The spring game is still three days away, but, for all intents and purposes, today was the final true spring practice of the 2013 season. The Panthers will have a practice with just helmets Thursday and the Blue-Gold game Friday.
Today, however, they were outside for the first time all spring. Here are a few quick notes from what went down.
- It was a good day for Tom Savage today. He looked crisp and accurate with his passes. It certainly looks like he's getting much more comfortable in the offense and where he's supposed to go with the football. I noticed today, specifically, that he checked down to underneath targets a bit more than trying to force something deep over the middle. He has the arm strength to put it anywhere on the field, but knowing when to play it smart is good, too.
"Spring ball's really all about seeing what you can and cannot do," Savage said. "During the season, you really can't try and take some chances out there. Right now, I think we've got a lot of good stuff on tape and now we've got all summer just to watch it and learn from that."
- The highlight (or lowlight, depending on your point of view) of today's practice was an absolutely crushing hit delievered by K'Waun Williams on Ronald Jones. Jones made a catch over the middle, and Williams decked him with what appeared to be a legal hit, even though it left Jones shaken up on the ground following the play.
It was during a live tackling part of practice, and Paul Chryst spoke afterwards about the need to balance physicality and injury prevention.
"I think there's an element where you've got to be able to go and be in those [live sessions , but guys need to understand that we need everyone," Chryst said. "Great example of we're doing some stuff but we're not there yet. I didn't like seeing that today."
For his part, Williams acknowledged the mistake.
"It's definitely tough going live," he said. "I know coach preaches protecting our players and stuff. It was just a bonehead mistake by me."
- Ejuan Price continues to be an interesting player for me on defense. He has mixed in a little bit with the first team recently, but usually in a very defined role. They'll usually remove a defensive end, and put Price in as an extra linebacker/stand-up rush end. This is similar to what he did in Todd Graham's offense two years ago, and it'll be interesting to see how Pitt incorporates him into the defense this year.
"He's able to do a lot of different things," defensive coordinator Matt House said. "He's continuing to learn, you know, but he's a guy that, he likes to run, he likes to play and he likes to tackle, so we can find a place for him."
- Heading into Friday's spring game, House said he was most focused on seeing solid fundamentals from his unit. He counted 17 missed tackles in Pitt's first spring scrimmage a few weeks ago, and though that number has improved as the spring progressed, there's still always room to grow.
"More than anything, we want guys to play fast and just continue to show physical and mental toughness," he said. "We said that was one of our goals. Fundamentally, we want to see pad level, just like always. We want to see tackling, we want to see proper angles to the ball. Those will be the things we're looking for in the spring game."
- Backup center Artie Rowell was in a walking boot in today's practice. We weren't given any specifics on the injury, but Chryst said there's a chance he could play in Friday's spring game. If Rowell is out (like today), it leaves Gabe Roberts as the only true center, and he's learning the position for the first time. The extra reps could be good for him, but they'll have to do something to get him some rest. Today, Shane Johnson got a few reps here and there to spell Roberts.
- Quarterback Tra'von Chapman missed practice because he was sick. Doesn't sound too serious, but I'm sure the staff would like to see him get some work on Friday night.
- Linebacker Deaysean Rippy also missed today's practice. Chryst said afterwards that he had some academic issues he needed to clean up as the semester winds to a close.