Pitt was back on the practice field today for the fifth time this spring. The Panthers practiced indoors in shoulder pads, helmets and shorts. Here are a few of the notable observations from the session...
- No significant changes to the depth chart from last week. The only thing that might have switched today was TJ Clemmings seeing some more time with the first team at right tackle. Juantez Hollins started the session with the first unit, but it was Clemmings by the end of practice. Paul Chryst said afterwards that neither one had claimed a hold on the starting job, and that both guys would probably see first-team reps for the foreseeable future.
- The first hour or so of practice was spent doing 11-on-11 red zone possessions. Chryst had to call the team together twice to try and inject some spirit into them, to put it mildly. Wide receiver Devin Street said after practice that, since the schedule called for half-pads and red zone work, some guys might not have been as focused as they should have been heading into the session.
"I think it's a choice," Chryst said. "Every guy gets the opportunity to make a choice and every one of us is fortunate to be here, fortunate to be a part of this team, this program. We're fortunate and you better act like that.
"We were a consistently inconsistent team [last year]. If you don't come out with a purpose, then you don't get better. You either get better or you get worse, and everyone gets to choose."
- Street was pretty honest after practice when talking about the passion and excitement level on this team Specifically, he spoke about recognizing that the little things Pitt does this spring will have ramifications on the field next fall.
"No, I don't think there is enough," Street said. "And that's what we have to get to. There's a passion about coming out here and playing, but there's not a passion about doing everything right. I feel like guys love football, but we have to be willing to do all the right things, because all the right things will lead us to great things. It's not just the big things; it's the little things. It's the film study, it's going to class, it's the little things that he's telling us to do that we have to start buying into to come together and be a complete team."
Street has been pretty active about trying to be more of a leader this spring. During the first week of practice, he was the guy bringing everyone together when the coaching staff was making them run after practice, imploring his team to focus on the details.
"I feel like we've lacked that in previous years, especially since I've been here; just a vocal leader, a guy who's going to step up and be wiling ot take the blame for other people's mistakes and my mistakes as well," Street said. "I feel like every great team has a solid leader and a go-to guy that guys can lean on and look to for examples, not even just vocally, but setting an example and practicing hard each day and coming out ready to go."
- Manasseh Garner looks like he's going to be a real weapon in this offense. He probably had the best practice of any player, hauling in three touchdown catches during the red zone drills. He did a good job going over the middle and making catches in traffic. On two of his TDs, he had linebackers and safeties all over him and still came up with the ball. That's a nice skill to have as a sort of wide receiver/tight end hybrid that will draw a lot of mismatches on the defense.
- As for the quarterbacks today, it was still pretty much Tom Savage with the first team and Chad Voytik with the second team. Both had some good moments and bad ones today. Tra'von Chapman is in pads this week after sitting out the first week of practice. He's still limited due to injury, but is at least getting full mental reps with the other quarterbacks.
"We've got to get him back, get him healthy," Chryst said of Chapman. "Of all the spots that's a hard one, because you want to get him going, get him some work, but make sure you're not setting him up – I don't want to say for failure — but you've got to just learn. I think you can still get some stuff done, and we're getting him going."
- The defense has used some interesting looks in its nickel packages this spring. The one I noticed today had Trenton Coles on as the third defensive back, but lined up as the boundary cornerback. K'Waun Williams shifted over and played in the box as the true "nickelback" matched up against a tight end, and Ejuan Price was on as a fourth linebacker/standup rush defensive end. Matt House has said that he wants to be more multiple on defense than Pitt was last year, so this could be an example of that. Long-term, I would think that Jahmahl Parder will probably take Coles' spot when he comes back from injury.
- Chryst said after practice that he didn't anticipate getting linebacker Shane Gordon (neck) and safety Jason Hendricks (toe) back any time soon.