Talkin' Bout Practice - First day of camp

Written by Sam Werner on .

PittFB080613Pitt's first training camp of the 2013 season is in the books. The Panthers practiced for just over three hours outside down at the South Side facility this morning. Unlike last year's afternoon sessions, this year's practices will all be of the morning-midday variety. All players expected to report were present and accounted for, which is a good first step for fall camp. With that, here are a couple of notes from the day...

- The most notable move of the day was redshirt freshman Mike Caprara working with the first team ahead of redshirt junior Todd Thomas. There are two important parts to this news: first, that Caprara has moved outside to the Sam linebacker spot (Paul Chryst told us yesterday that a move outside was possible for Caprara), and, two, that Thomas has moved down to the second unit. Now, before anyone freaks out, this is almost certainly primarily a motivational tactic for Thomas. Chryst was pretty candid yesterday when he said that Thomas has a ton of ability, but needs to make better use of it on a consistent basis. Especially towards the end of practice today, Thomas looked very good in his role and had three batted down passes.
"The motivation worked, definitely," he said.
Thomas will definitely play a major role for the Pitt defense this season, so I wouldn't read too much into today's move. With that said, I also think Caprara will see a lot of playing time this season. The staff really likes his ability, and is willing to move around to find him a place to play on the field. He said after practice that they made the move outside with an eye on it being permanent, rather than just an experiment. He doesn't exactly fill a prototypical outside linebacker frame, but it'll be interesting to see how that position evolves as camp goes on.

- There were no other major depth chart changes. The first-team offensive line, from left to right, was Adam BisnowatyCory KingGabe RobertsMatt Rotheram and T.J. Clemmings, as expected. Ryan Schlieper got some run with the first team at both guard spots, so I expect that he'll be in the mix as camp progresses.

Dorian Johnson got mostly reps with the third team but also some second team snaps in there as well at right tackle. With the offensive linemen, it's nearly impossible to tell anything until they put pads on, so I'm going to hold off on making any assessments about his potential.

- There was a ton of rotation at most of the skill positions, so it's tough to tell if there's any sort of pecking order beyond Devin Street and Isaac Bennett at wide receiver and running back, respectively. At running back, James Conner certainly looked the part of the bigger back. Rachid Ibrahim definitely has to put on some weight, but he got some runs in with the second team, as well. Chryst said after practice that there's no real depth chart at this point. While that's textbook coach-speak, I really think they're evaluating all their options beyond the top guys beyond Street and Bennett at these two positions. At wide receiver, Ed Tinker and Kevin Weatherspoon got most of the wide receiver reps, but Chris Wuestner and Tyler Boyd got in there as well.

- Speaking of Boyd, he did get some reps with the first team in there. He looked good in some of the positional drills, but admitted that he wasn't used to the intensity and had some trouble cramping up towards the end.
While we probably won't ever see Boyd in the wildcat under Chryst, they did run a couple of jet sweeps where Boyd came around and took a handoff from a wide receiver spot. That's a good simple play that can be an effective method of getting the ball in his hands this season.
"I'm an athlete, so it doesn't matter how I get the ball as long as I get the ball," Boyd said. "If they find ways like that to get me the ball, I'm going to accept it."

- On defense, the first-team 11 were pretty much who you would expect (with the exception of Caprara for Thomas. Bryan MurphyTyrone EzellAaron Donald and David Durham up front, Caprara, Shane Gordon and Anthony Gonzalez at linebacker, K'Waun Williams and Lafayette Pitts at cornerback and Jason Hendricks and Ray Vinopal at the safety spots.

- Trenton Coles was the first defensive back off the bench for nickel packages, with K'Waun Williams sliding inside to take the slot man and Coles taking his field cornerback spot. The staff likes Coles' potential, but he still looks awfully skinny out there, even taking into account that they didn't have pads on today.

Cullen Christian got some work at safety today. That's a spot where Pitt is pretty perilously thin, so he appears to be one of the guys cross-training there if they need some depth. Jahmahl Pardner didn't get as many reps today, either at safety or at nickel corner, but I would expect him to become a bigger part of the defense as camp progresses. He looked good last year before his ACL injury and had a nice pass breakup during team drills today. It's likely only a matter of time as he gets back to 100 percent mentally from the injury.

- With Caprara moving outside, it looks like Devon Porchia is your backup middle linebacker. Though, barring injury, I would expect Gordon to be on the field for the majority of snaps this season.

- Like most positions, there was a lot of rotation, so this is in flux, but the second team defensive line today appeared to be Shakir SotoTyrique JarrettDarryl Render and LaQuentin Smith.

- In the positional drills, Ejuan Price was working with the defensive ends. This isn't totally surprising, given the niche he seems to have carved out on the defense, but it looks like he's shaping up as a pure rush end rather than a true linebacker.

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