Talkin' Bout Practice: August 11

Written by Sam Werner on .

IMG 9846Most of Pitt's players got the day off Sunday (the younger players had a practice/walk through in the evening), but the team was back on the field Monday morning. In case you missed it, here's my notebook from today's PG, which leads off with Paul Chryst voting in favor of power five conference teams only playing one another in an ESPN poll.

Back to today's practice, the Panthers started outside despite some rainy weather, but moved to the indoor facility about halfway through when the heavier stuff started to come down. Here are a few notes from the session...

- A number of players missed all or part of practice with injuries, so let's go through those one by one. Cornerback Lafayette Pitts did not practice with what appeared to be a continuation of something he aggravated in Saturday's session, but Chryst said he expected him back for the night session of Monday's two-a-day. With Pitts out, freshman Avonte Maddox got a lot of work with the first team and, for the most part, held his own out there. I'll have more in a story on Maddox later this week, but he's virtually a certainty to play as a true freshman at this point. In his position at boundary corner, he's been going up against Tyler Boyd a lot. That can certainly be challenging, as Boyd is, well, rather good, but Maddox said he enjoyed it because it makes him better every practice. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised to see Maddox challenging for a starting job by the end of the season. He's definitely on the small side, but he runs well and isn't afraid to go up against bigger guys. He has definitely been the biggest pleasant surprise of training camp so far for Pitt.

- Defensive linemen Tyrique Jarrett and K.K. Mosley-Smith also both missed most or all of today's session with nagging injuries (for the record, Chryst said he didn't think any of the injuries are long-term). Their absence left a big void in the middle of the defensive line, so Darryl Render got a slightly heavier workload, and guys like Justin Moody, Jeremiah Taleni and even Connor Dintino got some work with the first team. Defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield said last week that, of the two freshman defensive tackles, Dintino is closer to being ready to play than Mike Herndon. I don't think it's a slam dunk, but Dintino could be a dark horse candidate for a freshman that sees the field this year. Breckterfield said he would ultimately like to get four or five guys in the defensive tackle/nose tackle rotation, and if Render, Mosley-Smith, Jarrett, Moody and Taleni aren't up to the task, I could definitely see Dintino sneaking in there as maybe a fourth option.
"I think they're starting to know where to go," Chryst said of his young defensive tackles after practice. "That's from the young guys' stuff (post-practice scrimmaging). We're going to need to keep building our depth there with everyone healthy. They have a ways to go still, but they go hard and they've got some stuff to them. All the line, young o-linemen and young d-linemen, it's knowing what to do and I think they're getting there, but then it's just the technique stuff and understanding the pad-level."

- Freshman receiver Adonis Jennings also sat out today's session. No word on his status other than that, as with the rest, Chryst doesn't think it's serious.

- Redshirt senior linebacker Todd Thomas suffered a left leg injury during an 11-on-11 drill about halfway through practice and spent the remainder of the session sitting on the trainers table and, from the sounds of it, complaining about how he felt he was cut block by an offensive player. Again, no word on the severity of the injury, but given that he stayed out at practice, I can't imagine it's too serious.
With Thomas out, it looks like the Panthers have Anthony Gonzalez switch over to weak-side linebacker, and then put Bam Bradley on the field at Gonzalez's usual strong-side spot. Gonzalez can play both positions (he did last year) and the staff probably views Bradley as their best non-starting linebacker, so it's a move that's really about getting the most talent on the field.

- Isaac Bennett got a little bit more work today than he has in the past, participating in some inside-run drills and even a few 11-on-11 plays. Chryst said after practice that, basically, since Bennett's knowledge of the playbook is so strong, they can work him back a little bit more slowly and focus on his shoulder healing completely rather than feel the need to get him extra practice reps.
"What is our job? It's to make sure guys are ready for the start of the season," Chryst said. "A lot of these guys, it's running those plays and understanding techniques or understanding the nuances of the play. I think [Isaac]'s pretty good there. So he's put himself in a position where we can be a little bit more cautious with him. It's been pretty good so far."

- Finally, freshman offensive lineman Alex Bookser got some reps at right tackle with the second team today (he did in Saturday's practice as well), which I would think indicates that he's the most developed of the freshmen offensive lineman (makes sense given the recruiting rankings). I think it's still a near-certainty that Bookser will redshirt this year barring a disastrous injury scenario (Jaryd Jones-Smith would make more sense as an injury replacement at either tackle spot), but it's a credit to Bookser and his potential that he's earned these second-team reps.
"I've liked what he's done," Chryst said. "He's getting some reps with the twos. He earned those. I think right now, we need to just lock in at camp and go see where it's at. But right now, it's too early for that discussion (playing him this season) because you have to still keep going. I've liked where camp is headed at this point."

- Tyler Boyd had a ridiculous sideline catch that prompted a certain, unnamed Pitt staffer to slam his binder to the turf in delight. But, really, Tyler Boyd making a ridiculous acrobatic catch isn't really news anymore, is it?

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Goin' campin' first stops: Baldwin and Central Catholic

Written by Mike White on .

