Pitt was scheduled to have its first scrimmage of training camp today, and when we arrived at the indoor practice facility, there were officials on hand to call said scrimmage. Alas, once practice got going, it became apparent that there would be no such scrimmage. It was pretty much a normal practice for the Panthers, with maybe some extended 11-on-11 drills at the end of practice. If you missed it, here's a link to my story from today's PG on senior linebackers Todd Thomas and Anthony Gonzalez preparing for their final collegiate seasons. Now, on to some notes from today's practice.
- Of the guys who were hurt yesterday, pretty much everyone was back in some form or fashion today. The only notable guys still held out were sophomore defensive tackle Tyrique Jarrett (who only missed 11-on-11 stuff), redshirt freshman linebacker Zach Poker (left shoulder) and Thomas, who Paul Chryst said he expects to get back soon. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Bam Bradley also was absent today, with what Chryst said was a family situation.
- With Thomas and Bradley absent, redshirt sophomore Mike Caprara moved up and worked with the first team at weak-side linebacker. I think he's still a middle linebacker by trade, but is probably an emergency option on the outside if depth becomes an issue (as it obviously did today).
- Chryst went out of his way to highlight the performance of freshman Quintin Wirginis today. With so much shuffling at linebacker, Wirginis was able to get some snaps with the second team at middle linebacker and, according to Chryst, acquitted himself nicely.
"Quintin Wirginis stepped up," Chryst said. "He kind of flashed.
"He followed the ball and made plays. This was a good chance to just line up and play, and I felt he did a pretty good job. I noticed him when he showed up. I think that's the biggest thing."
- The staff seemed to rotate the running backs in team drills a bit more today than they have so far in training camp. Guys like Qadree Ollison (more on him in a bit), Dennis Briggs and Chris James got some reps with both the first and second teams.
"They know where to go, they know how to get the ball," offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said of his young running backs. "But you go through all the protections and all the adjustments, that needs to emerge. You need to feel confident in that player to be able to do that in the biggest of moments. I think we're still learning about that group but like what we see so far."
- Pitt finally did do some team drills at the end of practice, and here's a brief rundown...
First series (second-team offense vs. first-team defense): The drive started at the offense's 41-yard line with a nice 18 yard comeback pass from Trey Anderson to Chris Wuestner, on which Wuestner did a good job using his body to shield cornerback Lafayette Pitts from the ball. This was followed by a false start on Carson Baker, which backed the offense up five yards. Chris James ran right for three yards, and on 2nd-and-12 from the defense's 43-yard line, Anderson threw a pass to Dontez Ford over the middle that hit Ford's shoulder pads, bounced up in the air, and was grabbed by Terrish Webb for an interception.
Second series (1T offense vs. 2T defense): James Conner started the drive from the offense's 30 with a run to the right for eight yards. A false start on Adam Bisnowaty moved them back five, and then Ollison powered up the middle for five yards. On 3rd-and-2, Chris James spun up the middle for a yard. Facing 4th-and-1 from their own 40, the offense gave the ball again to Ollison, who burst up the middle for a big gain. He looked like he could've gone all the way, but cornerback Avonte Maddox showed off his impressive speed to run down Ollison and limit him to a 45-yard gain. Briggs then got the ball twice, first for five yards, then for -3. On 3rd-and-8 from the 13-yard line, Chad Voytik threw a fade to the back of the end zone for Manasseh Garner, and Garner made a great effort to get up, control his body in the air and come down with the pass for a touchdown.
Third series (2T offense vs. 1T defense): After James opened the drive with a three-yard run up the middle, Anderson threw a swing pass to Ford for seven yards. James got it again for a 1 yard, and then Anderson found Wuestner on a hook route for seven yards. On 3rd-and-2 from the offense's 38, Briggs got the ball up the middle and was stuffed by a host of defensive linemen for a one-yard loss, ending the drive.
Fourth series (1T offense vs. 2T defense): Starting at the offense's 37, it went Ollison left for 11 yards, Ollison up the middle for eight yards, Ollison up the middle for eight yards. On 1st-and-10 from the defense's 39-yard line, Voytik completed a pass to Chris James for eight yards. Then it was James up the middle for a yard, then again for three yards. Facing 1st-and-10 from the defense's 27, Briggs got back-to-back carries for two yards and three yards. On 3rd-and-5, Voytik appeared to miscommunicate with Kevin Weatherspoon on a route, which led to Voytik throwing a pass to essentially no one. They let them play 4th down, though, and Voytik found Weatherspoon on a deep fade for a 22-yard touchdown pass, that required Weatherspoon to make a nice grab in traffic.