Pitt had its first organized intra-squad scrimmage of its fall training camp Saturday, a game won by the Panthers' offense. There wasn't much of an exact explanation on what the scoring system was, though defensive back Reggie Mitchell joked that he thought it was rigged in favor of the offense.
Again, the viewing window for the media was a fairly brief 30 minutes, but I was able to take in a few things, including the first few plays of the scrimmage.
** Each of the two first-team plays that we were able to catch were designed passes. The first was a rollout by Chad Voytik to his right, but his throw was batted back by Rori Blair. Voytik ended up catching it himself, technically making it a completion, but he was promptly brought down. The second was a pass to Tyler Boyd near the sideline that was broken up well by Mitchell.
** I didn't get a full count of the defense, but the players on the field for the first team offense were for those first few plays:
- QB Chad Voytik
- RB James Conner
- WR Tyler Boyd
- WR Dontez Ford
- TE Scott Orndoff
- TE J.P. Holtz
- OL Alex Bookser
- OL Dorian Johnson
- OL Artie Rowell
- OL Adam Bisnowaty
- OL Alex Officer
** Before the scrimmage got going, there was some special teams work with punt returns involving Jordan Whitehead and Quadree Henderson fielding actual punts against actual players trying to tackle them. Whitehead was hounded right after catching the ball, escaping a tackler who tore off the bottom part of his jersey before being tackled a few seconds later for a one-yard loss. Henderson had a little more luck/success, gaining six yards, though he was chewed out by special teams coach Andre Powell for what he saw as loafing on the play.
** Chris Blewitt and Alec Schuster made all of the field goals we watched them attempt with the staff pumping in crowd noise. All kicks were in the 30-35 yard range.
** Here are the stats from Pitt's offense today:
Pitt's list of defensive players was too long to properly screenshot, but Quintin Wirginis had a team-high seven tackles, Matt Galambos, Jordan Whitehead and Mark Scarpinato each had six, and Lafayette Pitts and Matt Steinbeck both had interceptions.
Along with those practice observations are some comments from coaches and players who met with the media after practice.
Josh Conklin, defensive coordinator
On the scrimmage:
“It was a good day. I felt like we came out and I thought the guys, early on, executed really well. You can definitely tell a difference, just as far as how we’re moving around. I think we’re moving fast. Our first group – our ones and a half – are really playing pretty solid going against really good competition with Tyler Boyd and James Conner, who are putting pressure on you all the time. I’m pleased with where we’re at. We’ve got a long way to go, but the good news is I think we’ve got 21 days until Youngstown State, so we’ll keep putting the pieces of the puzzle together here.”
On Reggie Mitchell:
“He’s head and shoulders above some guys right now. He’s done a really good job of taking what we did last spring and applying it to this fall camp. He’s made some plays.”
On Dennis Briggs, who is currently operating as the first nickel:
“Dennis has a specific skill set that could really benefit us there as a defense.”
On Jordan Whitehead:
“Jordan did really good. We always talk about defensively whether you can feel a guy or not and I think we could definitely feel him. He’s not 100 percent on his assignments or execution, but you can feel him. He’s going to make plays. He can cover a lot of ground, he’s very athletic and he’s very explosive. One time, he came from the opposite hash playing the boundary safety and made a play to the field that not many guys can make. Our whole deal with him right now is getting him reps and throwing him to the fire and seeing if he can get there.”
How close was the loss?
“I thought it was going to be closer than it was. Early on, we played really, really well. The scoring system, I don’t really pay a lot of attention to that. But we want to win it, that’s for sure.”
“Usually, it comes down to a two-minute situation. We gave up a couple on a coming-out situation where the offense is trying to get two first downs. We didn’t stop them and that kind of put the nail in the coffin for us defensively.”
On whether Whitehead's shortcomings are a product of his age/inexperience:
“You live with those with a true freshman. I know he’s going to make some mistakes. I’m not worried about the mental mistakes because he’s a really conscientious guy, he’s a bright football player and he’s athletic. He’s proven he deserves to be out there because he can make the plays.”
Chad Voytik, quarterback
On where the team's passing game is:
“The passing game is always the slower half of the offense to develop. We’re working on that right now.”
On if the team is at a point where one unit is ahead of the other:
“I wouldn’t say so. We made some plays when we needed to. That was really the story of today. The defense was in position, but we just made the plays. I wouldn’t say schematically that we’re ahead of them or anything like that.”
On if he found himself controlling the game:
“I’m trying to learn this offense so well that I can manage it and know when someone is supposed to be on the ball or if they’re in the wrong formation. I’m getting that worked out right now, so that’s really my mission, to make sure everything pre-snap is perfect.”
Jim Chaney, offensive coordinator
On the scrimmage:
“It was an interesting day. I was beginning to wonder if we were ever going to get a first down out there. My goodness, we started awfully slow. The defense was having their way with us until about halftime. Then we came around and made some plays.”
“What I was most pleased about was our resiliency. When things weren’t going their way, we weren’t panicked on the sideline. They came over, we talked, we kept going and we kept grinding. Eventually, good things started to come our way.”
On if Voytik took control:
"I feel like it. I feel like he’s still learning what we want him to do. I’m asking a lot out of that position right now.”
On backup QB Nate Peterman:
“I think Nathan did some good things, too. Both of them continue to come out here and impress me with some of the things they do. Then, inevitably, they’ll do some bone-headed thing where I go ‘Why? Oh man, I must be the worst coach in football history.’ They’re learning.”
On the team's run game:
“I don’t think we’re close to where we need to be in the run game, to be quite honest. I think we can run on the perimeter okay, we’re doing that adequately enough, but our interior run game is not where we need it to be. We’ve got work to do. Like I said, I don’t think we need to cancel any practices.”
Reggie Mitchell, defensive back
On Matt Steinbeck, who had a pick six in the scrimmage:
"He’s doing big things. Expect him to be out there.”
On the improvement of the defense from the spring until now:
"We’ve come a long way. You can ask anybody, that first scrimmage we had in the spring, it was crazy. We were all over the place. We looked like we weren’t going to win any games this year. Now, we’ve got some confidence and we’re allowed to play a lot faster because we’re not thinking anymore. We actually look like a defense now.”
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