Pitt Training Camp Reports
By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Pitt defensive tackle Mick Williams is among an elite group of football players whose motor never stops, a guy who battles hard on every play and never stops until the ball carrier is on the ground or wails into submission.
During the Panthers’ football practice Saturday afternoon, as the temperature reached 90 degrees and the heat index was even higher, Mick Williams never stalled. He was all over the practice field and in the backfield, and he didn’t stop talking from the minute practice began until it ended.
“Yeah, he’s one of those guys, he’s our Energizer Bunny, he just keeps going and going, an endless bundle of energy,” Pitt defensive line coach Greg Gattuso said. “There’s no reason to temper that too much, although we want him to play under control, but I guess you could say we want to harness him.”
And when Williams cuts loose, like he did during the Panthers’ first practice in pads, he’s nearly impossible to stop.
“I don’t know how many 85-90 (degree) days we had last year, but this was a good one,” Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. “Usually on the first day in pads, everybody is moving in slow motion. But our guys carried their pads well and played fast.
“We started off with an inside run drill, and our defense showed up like they better and they should have and was expected. The first inside run drill, the defense usually is ahead of the offense, and that’s where we’re at right now. … And the tackling was very good on defense.”
One might believe that would make it difficult on the running game, especially the inside rushing drills that Wannstedt favors, but initial reviews were solid.
“The running backs all held onto the ball, and the guys who have been here showed their experience,” Wannstedt said. “But I don’t think anybody did anything where we would anoint them or hand out (No.) 25 jerseys to them, or 34, for that matter. The scrimmages are going to make a big difference.
“But that scenario (the inside run drill) is the toughest situation for a running back. You’re running between the tackles, everybody knows it, and I think the backs that we have are ones who can make things happen in space. Other than Shariff Harris, we’re not 6-2, 230 pounds. We have more speed guys.”
Wannstedt wanted to note that while it’s too early to make a complete assessment about the freshmen, tailback Ray Graham made a few people miss in the drills and broke off a long touchdown run. Middle linebacker Dan Mason made a few nice plays, and tight end Brock DeCicco got open. Wannstedt added that he liked the freshman class as a group, but singled out Mason.
“Mason likes contact, and he’s as intense as any freshman that I’ve been around,” Wannstedt said. “They say he smiles, but I’ve never seen it.”
There appears to be some disparity with how the quarterbacks are being used behind starter Bill Stull, as redshirt freshman Tino Sunseri got a lot of second-team reps ahead of junior Pat Bostick. Wannstedt explained.
“Tino’s having a good camp,” Wannstedt said. “So is Billy, and so is Pat. So, we’re just going to keep playing that out through the weekend, and they’re all making progress. And whoever’s going with the first group, due to the pass rush, it’s going to look a little bit different.
“(But) Billy will get more reps overall, as the starter, and it’ll all equal out with the other guys. Pat and Tino will get the exact same number of reps. We’re charting every play, believe me.”
Redshirt sophomore Chris Jacobson remains the starter at left offensive guard ahead of senior Joe Thomas, but redshirt junior Elijah Fields appears to be back among the starters ahead of sophomore Andrew Taglianetti at free safety. Both got first-team reps, although Fields appeared to get more.
Wannstedt noted that redshirt freshman tight end Mike Cruz was excused for personal reasons Saturday. Wideout Jonathan Baldwin was “slowed up a bit, so we took it easy with him.” And defensive tackle Myles Caragein has missed the past couple days with a twisted ankle.
Pitt’s training camp continues Sunday afternoon with another lengthy practice session from 3-6 p.m.