By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — The Pitt football team has wrapped up the preseason portion of its training camp schedule with its second practice session in shoulder pads Friday afternoon, and the Panthers finally go to full pads Saturday.
Pittsburgh practiced with a split squad Tuesday and Wednesday, basically in shorts and shells, and added shoulder pads Thursday and Friday. While there won’t be a full-fledged scrimmage Saturday, there is bound to be some live work and the intensity level likely will rise as well.
“As I told the players, the energy level was better (Friday) than it was (Thursday),” Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. “They were prepared to deal with the elements (80-plus degree temperature) and a three-hour practice. So, there was a little more intensity than there was (Thursday).
“(But) I’ve got to see us playing as a unit on offense and a unit on defense and on special teams from here on out. … We just thought it was important to move on with our game plan and with installation. Last year we did four (split) days, but we wanted to get on with walkthroughs and more meeting time.
“(Saturday) will be the first day in pads, and I think it will separate some guys,” Wannstedt added. “The running backs … look like they’ve got quickness and speed. (But) we’ll have a full-speed inside-run drill, and somebody will fumble and others will make plays. So, they’ll be some separation. We won’t have a scrimmage until next Tuesday, but we’ll do some live tackling.”
In the trenches
For the second straight day, the Pitt linemen battled through a one-on-one blocking drill where the offensive wall had to keep the defensive front from reaching a tackle dummy designated as the quarterback. Here are the results:
OG Joe Thomas did a nice job on DT Chas Alecxih in the opening matchup, but it was downhill for the O-line after that.
DE Jabaal Sheard basically owned OT Lucas Nix, going 4-for-4 with various quickness and strength moves.
Pitt’s other OT, Jason Pinkston, had problems with Greg Romeus, which could be expected, but DE Tony Tucker used a speed advantage to go around him.
DT Craig Bokor had a couple power sacks against centers Robb Houser and Alex Karabin, and he also had a strong performance against OG John Malecki.
Malecki had a rough time with DTs Gus Mustakas and Mick Williams, but OG Chris Jacobson — who started ahead of Joe Thomas for the second straight day — got the initial step on Mick a short time later and had the strength to shove him out of the way.
With the younger players in there, DE Bernardo Nunez zipped around OT Cory King, but OT Juantez Hollins was able to handle him later in the drill.
Justin Hargrove, who moved to DT with Ty Tkach (foot) and Myles Caragein (twisted ankle) out, powered past John Fieger. And DE Tyrone Ezell beat OT Ryan Schlieper to close things out.
Tkach is in a walking boot to stabilize the bone injury in his left foot. He will be out at least two weeks, according to Wannstedt, while Caragein should return as soon as Saturday.
The Panthers went through a two-minute, hurry-up drill to end practice with Bill Stull as the first-team quarterback and Tino Sunseri with the second team.
Stull was in the shotgun on first down and completed a pass to Mike Shanahan.
Stull completed a second-down pass to Oderick Turner for a first down, but Dom DeCicco
kept it in front of him. Sheard and Romeus combined for a sack after a short second-down pass, and it was third-and-16 with 47 seconds left.
After a short completion on third down, Stull scrambled and threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Baldwin over Elijah Fields, who had decent coverage. But Stull threw it up for Baldwin, and the 6-5 225-pounder high-pointed the ball in the end zone.
Sunseri’s first-down pass to wideout Greg Cross was dropped, but running back Shariff Harris burst into the secondary with a screen pass on second down. Steve Dell caught him from behind. Sunseri hit Shanahan underneath on second down, but instead of spiking the ball Sunseri called a timeout.
Sunseri was sacked on third down and fired incomplete on fourth down. But both quarterbacks got another chance in the drill.
Stull hit Oderick Turner on first down, but cornerback Aaron Berry made a nice play to knock down a pass in front of Baldwin on second down. A third-down screen to Burns went for a first down, but a short completion, an incomplete pass and two sacks — one by Sheard and another by Mustakas — ended it.
Sunseri fired incomplete on his second series opener and then was harassed into an interception by Jarred Holley.
Pitt commit Kevin Weatherspoon, a wideout from Clairton, Pa. High School, attended Friday’s practice.