Pitt was once again indoors for today's practice session, which marked, essentially, the halfway point of training camp. They'll finish up this week and next week, then it's a game week as the Panthers prepare for Delaware. In case you missed it in today's PG, here's my story on freshman cornerback Avonte Maddox, who has been one of the pleasant surprises for Pitt so far in training camp.
Now, on to some quick practice notes...
- The biggest observation today was that the coaches fooled around a bit with the offensive line configurations. Specifically, starting left tackle Adam Bisnowaty got some work at left guard with the second team, while Jaryd Jones-Smith moved up to play first-team left tackle. This change was really only just for a few snaps, but caused some raised heads nonetheless.
Offensive line coach Jim Hueber explained afterwards that the motive behind the shift was that he felt Bisnowaty was a guy who could move inside in an emergency scenario in the case of an injury to a starter. Basically, I think the staff probably feels that Jones-Smith is their sixth-best offensive lineman right now, so if Dorian Johnson suffered an injury, they could shift Bisnowaty inside and bump Jones-Smith up to the first team at left tackle (Jones-Smith really can't play inside because of his length). Hueber went on to praise the work Johnson had done thus far in camp, leading me to believe that the starting five along the offensive line are the same as they've always been (Bisnowaty-Johnson-Rowell-Rotheram-Clemmings), but the coaches are just trying to sort out their depth options at this point.
"I think [Bisnowaty] is comfortable out there," Hueber said. "I know we have spent a lot of time with Jaryd, but I hate to take anything away from a guy who truly got injured playing for us and just take it away. The days of Wally Pipp are over.
"I did move Jaryd around a little bit. I think Paul [Chryst] said last night or this morning that this is halfway for us in terms of preparation for the games. So I have to have an eye on what we are going to do when we start putting a team together and what we have to do if something would go wrong rather than just say 'Hey, we have some guys.' I'm not sure some of our redshirt freshmen are ready just yet."
- Everyone who missed time due to injury earlier this week, including linebacker Todd Thomas, was back on the field today, with the exception of linebacker Zach Poker, who continues to sit out with what appears to be a left shoulder injury.
- James Conner had a nice play on the defensive side of the ball today. He rushed the quarterback from his defensive end spot and got some good air to bat down a Trey Anderson pass just as it left his hand. Chryst said that nothing Conner has shown them in training camp has altered their original plan of how much to use him on defense this season.
"Our thought all along hasn't changed from what we wanted to do going in," Chryst said. "We're doing it with him because we believe he can help us. Just like in the running game, or the running back position, he has stuff still to work on. Same thing with defense, but I think he is taking advantage of the time he is getting to work both sides during individual periods. He's young at (defensive end) and he needs to keep growing at it. Nothing to this point has changed."
- The freshmen running backs — Chris James, Qadree Ollison and Dennis Briggs — have gotten more reps in team drills over the past few days. While I still think James is probably the only one of those three that will play this year, Ollison, in particular has shown some flashes of potential as a bigger back.
"Well, up until this week, [the learning process] was a little slow, to be honest with you," running backs coach John Settle said. "The last couple of days, it seems like something has hit. A spark has happened. The last couple days we've been as good as I've seen."