins moving in and playing right tackle or Lucas Nix moving to right guard, Jordan Gibbs moving to right tackle and Jauntez Hollins moving to left tackle.
Hollins, according to Graham, has made a real move forward in recent days and is pushing to be a starter at either guard or tackle. They like his size and athleticism and he is apparently moving faster and better now.
So at the risk of feeling the wrath of East Lansing, Todd Graham said it is likely to be one of these three scenarios - (left to right) --
Now all of that assumes one thing -- Turnley proves in these last three practices of camp (over two days) that he can be consistent enough with the snap of the ball to be the center. So far, he's been very inconsistent -- it is clear coaches are rooting for him, almost begging him to take the job and the reason is - there just aren't many legitimate options among offensive linemen.
Graham said if you throw in Hollins and Gaskins and King, there are probably seven guys -- maybe eight with Matt Rotheram, but he hasn't really stepped up enough to earn the complete faith of the coaches -- who are really ready to play.
So the pickings are kind of slim right now and if Turnley doesn't get better, it would mean Jacobson would have to move to center and if that's the case, well, these are some scenarios that Graham has laid out over the past few days....
Again, my guess is that coaches really want Turnley and King to step up in this scrimmage on Saturday and prove they are clearly the best fourth and fifth linemen on the roster.
Graham said the depth chart will pretty much be set by Monday, so we will know how King and Turnley performed Saturday in the scrimmage based on where they end up on the depth chart.
*** A scary moment at practice happened when wide receiver Darius Patton collapsed at practice and was taken to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital. He has since been admitted to the hospital and will be monitored overnight. Pitt's athletic department spokesman EJ Borghetti had some computer issues today but managed to type of this statement on behalf of the university about Patton's condition "During Pitt’s afternoon practice session, freshman receiver Darius Patton passed out while participating in a non-contact exercise. He was subsequently transported to UPMC Presbyterian, where he was awake, alert and had strong vital signs. Darius will be kept overnight for observation but all initial indications are positive."
Todd Graham didn't have much other information after practice about it but it sounds like, thankfully, Patton will be fine and maybe just the heat got to him or something like.
*** One other injury note - Graham said safety Jason Hendricks has been hobbled by a turf toe.
*** Keeping with the "keping the heat on players" theme, I think Graham added some clarity to the back-up quarterback derby between Trey Anderson and Mark Myers today. I asked him if Anderson was indeed the backup now and he said basically that the matter will be decided on Saturday at the scrimmage. Then he talked about how competition has been good for Myers and that he had "his best practice of camp" the day AFTER Anderson moved firmly into that second spot. "I think we have to get through Saturday before that, because Mark’s doing a lot of good things, too. The reason we’re talking so much about Trey is that he’s new and he’s been a pleasant surprise to be as mature as he is as an 18-year-old walk-on freshman. I would tell you that he is, no doubt, competing to be the number-two quarterback.”
Graham said that Anderson's edge, beyond his talent, is that he has played in the same offense in high school and really understands it and understands where everyone needs to be in most formations.
Again, my sense in talking to Graham today is that Myers will ultimately be the guy they view as the back-up provided he does well in the scrimmage because he is a little more of a veteran (a relative term, I know) and because he is a bit more physically gifted.
But I will say this - this staff is much different than previous staffs in that they really believe that the best players need to be on the field, regardless of what class they are in or what they did last year.
*** The linebacker spot is another place where it seems that a message is being sent - though the two guys currently playing at the top of the depth chart at their positions have been impressive. The first is at spur linebacker where, unless I am reading things wrong, Todd Thomas has moved ahead of Greg Williams and the other is at inside linebacker where Shane Gordon has seemingly moved ahead of Tristan Roberts. Gordon has been consistently running with the first team and is a guy who clearly fits the profile of the kind of speedy athletic player this coaching staff wants on the field. Roberts is experienced and the coaching staff would like to see more from him out there and more consistency, which seems to be a recurring theme over the past few years. The interesting case is Greg Williams, as coaches raved about him during the spring (even though he wasn't playing) and summer but have clearly needed to see him play up to a level that his athleticism and experience would seem to dictate.
Again, nobody is allowed to feel comfortable and competition for jobs is at an all-time high - and that is a good thing.
*** And hey, because former players stopping by Pitt is stop the presses kind of news according to certain self-appointed geniuses around this blog, LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis and Mike McGlynn stopped by and, gasp, talked to the team!!! All three are members of the Eagles, who were in town to play the Steelers.
And hey, while we are at it - Mark Ponko and Kody Miller were at practice today, too!!!Heck tomorrow - every football alum is invited to watch the evening practice but we'll try to get all of their names in the blog since former players visiting practice is such a rare and newsworthy event!