The first week of Pitt football practice is (pretty much) in the books. The Panthers practiced outside this morning in front of dozens of former players who made the trip down to the South Side. Here are a few notes from today's session...
- Three notable players sat out most or all of Saturday's session. RB Isaac Bennett, CB K'Waun Williams and S Jason Hendricks were all inactive. Bennett got banged up early in the session and watched the rest with an ice pack on his knee, and Williams and Hendricks, while in pads, sat out all of the team drills. After practice, coach Paul Chryst said the three injuries were "hopefully nothing serious" and he didn't sound too concerned about any of them. Hendricks' injury, for the record, was not related to the foot injury that sidelined him for all of spring ball, Chryst said.
- With Bennett out, freshman James Conner became the first running back out with the first team on pretty much all of the drills. While there's still a ton of rotation at the position, it looks like Conner has edged ahead of Malcolm Crockett and Rachid Ibrahim in terms of first team reps at running back. After practice, Conner said the coaches have already told him to be prepared for action this season.
"They told me, 'You need to be ready to go because you're going to be getting the ball this year,'" he said.
"I believe physically I'm ready, but there's a lot of difference between weight strength and grown man strength. I just turned 18, I know I need to get a lot stronger."
- At cornerback, Brandon Felder got most of Williams' first-team reps while he was sidelined. Trenton Coles is still the extra defensive back for nickel packages (I hesitate to say "nickel back" because in reality Coles comes on to play corner and the corner slides over to play the true nickel spot, but I digress), but it looks like Felder is the backup for Williams on the field side.
- With Hendricks out, Cullen Christian took over his safety spot next to Ray Vinopal. That bumped freshman Terrish Webb up to the second team with Jevonte Pitts and Ryan Lewis rotating through the safety spots.
"I think that's the one good thing about camp," Chryst said. "There's going to be reps and guys are going to be taking them. Obviously we're best if everyone's practicing."
- Similar to Conner, freshman Tyler Boyd seems to have gained a slight edge in the rotation alongside Devin Street at the receiver spot. They're still rotating a lot of guys through, but on any new team drills, the first three receivers out there are Street, Boyd and Ed Tinker in that order. That could change in the future as they give other guys some chances, but I also don't think anyone would be surprised if Boyd locked up that second receiver job.
- Linebacker Devon Porchia got banged up and missed some time today. In his absence (along with Bam Bradley and Nicholas Grigsby still being gone) freshmen Matt Galambos and Zach Poker took the reps with the second team at linebacker. I know the staff is really high on Galambos and I wouldn't be surprised if he passed Porchia on the depth chart (even though Chryst says there isn't one) by the end of camp.
- After practice, cornerback Jahmahl Pardner, who had a nice breakup during practice today, said he was "80-85 percent" recovered from the ACL injury that cost him most of last season.
"Just little things like getting my vertical back up, I lost a little speed. I'm just working hard to get it back," he said.
"The biggest hurdle to overcome is mental. I just wake up every morning and tell myself it never happened."
- That's all for today. Pitt has its first two-a-day of training camp tomorrow, but both practices are closed for the media (which is fine, because I'm going to need all day to focus on the Breaking Bad premiere anyways). They then have Monday off, but we'll have an interview session Monday afternoon, so that's when I'll have the next post up on the blog. Until then, you can always tweet me any questions @SWernerPG.