It's back to two-a-days again today for Pitt, which practiced inside this morning and will be back on the field at 6:45 tonight down here on the South Side. Before we get to my notes from this morning's practice, let's look at two questions I got in yesterday's comments.
First, from PantherMan, "Don't read much about Bryan Murphy. Is he in the mix @ DE at all? Seems like w/ the limited depth we would hear more about him. Thanks."
Murphy is working at defensive end with the second team right now, and he's got T.J. Clemmings in front of him at that spot right now. As you mentioned, defensive line needs all the help it can get, so Murphy will definitely get his chances to prove he can contribute. I wouldn't be surprised to see him mix in and maybe get some first-team reps at some point over the next few practices.
As for the defensive line in general, right now, it appears the first-team defensive line looks like this (from left to right) Clemmings - Aaron Donald - Jack Lippert - Shayne Hale. Once KK Mosley-Smith comes back, he'll jump into that group, and I would imagine Tyrone Ezell has earned some playing time, too. Right now, Ezell is working at the 3-technique spot (Donald's position) on the second-team, but he could end up starting at defensive end. Defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield has talked about how versatile Ezell can be, so I wouldn't be surprised if the coaching staff sees him as their second-best 3-technique guy. They may want to get him reps there so that, when Donald needs a blow during a game, Ezell can slide over and not have the production drop off.
Second question, from Pittmd, "What are your impressions of [Tino] Sunseri so far in camp. What kind of year do you think he will have?"
Paul Chryst talked about Sunseri needing to be more consistent after yesterday's practice, and I think that truly is Tino's biggest problem. He'll have a couple of nice throws (including a real nice deep out to freshman receiver Ronald Jones in today's practice) but then have a few passes where you're not sure where the ball was supposed to go. His height will always be a bit of an issue, as well.
That said, I think he has a chance to be successful this year because he's going to be asked to do less in Chryst's offense. Ideally, the talented stable of running backs will carry the load and Sunseri will only be called on to make a handful of difficult plays per game. If you want to compare him to a guy Chryst coached at Wisconsin, look at Scott Tolzien, the Badgers' starter when they made the Rose Bowl in 2010. That year, he completed 194 of 266 passes for 2,459 yards (12.7 ypc, 189.2 ypg) and 16 touchdowns. Do I think Sunseri can put up those numbers? Absolutely. His biggest task will be, like Chryst said yesterday, keeping an even keel and not making too many major mistakes.
Now, on to practice notes from today...
- We saw our first fight of training camp today, with Cameron Saddler and Jahmahl Pardner going at it. Yesterday, Saddler was talking some trash to Pardner, so it wasn't to surprising to see these two go at it. No one else got involved, and everything was broken up pretty quickly. Both players had to run laps around the track as punishment. The biggest thing, Chryst said, was instilling the message that if you lose your cool like that during a game, you're going to get ejected.
"They’ve just got to know that it’s self-control and we all know who gets caught: the second one. It doesn’t matter what happened, what started it," Chryst said. "You’ve got to have enough self-discipline to not do that to your team. If you’re the one guy that gets caught. I love competitiveness, love all those things, and I think you’ve got to walk the fine line."
- Despite the minor fisticuffs, Pardner still saw some reps as a nickelback with the first team today.
"I think he’s obviously got talent," Chryst said. "He competes, I think he takes coaching and he works. I think you put all of that together, you’ve got a chance. Has he arrived yet? Absolutely not, but he’s a guy that I think is getting comfortable and when you have success, that gives you confidence. Then you’ve got a guy that’s got talent, does the right things, works at it and gains confidence, that’s how you develop a good player I believe."
- Most of the relevant guys I noted yesterday were still out of practice again today. Freshman running back Rushel Shell was excused to deal with a personal matter, per Chryst. Ray Graham was in shorts today, but I suspect this was just a planned day off in his rehab schedule.
- The linebacking unit seems to be most affected by the "day-to-day" injuries, as redshirt freshman Jason Frimpong had to step in today when Eric Williams went down. Frimpong, at just 5-foot-10 and 205 pounds, seems a bit small to really play that position totally effectively.
- Redshirt junior Zenel Demhasaj got some runs with the second team at left tackle today, so maybe freshman Adam Bisnowaty doesn't have that spot all sewn up.
- Freshmen Darryl Render and Terrell Jackson both mixed in with the second-team defensive line at nose tackle. It's no secret that the defensive line is one of Pitt's thinnest units, so if one of those guys can contribute this year, it would go a long way in shoring up some depth.
- Isaac Bennett, who I wrote about in today's P-G, had another nice day, breaking a 40-yard run at one point. He was just pushed out short of the goal line by Ray Vinopal.
That's all for now. Like I said, Pitt will be back out there tonight, and I'll put up a morning post tomorrow recapping that session. Until then, as always, I'm up for any questions either here or on Twitter (@SWernerPG).