Another day of two-a-days today, and Pitt wrapped up its morning session a little while ago. Away we go...
- Someone asked in the comments yesterday about the special teams coaching duties, so let's start with that. It really is a shared responsibility among all the coaches. Today, for instance, they did field goal work at the beginning of practice and pretty much every coach (maybe with the exception of Jim Hueber and Brooks Bollinger) was very involved. Secondary coach Matt House is sort of the de facto special teams coordinator, but the entire staff is involved in coaching the unit, including Paul Chryst.
"Naturally, your biggest plays are going to be in those areas," Chryst said after practice. "I think that you don’t want to just give it lip service, you want to make it important. There’s a lot of fundamentals and techniques that apply just like an offense or a defensive play. To give credence to it, you’ve got to coach it."
As to how that will end up working...it's tough to say. Obviously, Chryst has been coaching football longer than I have (one year of Powderpuff, in which we were victorious), so he obviously has a reasoning for this method. I have seen, though, instances, especially when something on special teams needs to be fixed, where it hurts to not have one guy whose sole duties is special teams. As MajorMajors mentioned in the comments yesterday, Pitt will certainly find out very quickly where it is on special teams, with Frank Beamer and his notorious BeamerBall lurking in Week 3.
- Pitt basketball coach Jamie Dixon addressed the football team after practice today. He has been known to hang around practice from time to time, but to address the team as a whole is something he definitely didn't do last year.
"I want our guys to hear from him," Chryst said. "There’s a guy, you talk about the program, we want to be that here with the consistency. I think it’s, too, being part of something bigger, part of the university."
- Ray Graham has sat out the last four practice sessions entirely. He was running in a red jersey earlier in the week, but has been out of pads since Tuesday. Chryst didn't indicate that there was a setback of any kind. I wouldn't be surprised if, given how gooden Isaac Bennett and Malcolm Crockett have looked, the staff feels they can be extra cautious with Graham's rehab. They're going to have an interesting decision coming up as the season starts. There should be no need for Graham to play against Youngstown State, but then Pitt has Cincinnati the following Thursday, which could prove to be a very important Big East game. Obviously, they don't want to rush Graham back for the opener if he isn't ready, but then his first live action would be in a seemingly high-stakes game with no real ramp up to live action.
- Rushel Shell returned in pads today after missing out the last three practices.
- Lafayette Pitts was absent, but excused. That meant Cullen Christian got most of the first-team reps at field corner. I wrote about that on-going position battle in today's P-G.
- Andrew Taglianetti had a couple of nice picks today on deep out routes. The defensive backfield is crowded, with Jarred Holley, Ray Vinopal, Jason Hendricks and now seemingly Jahmahl Pardner competing for playing time at safety/nickelback, but Tags has certainly shown that he'll be out there.
- Defensive lineman Tyrone Ezell had a fun interview session with us afterwards, when he talked about how the defensive lineman are trying to be "war daddies" up front. I think I'd better just let him explain...
"We set the tone up front, we’re going to get that attitude, just be like war daddies [the coaches] like to tell us," Ezell said. "It’s going to be hard for the defense, we don’t want to send it back to our secondary or anything. We’ve just got to be war daddies up front. Mean, nasty, aggressive."
I know I've talked a lot about Ezell, but he was on the move again today, lining up next to Aaron Donald in the middle of the first team defensive line, with Jack Lippert sliding out to end.
"There’s some similarities with an o-line," Chryst said. "Who are your five best o-linemen? Let’s get them on the field. Who are your four best d-linemen? Let’s get them on the field."
- The team will have its second scrimmage of fall camp tomorrow morning. There will be a couple of interesting things to look for, including what injured guys get back in pads, once they go in a game situation.
"[We want to] make it look like football," Chryst said. "We’ve seen some guys flash some good things, now try to do that repeatedly.
"Every scrimmage is a good scrimmage, you find out things you’re doing well."
That's all for now. Tonight's practice is closed to the media, so everyone can enjoy a nice, relaxing Friday night. I'll be back tomorrow with a recap from the scrimmage.