Coaching staff shakeup (plus practice notes)

Written by Sam Werner on .

PittFB080913Once again, weather drove Pitt indoors for practice today, but the Panthers went for just under 2 1/2 hours in their fourth session of 2013 training camp. Today was the last practice before the team puts on full pads tomorrow (even though these past two days in shoulder pads have felt just like full-pads practice). Here's a quick rundown from what we saw today...

- First, a word on the coaching staff changes that were announced after today's practice. Former running backs coach Desmond Robinson is now the player personnel director. Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph is now the running backs coach (in addition to offensive coordinator) and graduate assistant Mickey Turner is taking over to coach the tight ends. So, for a brief refresher, here's the coaching staff as currently composed:

  • Paul Chryst - Head coach
  • Joe Rudolph - Assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and running backs
  • Matt House - Defensive coordinator and safeties
  • Brooks Bollinger - Quarterbacks
  • Bobby Engram - Wide receivers
  • Jim Hueber - Offensive line
  • Inoke Breckterfield - Defensive line
  • Chris Haering - Linebackers
  • John Palermo - Defensive ends and linebackers
  • Desmond Robinson - Player personnel director
  • Mickey Turner (GA) - Tight ends
  • Hank Poteat (GA) - Cornerbacks

Chryst said the biggest reason for the switch was to free up Robinson to take on more recruiting duties. He's still one of the nine coaches allowed to go on the road recruiting (of the above, only Turner and Poteat are not allowed to go on the road to recruit), and now he has more free time during the season without active coaching duties to check in on high school players. Chryst said that, even this season, Robinson will be working on guys in both the 2014 and 2015 classes. It can be tough for coaches to get out to high school practices and recruit during their own season, and this move allows Robinson to do so.

- Linebacker Todd Thomas was once again not present at practice Friday, despite his high school basketball coach saying that he was going to return to the team. Chryst had no comment after practice. A source has indicated that the door was open for Thomas to return to Pitt, likely under certain conditions set by the coaching staff, but I have a feeling the longer this plays out, the less chance there is of him coming back.

- Linebackers Nicholas Grigsby and Bam Bradley were also not at practice Friday, but it was an excused absence as they attended a family member's funeral. In their absence, freshmen linebackers Matt Galambos and Zach Poker got some reps with the second team in their place.

- For Galambos, I would add him to the list of freshman that will likely see the field this year. Chryst broke him up unprovoked in his pre-training camp meeting with the media Monday, and that's usually a sign that a coach likes a kid. That, plus the move of Mike Caprara to outside linebacker, seemingly opens up a spot in the middle for Galambos. Galambos and Shakir Soto were also freshmen on the first-team kickoff coverage unit, which is usually an indicator that those guys will see the field this year.

Isaac Bennett showed some good burst through holes in the inside run drill early in today's practice. He looks noticeably quicker and a little more solid than he did during spring practices.

- The running back rotation is definitely still in flux, but James Conner was routinely the second guy in after Bennett on a lot of the drills today. I wouldn't read too much into this (other than that Conner will almost certainly play this year), but the coaching staff is giving him a good chance to show off what he can do.
"We're working on it," Chryst said of the running back rotation. "We're still going to have practice tomorrow and we're working on it. But, no, this is second day in pads. We've got a lot of work still to do."

- Freshman Tyler Boyd was on with the first unit alongside Devin Street a lot today. Again, this doesn't mean you can pencil him in as the starter against Florida State, but he's going to definitely have a chance.

- The team spent the end of today's practice working 11-on-11 in the red zone. It was mostly 1s vs. 1s and 2s vs. 2s, but the third team also got a series in at the end. Bennett got a little banged up during practice, so he didn't participate. Here's how it played out:

First series (1st team offense vs. 1st team defense)
1-10, 20 yd line: Sweep to Boyd, 1 yd
2-9, 19 yd: Draw to Conner, 6 yds
3-3, 13 yd: Savage pass to Garner, 6 yds
1-G, 7 yd: Draw to Conner, 2 yds
2-G, 5 yd: Crockett up the middle, 3 yds
3-G, 2 yd: Crockett up the middle, 1 yd
4-G, 1 yd: Crockett up the middle, 1 yd, TOUCHDOWN

Second series (2nd team offense vs. 2nd team defense)
1-10, 20 yd: Voytik pass to Challingsworth, 11 yds
1-G, 9 yd: Conner up the middle, 6 yds
2-G, 3 yd: Conner up the middle, 3 yds, TOUCHDOWN

Third series (1st team offense vs. 1st team defense)
1-10, 20 yd: Savage sacked, -5 yds
2-15, 25 yd: Savage screen pass to Crockett, no gain
3-15, 25 yd: Savage pass to Weatherspoon in the end zone incomplete, broken up by Coles
4-15, 25 yd: 42-yard field goal by Blewitt IS GOOD

Fourth series (2nd team offense vs. 2nd team defense)
1-10, 20 yd: Conner up the middle, 2 yds
2-8, 18 yd: Ibrahim to the left, 2 yds
3-6, 16 yd: Voytik pass to Challingsworth incomplete, broken up by Pardner
4-6, 16 yd: 34-yard field goal by Greer IS GOOD

Fifth series (3rd team offense vs. 3rd team defense)
1-10, 20 yd: Anderson pass to Weah incomplete, broken up by J. Pitts
2-10, 20 yd: Ibrahim to the left, 4 yds
3-6, 16 yd: Anderson pass to Harper, 16 yds, TOUCHDOWN

- That's all for today. Pitt will be back on the practice field tomorrow for the first full-pads practice of the season at 10:30 a.m. over on the South Side.

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