Pitt Training Camp Reports
By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — There were two changes to Pitt’s depth chart during the Wednesday morning practice, as Tino Sunseri switched sessions with Pat Bostick at quarterback, while Chris Jacobson started at left offensive guard for Joe Thomas.
Fifth-year senior Bill Stull remained the starting quarterback for Pittsburgh, but junior Pat Bostick moved to the afternoon session. And redshirt freshman Tino Sunseri worked out in the morning with mostly second-team reps, but he had some with the first group as well.
Chris Jacobson, a redshirt sophomore, basically switched spots with senior Joe Thomas at left offensive guard. Thomas was the first-team guard the first day, but Jacobson took that spot Wednesday morning.
“We just flip-flopped them,” Pitt offensive line coach Tony Wise said. “Those two are pretty close, and we wanted to get them both a good look with the ones (first team). And both guys did a good job with that.”
Sunseri had a much better performance with the first- and second-team Panthers and actually developed a good rapport with redshirt freshman Mike Shanahan. Jonathan Baldwin has received as much attention as any Pitt player in the offseason, but Shanahan is another second-year wideout with tremendous size at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds.
The two combined on a crossing pattern where weak-side linebacker Shane Murray and safety Irvan Brown closed strong, but were a little late. Shanahan isn’t the fastest Pitt player, but he runs precise patters and used his size to shield the ball from defenders.
Freshman tailback Jason Douglas is among the fastest Pitt football players right now, and that speed was on display throughout the afternoon practice session.
“(He’s) fast, really fast,” Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. “When he came out here, someone said that he looked like LaRod Stephens-Howling, but when LaRod came in as a freshman he was the fastest guy on the team. Now, we’ve got about three guys who are as fast as Jason.
“So, the competition is better. But they have to do three things to contribute to this football team, like I told LeSean McCoy when he got here a couple years ago. (They have to) hold onto football, prove to their teammates that you’re a tough guy and go out and execute the game plan.”
And that’s the status of some of the younger tailbacks, according to Wannstedt, who didn’t want to evaluate the running backs until after Pitt does some hitting. And Wannstedt noted that the Panthers are a step closer now that these first two days have ended.
We’re a step closer to playing real football,” Wannstedt said. “(Thursday), the shoulder pads go on. That’s not full pads, but we are making progress toward being able to block and tackle for real. Today’s practices were good from the standpoint that everyone got some quality reps.
“The older guys did a good job not getting too antsy about putting the pads on. … They stayed with the plan and stayed with the program. The focus was good. We were clean the past two mornings, as far as turnovers go, and that tells me that they are focused. They’re concentrating and executing.”
There was some light rain less than an hour into the afternoon practice, but then there was thunder and eventually lightning chased the Panthers indoors for the second half of practice. The managers and equipment crew quickly moved the operations indoors, and little time was wasted.
“That gave us an opportunity to evaluate these guys from a focus standpoint and can they handle distractions,” Wannstedt said. “And we came in, and on the first two or three plays we had two guys go the wrong way and another guy fumbled. So, it was a great lesson to illustrate about not being distracted.”
Freshman Ray Graham struggled a bit in the afternoon, especially indoors, as he had some problems getting out of the backfield with freshman defensive tackle Tyrone Ezell clogging up the middle and redshirt freshman Shayne Hale and redshirt sophomore Brandon Lindsey on the ends. Graham also was the player who fumbled that Wannstedt mentioned.
“The move of Brandon Lindsey and Shayne Hale to defensive end is going to pay dividends down the road,” Wannstedt said. “And some of the other young guys … Brock DeCicco did some good things. Jarred Holley is a corner who’s making some progress. He’s come a long way.”
Holley showed good ball skills, knocking passes away from receiver
Greg Cross and Cam Saddler on successive plays. Saddler came back later in practice and laid out for two slick grabs. And after them, he bounced right back up and re-entered the huddle. It appears that he has no ill effects from his knee surgery.
“I like what Manny Williams did the past couple days at linebacker,” Wannstedt added. “Dan Mason is all about serious, winning football, 24-7. (He) does everything with an aggressive attitude to be the best. (And) Chris Burns had a good morning. We’ve got to get him back to where he was last year in camp.”
Redshirt freshman Chris Burns, who basically was the third-team tailback behind frosh Dion Lewis and redshirt sophomore Shariff Harris, had a good morning workout. While he ran the ball hard, especially during Wannstedt’s famous inside running drills, Burns was a huge threat catching the ball.
Burns took one swing pass from Sunseri and burst down the sideline for an apparent touchdown. As comments were made about the success of that play against the second-team defense, the first-unit players expressed their displeasure from the sideline.
“You know nobody’s wearing pads,” safety Elijah Fields said. “He wouldn’t be able to do that if we were hitting.”
A few plays later, against Fields and that same first group, Burns made an even more spectacular catch and run. He actually appeared to be a lot faster than he was as a freshman and tore away from the pursuit after a catch in the flat.
Pitt has single practices Thursday and Friday from 2-4:30 p.m.