So here we are. The final "Talkin' 'Bout Practice" of fall camp. Today was Pitt's last session of the fall that was open to the media. The team has its Fan Fest tonight and Heinz Field, and then will get into regular game preparation next week for Youngstown State. Here's what I saw at this morning's practice.
- Today was, technically, the first day of Youngstown State preparation. Paul Chryst said he wanted to simulate some game week practices this week so that, next week, when Pitt goes through their first week of game prep, it won't all be new routine. As such, some players were wearing different numbers to serve as scout players for Youngstown State. The team was in shoulder pads and shorts this morning, but running back Isaac Bennett said the players definitely appreciated moving into game mode after two weeks of training camp.
"The game is next week, so everybody’s excited today," he said.
"It’s the time you’ve got to suck it up and get out there. We get to play against someone other than ourselves."
- As I posted on Twitter, Chryst announced after practice that sophomore cornerback Lloyd Carrington has decided to transfer from Pitt. Chryst said Carrington, a Dallas native, wanted to be closer to home.
"It was a tough talk for me because he’s a guy that I think in the short time come to like," Chryst said. "We wanted him here, but I also felt good it was a well thought out plan and he’s looking to try and get back closer to home."
K'Waun Williams sat out again today with an injury, so Lafayette Pitts and Cullen Christian were the two first-teamers at cornerback. Both started the fall battling for the starting field corner position, but Pitts moved over to the boundary side today. I asked Christian after practice about the difference between playing the boundary and field sides, because with Carrington gone, players may switch sides more often than originally planned. Freshman Ryan Lewis has also been seeing more first-team action, and I expect him to probably play this season.
"Boundary’s just constant, you’ve got to be ready for anything really," Christian said. "You’ve got to be ready for pulling guards all the time, you’ve got to be ready for one-on-one matchups, you’ve got to be ready for everything. Field’s more like, you’ve got to be able to cover more in space, you have to be able to read more than one receiver at one time. You have to react off what certain receivers are doing. It’s a big difference really, but at the end of the day, it’s all corner."
As for Williams' injury, Chryst said he would probably be out of practice again tomorrow, but that no one on the team had any injury with a definite time frame for recovery (i.e. so-and-so is out 4-6 weeks).
- Ryan Turnley was out of team drills once again today, and Artie Rowell was back with the first team at center. As I've mentioned before, this unit is pretty thin, so the sooner Turnley returns, the better. Offensive line coach Jim Hueber said he was open to playing freshmen this year if necessary (due to injuries to the upperclassmen). Right now, it looks like Adam Bisnowaty is the freshman offensive lineman most likely to see the field. He has been fairly consistently working with the second team at left tackle.
"That’s where we are," Hueber said. "There’s no looking back, we’ve got to look forward. We’re not going to invent anybody. If [a freshman]’s the next man up, he’s got to be the guy that goes in."
- Speaking of freshmen playing this season, I'd say it's becoming more and more of a sure thing that Rushel Shell will see significant playing time this year. Based on what I saw today, it looks like Ray Graham, Bennett, and Shell have separated themselves as the top three backs. Oh, there's also this quote from Bennett after practice today:
"[Rushel]’s concentrating more," Bennett said. "You can see he’s starting to pick it up even better as the days go on. He knows that he’s stepping up. I think he’s playing this year, so I think he realizes that."
Now, Bennett said it was just "a feeling" he got that Shell would play this year, but given his position, I think that feeling is pretty well-founded.
- Wide receivers Mike Shanahan, Devin Street and Cameron Saddler were all active in team drills at the same time today. I expect these three to be your top three at receiver, with a healthy dose of Ronald Jones, mostly in the slot.
- Nicholas Grigsby seems to have sewn up the inside linebacker spot usually filled by Todd Thomas. I guess it's not totally out of the question that Thomas is back for Youngstown State, but given that Chryst has identified him as a "longer" injury, I think it's safe to assume he'll miss at least the first game.
That's all for now, I'm off to Fan Fest shortly, and will have a blog post up afterwards recapping anything exciting that went down.