Pitt was once again out on the practice field Wednesday, on a day that felt a whole lot like football season. It was chilly and even started raining a bit towards the end, but the Panthers were still outside. We actually got a couple of news items from today's media session, so let's get right to it...
- First, coach Paul Chryst announced after practice that redshirt senior Tom Savage will be Pitt's starting quarterback in 2013. I've embedded video below so you can see what Chryst had to say about the decision (Note: I know there was an issue with the video yesterday but it should be resolved today).
If you've been following along, you know this really isn't that much of a surprise. Savage has been the expected starter since the beginning of spring ball, but Chryst gave redshirt freshman Chad Voytik a chance to try and win the job. In the end, Savage's experience and knowledge level seemed to be the difference. This is no knock on Voytik, who probably has the inside track to be the starter in 2014. I also wouldn't be surprised for him to get some playing time, at least in blowouts, this season. It also gives Pitt a decent option if Savage gets banged up. If you recall last year, there were a few cases where Tino Sunseri got dinged up, but didn't come out of the game, in part because there was a big drop off between him and anyone behind him. This year, I'm sure the coaches will feel at least relatively comfortable with Voytik out there if it came to that.
- The other big news of the day was that linebacker Todd Thomas was back at practice. All told, he missed seven practice sessions (including two-a-days yesterday). He was in a jersey and helmet today because, per NCAA rules, he still needs to go through the acclimation period that his teammates went through last week. That means he has to spend the next two practices in a helmet and shoulder pads before he can go full pads with his teammates. Because of this limitation, Thomas did not take part in any team drills today.
"I was able to talk to Todd actually every day," Chryst said. "We had continued discussions and he's back on the team. That's all I'm going to talk about there."
Basically, from what I have heard, Thomas almost immediately realized that he made a rash and emotional decision and wanted to return to the team. Chryst did factor in the wishes of the other players when weighing the decision to bring Thomas back, and ultimately opted to let him return. Pitt officials denied requests to interview Thomas after today's practice, so we'll have to wait a bit to hear his side of things.
- As far as actual practice notes go, running back Isaac Bennett was still out with a giant brace on his right knee. Chryst said he wasn't sure of a timetable on Bennett's return, other than that it probably wouldn't be tomorrow. It sounds like the most optimistic prognosis is a return early next week. Once again, freshman James Conner was routinely the first running back out with the first team in Bennett's absence. If, for whatever reason, Bennett couldn't play against Florida State, I would put my money on Conner being the starter. That being said, Malcolm Crockett and Rachid Ibrahim have also gotten first-team snaps.
- There was some shuffling at the linebacker position Wednesday. Redshirt freshman Bam Bradley routinely worked with the first team at the Sam linebacker spot, replacing Mike Caprara, who shifted back to the Mike position and worked with the second unit. That shifted freshman Matt Galambos over to the Will on the second team. I think the staff is very much still trying to just find its three best linebackers and today was a chance for Bradley to show he's in that group. I also think, though, that the middle linebacker spot is Caprara's most natural position, so it makes sense to see him back there, even if it's on the second team.
- Redshirt junior Brandon Felder was the first defensive back off the bench today. Trenton Coles and Jahmahl Pardner were both back, but, again, it looks like the staff is giving some guys a chance to show what they can do. They were pleased with Coles last week, and I think Pardner has the highest upside of these three, but is still recovering from ACL surgery last season.
- It looks like Ejuan Price is turning into a pure defensive end. Bryan Murphy was back from injury today, but Price still got some reps with the first team. He's another guy with some high upside but obviously uncertainty after sitting out all of last year. There's a lot of rotation on the second and third teams at defensive end, with LaQuentin Smith, Jack Lippert and Shakir Soto also in the mix.
- Finally, here's some video of freshman wide receiver Tyler Boyd discussing his acclimation to the offense: