Coles leaves team, Pitt names captains and other notes

Written by Sam Werner on .

Pitt had its second-to-last official practice of training camp today, but the Panthers were in helmets only (well, plus jerseys and pants) today, so there wasn't a whole lot to glean from the actual practice. Afterwards, however, we got a few bits of news...

- First, Paul Chryst announced that cornerback Trenton Coles has decided to leave the Pitt program and transfer elsewhere. Here's my quick story on Coles' decision. This isn't totally surprising to anyone who has followed Coles' training camp. He was anointed the starter when Titus Howard was suspended, but didn't do a ton to lock down that job. When he got caught up with a minor ankle injury last week, Reggie Mitchell and Avonte Maddox seized that opportunity to get more first-team reps.
I thought it was pretty telling last week that, immediately after praising Mitchell and Maddox for their work, defensive backs coach Troy Douglas referred to Coles as a "work in progress."
That said, though, Chryst said he appreciated what Coles did for the program and would help him find a better fit in the transfer.

- Before that, Chryst announced that the team had voted redshirt senior right tackle T.J. Clemmings (offense), redshirt senior safety Ray Vinopal (defense) and redshirt junior linebacker Nicholas Grigsby (special teams) as Pitt's 2014 team captains. Chryst said 19 different players received votes, but these three ultimately won by a comfortable margin.
Clemmings and Vinopal are both interesting in their own right, Clemmings with his position switch and Vinopal as a transfer. Chryst said he talked to Clemmings after the regular season finale in 2012 at South Florida and remarked that Clemmings' uniform was clean. Soon after, he moved from defensive end to right tackle and has held the starting job ever since.
"He said, 'Coach, I'll do whatever I can for this team,'" Chryst said. "Hank Poteat spoke to our team about some of the things that he has learned throughout his success at Pitt and after, and one of the things he talked about was being selfless. You don't have a better example of that than T.J. He really wants to do whatever he can for this team. He's had some growing pains just like everyone else does, but he just kept working at it and he is one of our better players right now."
Grigsby is interesting, too, as a role player on defense but a key part of special teams.
"Obviously it's more than just camp," Chryst said. "It started last year, being our best special teams player, and the way he approaches the game is just outstanding. He's worked at his game and his body. He, like all the players here, has grown as a person throughout his career. I know I'm not the only coach that's been around him and gotten to know him and found out what makes him tick. Getting to know him helps us appreciate him even more."

- I'll have more on the running backs in tomorrow's PG, but Isaac Bennett said today that he's fully prepared to play against Delaware after offseason shoulder surgery.

- Despite the changes last week, it sounds like Pitt has firmly settled on its five offensive linemen for the opener, and it's going to be the five everyone expected. The only questions now are how the depth plays out. The staff feels pretty good that Jaryd Jones-Smith is the first guy off the bench in most situations, but it depends on who goes down. If Artie Rowell or Matt Rotheram came out, for instance, that could mean Gabe Roberts would go in.
"I do think we have probably seven (linemen) that we feel pretty good about," Chryst said. "You certainly have to keep going, but we have some depth right now, which is good."
Obviously the staff hopes the injury bug won't bite that position quite as bad as it did last year, but they're preparing for any scenario.

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