Well, there is one more day of spring football and that is Saturday, which, as many of you know is the annual Blue-Gold Spring football game and it will take place at Martorelli Stadium (which is North Hills high school home field).
The scrimmage will be an offense-defense format and there won't be a scoring system and you will see some situational stuff - redzone, third down, goal line, etc., etc. The game kicks off at 1 p.m. but there is kids clinic on the field starting at 11:30 and kids who are 8th grade or younger will be able to run through some drills and whatnot under the direction of Pitt players.
It is always a fan favorite.
Of course, this year there will be no coaches chalk talk, which is an outrage, and I believe you should contact Chris Ferris and EJ Borghetti and demand that they bring this chalk talk back to the spring game and perhaps even march outside Martorelli Stadium with a sign that says "Free the Chalk Talk".......
There is also the Dessert Tasting for a Cause Event that night which has become one a fan favorite as well. You can read all about it and purchase tickets here....
OK, now that I have done EJ and Ferris's job for them (I have to carry those guys on my back all the time), let me get back to doing mine and that is wrapping up the spring.
I don't know the easiest way to go about writing about the depth chart because (a) it is not complete and (b) so many guys are held out of the spring for so many reasons that it is hard to get excited about who is playing with what unit until the fall when everyone is in pads and the team is getting ready for the season. And that doesn't even include the handful of incoming freshman who are not here yet but will find there way onto the two-deep by the end of training camp.
So let's just try and go position by position and see if we can't make some sense of who is doing what.
Today we will do the offense, tomorrow we will do the defense and specialists.
Overall, I will say there is very little depth on the offensive and defensive line and at linebacker. There is plenty of depth in the secondary and at running back and there are at least plenty of bodies at receiver, though I'm not sure how much actual depth there is.
Also, if you go to the spring game Saturday keep in mind that these guys -- K'Waun Williams, Jarred Holley, E'Juan Price, Chris Jacobson, Todd Thomas, Mike Shanahan, Tyrone Ezell, Ronald Jones, Malcolm Crockett and Ray Graham -- have either been limited or are out all together so you may see some guys in positions they aren't likely to play or you will see some guys "starting" who aren't likely to be starters.
The other guy who may not be out there Saturday is Dan Mason who has missed the past few practices and Paul Chryst said is dealing with some issues and "taking care of some things" In my experience on the beat that usually means he is taking care of some things in the classroom and coaches want him focused on that, but I'm not sure what his status is for Saturday.
That is what makes spring football tricky and so hard to get excited about -- other than you see the team out on the field -- as so much of it is instructional and anyone who has even a minor injury or off field issue is going to be held out.
But people love to know who is playing where so let's try to take a loose look at what the offensive depth chart looks like coming out of spring and like I said, tomorrow I will do the defense.
Tino Sunseri is, like I wrote the other day, going to be the starter based on everything we've seen this spring. He definitely looks more comfortable in this offense, he definitely has played better of late but he still has some work to do. The back-up spot is up for grabs and as of late it appears as if Trey Anderson is slightly ahead of Mark Myers but, again, there could be some motivational stuff going on there with Myers as well so this will continue into the fall. Anthony Gonzalez has been the odd man out and likely could be headed elsewhere.
The first unit has been pretty steady - Juantez Hollins and Matt Rotheram at tackles, Ryan Schlieper and Cory King at guard and Ryan Turnley at center. That figures to change when Jacobson returns and offensive line coach Jim Hueber said he will play guard so that means Schlieper or King will become the sixth man so to speak. The second unit is a little bit of a motley crew of guys who coaches are hoping to be able to coach up and get ready to play. Justin Virbitsky and Zenel Demhasaj have been sort of the second tackles and Arthur Doakes and Shane Johnson were the guards today with Artie Rowell or Brandon Sacco at center. Again, there is no much depth here but I do like what I have seen from the first unit as I think it has gotten better each week and I do think the scheme will help them tremendously. Rotheram said it best about the difference between this scheme and the spread "it is nice to be able to go hit somebody as opposed to standing there and waiting to get hit"
Isaac Bennett has had a really nice spring and it is clear to me that Rushell Shell will have his work cut out for him if he wants to get into the two-deep. Bennett is everything we saw last year - a strong runner, he is physical, he gets tough yards and it looks like he has progressed as you would hope a second-year guy will. Corey Davis has also had a nice spring and he is sort of the speed guy so he can be used in a variety of ways even with the others getting most of the carries. The star of TODAY (i.e., it is spring, so let's not lose our minds about it) was Desmond Brown as he made some big runs and had one highlight reel worthy run of about 60 yards or so. But again, the starter is almost assuredly going to be Graham and Malcolm Crockett will be in the mix as will Shell, so this is going to be a much different position group in the fall than it is now. I do think this group is very talented, I think there is a good mix of speed, size and shiftiness so the run game will be in good hands.
The fullbacks have consistently been Mark Giubilato and Derrick Burns but it will be interesting to see how much we actually see fullbacks. We've seen a lot of one-back with tight ends and H-back kind of stuff so the way the fullback is mixed in once the games begin will be interesting.
This group is extremely thin and there is no question that this staff will need to reload through recruiting but there are some guys on the roster who are pretty good. I love Hubie Graham, I think he is a very good player. He isn't the biggest tight end (he's listed at 6-4, 230 but that's a bit generous I think) but he is a hard-nosed kid and he runs well and catches the ball well. He really has settled into this offense and I think he will have a very big role in the fall. Drew Carswell is still at tight end mostly because of need as he is still a bit skinny and not yet physical enough to do some of the blocking stuff they want him to do at that position. That being said, he is very athletic and he can catch the ball well and he makes a lot of difficult catches, so he, too will be a weapon in the passing game. Given his size, he is 6-4, 215, I think his frame looks like he can add some good weight and not lose speed so perhaps he will grow into a more physical blocker and become an every down tight end but he's right now closer to an H-back than traditional tight end. Brendan Carozzoni is more traditional blocking tight end than anything else and that's a good thing because he gives the coaches some flexibility. Beyond those three, however, there isn't much if anything else right now so this is a position of need, especially with Graham graduating.
Devin Street has really progressed well this spring and really looks the part of this team's go-to guy. He is running good routes, he is catching the ball, he is running through tackles. He really has done a nice job, so much so that today when I asked Paul Chryst about him Chryst even said he has really had a nice week and come on strong at the end of the spring here. That is significant because Chryst is very, very reluctant to compliment any of his players as he has very high standards for what he thinks guys should be able to achieve. So for him to acknowledge that someone is doing well, it means something. The other guy who has had a good spring - just ask him, I'm sure he will tell you- is Cam Saddler who finally looks again like that explosive player we saw in high school and before his knee injury. Saddler has had some really good days catching the ball and making corners look silly trying to cover him so hopefully for his sake he's able to maintain this into the fall. Shanahan is limited because of back surgery so we have seen very little of him and he won't play Saturday. Josh Brinson has been a nice development over the course of the spring as he has become more consistent in recent weeks and it looks like Salath Williams is also going to be a guy who will contribute come the fall. And of course Ronald Jones showed some ability last fall though we haven't seen quite as much as I'd like from him. I also put Brendan Felder in that category as a guy who will help though he started the spring with a bang but has fallen off some since. So this group is a work in progress and I think and there are some guys who have ability but there is still a long way to go for this group to develop at least a solid core of six guys who are really capable of playing at a high level every week.
Overall, I've liked what I have seen from the offense. I think they are blocking better, they are run blocking better, they are throwing and catching better and of course, the running backs have had some big days. I think there is more to be encouraged about with the offense now than coming into the spring but I also know that this is still the spring and there is a lot of time between now and the season. The offensive line depth is a question, the tight end depth is a question and the receiver rotation needs to be settled but I do think there was significant progress made this spring and it was easy to see and that's a good sign that there is some talent in place and that talent received some good coaching and has improved.