Well, we've seen a lot of good things from Pitt this spring - today we saw how bad the Panthers can look when they don't play well.
Maybe it was the end of the spring, last practice syndrome.
Maybe the nice weather had the players thinking about working on their golf games.
Or maybe the players were not focused because they were worried about what disciplinary action the Steelers are going to take against their apparent lothario quarterback.......
Whatever it was, Pitt stunk today, especially on offense where it looked a lot more like the Keystone Kops with the fumbles, bad passes, bad exchanges and penalties. Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt, who generally tries to find some positive things to talk about after practices, didn't leave much to the imagination in his post-practice remarks.
In fact, he called it like it was.
"For such a gorgeous day as it was out here, it was a very disappointing practice. I'm glad we are not playing this week, I will say that" said Wannstedt, who was visibly frustrated for most of the debacle. "The guys have been good the whole spring but today we came out here and just ran a bunch of plays and....I just don't think we got any better today. It was a disappointing day, we lacked intensity - I hope we are saving it for Saturday and thank God we have all summer to get ready because we need a lot of work. We'd have got run out of the park if we were lining up to play Utah today.
"We were just sloppy, sloppy - four balls on the ground, two quarterback exchanges - we hadn't had the whole time. It was a lack of focus, just a lack of focus. I hope it was just we were looking forward to the spring game. The lesson today is, and they better understand it, we have a lot of work to do. Anybody that's been reading the press clippings, it should have been a real eye-opener for them."
OK, bad day aside, a lot of good things have happened for this team in the spring and so as things wrap up, let's try and take a look over the next few days at what we know and what we need to find out about the 2010 Pitt Panthers:
** No question the players who have emerged this spring are cornerback Antwuan Reed (starting cornerback, that is), tight end Mike Cruz (the most complete tight end on the roster), defensive tackle Tyrone Ezell (who is the first tackle off the bench and clearly will be in the rotation), linebacker Tristan Roberts (who could very well be the starter by the time Utah game rolls around) and wide receiver Greg Cross (the coaching staff beleives he is really ready to help).
Out of those guys, the two best developments are Reed - the corner spot is very important and had a lot of questions before the season but he has been very, very good -- and Roberts, who was almost written off after a lackluster performance during training camp last year before he got injured. Both guys have improved the position they play and both seem to be poised to have big seasons. Ezell, we've talked about, he's explosive as is Cross and Cruz will be a valuable weapon in the red zone.
** The offensive line has three of the five positions solved and frankly, I don't see anyone beating out Alex Karabin at center at this point. And while he isn't exactly Dermontti Dawson he's not much different, if at all, than most of the centers Pitt has had in the past five to seven years. That leaves the right guard spot and well, let's just say there is a lot of work to be done there because I haven't seen much from either Greg Gaskins or Ryan Turnley to suggest either is ready to step in and play at the level they need to.
** The defensive line, on the other hand, is thin - meaning not a lot of depth - but if it stays healthy, should again be among the best in the BIg East. The two defensive ends are both All-American candidates and Myles Caragein should have a chance to become an All-Big East performer. And while Chas Alecxih isn't as experienced as Gus Mustakas was last year or as talented as Mick Williams was, he's going to be a better player than most people expect him to be. In fact, Greg Gattuso believes he will also have a chance to become an All-Big East performer because he does some things that even Mustakas and Williams didn't do. Those four will be fine and the third end and tackle are also pretty good in Brandon Lindsey and Ezell and Nate Nix is sort of a plugger, like Chris McKillop was, so he should be good in a limited role as well. But that is pretty much where the depth ends right now.
** Finally, if Dan Mason improves as much between now and training camp as he did between last training camp and this spring, he could arrive as a superstar this year. I expect the learning curve to be a little tougher for him and he still lacks experience but he really did some things this spring that turned a lot of heads. He still is learning, he still plays a little too fast at times but when he has been dialed in, he's been pretty impressive. Max Gruder is also a much better player now than he was in the fall and I expect him to have a very good year as well. The disappointment has been the other outside linebacker Greg Williams, who, has been injured a little and when he hasn't been injured he just hasn't progressed. Like I said, I expect him to get beat out by Roberts by the time the season rolls around.
** The format for the spring game will be offense versus defense, first team versus second team and will include a normal game clock in the first half and some form of a running clock in the second half. But don't be surprised if it is very vanilla as the game is live on NFL Network and given that, coaches are not going to want to show much.