Monday was the first day of "official" football practice in Pennsylvania. That means the return of "Goin' Campin'." What is that? Maybe it should be called "Goin' up camp" because we are in Pittsburgh, but basically "Goin' Campin'" is me filling the tank and stopping by practices around the WPIAL and giving you a smorgasbord of notes, quotes, anecdotes and opinions about district high school football. Maybe you will find some of the info useful and some useless.

But off we go...

First stop: Baldwin

I had never seen Baldwin offensive lineman Sterling Jenkins in person. He is, in a word, big. In two words, real big. He is every bit of 6 feet 8 and 301 pounds. Geez, he looks like a senior in college already, with arms that seem to stretch to his toes. It was a cloudy this morning at Baldwin's practice. I think Jenkins was standing in front of the sun. But he is not a "sloppy" 301 pounds. He has a great build and frame.

Sterling Jenkins weight roomJenkins will be featured in our Post-Gazette daily series "Blue Chip Chat" tomorrow and you can read comments from him on a variety of subjects. But he is a most interesting player. He is rated by scouting services as one of the top 10 offensive tackles in the country. Impressed? Well, he did not even make first-team all-conference last year. Those all-conference teams are picked by opposing coaches.

I've heard everyone from fans, to coaches, to other high school players criticize Jenkins, saying he is "sooooo overrated." Well, that's the way it goes with offensive linemen. They get offered college scholarships and get rated highly sometimes based a lot on size, potential and agility. Jenkins has a lot of all three. That's why he had many scholarship offers before committing to Penn State in the spring. And also, kids get reputations now on how they look and move in shorts and T-shirts at camps, especially linemen. That's the reality of recruiting nowadays. 

Will Jenkins be a much better player this year? We'll see. Baldwin coach Pete Wagner said Jenkins has worked very hard in the offseason. And I give Jenkins a lot of credit. He fully admits that he was not worthy of an all-conference selection last year. He is not trying to fool anyone. He knows he must get better and he is intent on proving himself this season. He only started playing football in seventh grade and said he wasn't really into playing football until maybe the past year or two.

"It's just a matter of him getting the reps and finding the aggression within himself and finding that fire that makes him a good linemen at the high school level," said Wagner. "It's a large task to deal with, in terms of the naysayers. The comments and stuff on social media is something people may tell you not to look at. But it kind of motivates him and we have fun with it."

More from Baldwin

**** No one is predicting Baldwin to beat out Woodland Hills or Upper St. Clair or anyone else for a conference championship. But Baldwin does have some potential and Wagner, a second-year coach, likes the future of his program. Two of Baldwin's top players will be brothers - senior quarterback Doug Altavilla and junior receiver Nick Altavilla. Their last name is full of A's and so is their report cards. Both have grade-point averages better than 4.0. 

**** The biggest dish washer in the world? It has to be Jenkins. He worked some this summer as a dish washer at Eat 'n Park. Baldwin ccountry foot

**** I hadn't really seen this before at other preseason practices. While the football team was practicing, the cross-country teams were running on the outside of the field (see picture). I know some coaches who would complain, complain, complain about the distraction.

**** Talking to Wagner and others, it seems everyone is pegging Woodland Hills and Central Catholic as the top two teams in Class AAAA.

**** I never knew Ed Helbig has been an assistant coach in the Baldwin football program for 38 years. He is Mr. Track at Baldwin and also with the WPIAL. Who knew? But great to see. What has Helbig been through, about 18 coaching regimes at Baldwin?

Numbers game

Although Wagner said the roster sizes at the Baldwin junior-high and midget levels are good, he said Baldwin has canceled its ninth-grade program. The ninth graders are now with the JV and varsity. Baldwin will have a JV team but also have a JV-B team that will play six games.

Speaking of small rosters, how about Bethel Park? The Black Hawks have only 45 players right now. Wow. You just keep hearing of football teams losing players. We ran a story last year on it.

Next stop: Central Catholic

Walk around the locker room in between practices, see Central Catholic's players milling around and I just say to myself "man, the players and athletes at this place." They just keep churning them out in Oakland.

Central Catholic lost a number of key players from last year's team, but don't kid yourself. The Vikings will be strong again.

Help from Gus

One of Central Catholic's assistant coaches is a former NFL quarterback. Gus Frerotte is in his second season as the quarterbacks coach. He also helps with the passing game. Is he doing a little dancin' at practice below? No, just showing a quarterback some footwork.

Gus Frerotte shot

Frerotte was a high school head coach in the St. Louis area at John Burroughs High. He was the head coach for two seasons and had a 26-3 record, twice finishing runner-up in the state in Class 3A. A former star at Ford City High School, Frerotte moved back to the Pittsburgh area last year and has two sons on the Central Catholic team - junior Gunner and sophomore Gabriel.

Gunner might be the starting QB this season. Central Catholic coach Terry Totten said Gunner and junior Mike Navarro are battling for the job.

"[Gunner] looks good, but there is a competition between he and Mike Navarro," said Totten. "Gunner seems like he might be a little bit ahead. But we'll see what happens in scrimmages."

