Pitt coach Paul Chryst met with the media for one final time before the Panthers head up to Buffalo to take on the Bulls this weekend, here are the latest notes from that session...
- Chryst said linebacker Manny Williams is out for this week's game. Chryst wouldn't go so far as to name the starters, but it seems like a safe bet that Todd Thomas will start in place of Williams at the weakside linebacker spot. Chryst said he and Nicholas Grigsby would likely fill that spot. Up until this week, Thomas had mostly been working with the strongside linebackers, where the current starter is Eric Williams. The positions are quite different in terms of their responsibilities, notably in the amount of pass coverage duties they have (the weakside linebacker typically has to do more in pass coverage).
"He’s big enough, he’s strong enough, he’s athletic enough to play multiple positions on defense, but there’s that learning curve because it’s different responsibilities as you move to different linebacker positions," defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable said. "By alignments, by keys and some run fits. By some coverage responsibilities and then you get into your pressure stuff and there’s a whole new set of responsibilities. ‘A linebacker is a linebacker,’ a lot of people think, but there’s a lot of learning to do when you flip over to the other side."
Huxtable also pointed out that it was a matter of conditioning for Thomas, who only returned to full practice about a month ago after missing virtually all of training camp. When he has played the last two games, it has been mostly in Pitt's dime package meant for passing situations.
- Sticking with the linebackers, Shane Gordon is one guy who is still questionable for this week. If Gordon is out, Dan Mason could get the start at middle linebacker. Joe Trebitz has also been training at multiple linebacker positions, according to Chryst. With so many guys dinged up by injuries, it really is an "all hands on deck" situation.
- Hubie Graham is another guy that's questionable for Buffalo. He and Drew Carswell both missed the Louisville game, leaving JP Holtz to play virtually every snap on offense. A lot of people have asked why Holtz hasn't been more involved with the passing game this season (two catches on the season), and offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph spoke about that yesterday.
"I think that'll continue to grow," Rudolph said. "As you're starting off and you're teaching him and he's learning, there's just kind of a process to getting there. He's the guy that's usually at the point of attack, so he's got to be able to get down the run game and some of the protections. We'll continue to grow from there. We've done some things this week with him. Those [pass targets] will come. He's stepping towards it."
- Defensive end Jack Lippert, who has been out the last four games, will also be out this week.