Hmmm. Dad is a former NFL QB and is the QB coach. I'm going to go way out on a limb and say Gunner Frerotte wins the job.

Sons of pros

Check this out: Gus Frerotte is one of four former NFL players with sons on Central Catholic's team. Grant Foster, the son of former Steeler running back Barry Foster, should be one of the top tailbacks, although he hasn't been cleared to play yet because he is still recovering from knee surgery.

Braxton Swann is a junior receiver for the Vikings. His father is former Steeler great, Lynn Swann. Jamain Stephens is an offensive lineman for Central Catholic. His father is former Steeler offensive lineman Jamain Stephens.

Johnny Petrishen head shotPetrishen update

Central Catholic defensive back Johnny Petrishen (pictured) has turned out to be one of the most heavily recruited defensive backs in the WPIAL. His stock with the colleges took off in the offseason. He missed four games last year with a rib injury and a punctured lung.

Petrishen said his top three choices are Pitt, Wake Forest and Virginia. Petrishen will be featured in our "blue chip chat" series in the Post-Gazette later this week.

More Central Catholic

Graham Adomitis is staying at tight end.Graham Adomitis head shot

Two years ago, Adomitis (pictured) began the season as the starting quarterback. J.J. Cosentino eventually became the starter and Adomitis moved to tight end last year. Cosentino is now at Florida State, but Adomitis said he is staying at tight end. Adomitis has some nice size and is getting some looks from colleges as a tight end.

**** Central Catholic defensive coordinator Dave Fleming said this might be the best defensive line he has ever coached.

"They're so big and talented," Fleming said.

The line consists of Richie Ryan (Harvard recruit), Rashard Wheeler, Jordan Scarborough and Braeden Hinish.

**** Nico Thorpe transferred from Shaler to Central Catholic as a sophomore and ended up being a Fabulous 22 linebacker last year as a senior. His brother is following in his footsteps.

C.J. Thorpe was a 6-2, 270-pound lineman last year at Shaler. He has transferred to Central Catholic.

**** Totten - and other coaches - are high on senior center Eric McAllister.

"He's a darn good player," said Totten. "He needs a push because he's right there maybe with BCS type colleges. He's just a little short, maybe 6-1, 270 pounds."

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Fashion designer Toya Taylor brings collection from Caribbean to Style Week Pittsburgh

Written by Sara Bauknecht on .

ToyaTaylor top

Style Week Pittsburgh is expanding its borders for its second annual outing to include designers from beyond the city, too.

Meet Toya Taylor, an aspiring fashion designer from Kingston, Jamaica. Her women's wear looks will be featured in the kick-off runway event tonight at The Priory Grand Hall, North Side.

Get to know the designer, her goals and how she infuses her collections with island flavor.

What's your impression of Pittsburgh?

There is a culture of fashion that is waiting to be tapped into. I also love the architecture. I’ve seen beautiful brick work homes and gorgeous buildings. The winter is BRUTAL though.

What inspires you as a designer?

Being that I’m from a Caribbean island and surrounded by nature, I’m inspired by the beauty in that. To be able to find elements and textures of various trees, colors reminiscent of the water -- makes my ability to create clothing pretty easy.

I would describe my design style as ... clean lines, sophistication and timeless silhouettes, always given a hard edge. Of course, my island spice background plays a significant role with the use of bold prints and bright colors.

My must-have fashion item is ... a blazer. I love the multi-functionality of it.

My advice for aspiring designers is ... to just go for it and see it through. This will never feel like work if you’re truly passionate about it. Don’t be crippled by the fear of being judged.

In five years I'd like to ... be a household name in fashion, not only in Jamaica but internationally. You have to dream big, and I want to have my own design studio and boutique within this timeframe and also begin a menswear brand. Ultimately, I want to build the Toya Taylor lifestyle brand.

A lookbook of her designs will be available during Style Week Pittsburgh. (Some designs featured in the photos, courtesy of the designer.) She also can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  for custom and ready-to-wear orders.

ToyaTaylor bottom


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New Cinemark in McCandless is getting close, here are photos

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .


verticalcinemarkblogThe Cinemark North Hills at McCandless Crossing is getting closer.
Here are some pictures I took Saturday night while wandering around the parking lot. A look through the front glass doors reveals the interior lobby, at least, is still in the early stages although theaters often come together quickly once the shell is up. 
The theater is expected to open around Labor Day although no specific date has been announced. It will have 12 screens and sounds similar to the ones at Monroeville Mall and in Robinson Township, with the design reversed out front.  
Moviegoers who reluctantly go to the old Rave Cinemas (formerly Showcase Cinemas North) likely will be thrilled when the new venue opens. 


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Philly makes final push for 2016 Dem convention

Philadelphia is one of five cities making a push to land the 2016 Democratic Nationall Convention, and an Associated Press story that moved over the weekend points out that Philly's history of hosting political conventions -- and its history in general -- could be the point that gives it an advantage over its rivals.

Birmingham, Ala.; Brooklyn,...

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