Here are some additional notes from Pitt’s football Media Day on Friday at the South Side facilities.
*** Pitt will begin training camp at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday for the first of 29 practices before they open the season Sept. 2 at Utah. Veterans will take place in the two-hour morning practice, while the youngsters will work out from 3-5 p.m. The Panthers will hold their first of three scrimmages on Saturday, Aug. 14.
The practices and scrimmages are closed to the general public, but I will be providing daily updates from the South Side.
*** Pitt is ranked No. 15 in the preseason USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll. The Panthers, coming off their first 10-win season since 1981, received 492 points. Alabama is No. 1 with 55 of a possible 59 first-place votes. No. 2 Ohio State got the other first-place votes. Penn State is No. 14 and West Virginia – the only other Big East team in the top 25 – is tied for 24th.
*** A pair of redshirt juniors, defensive back Aundre Wright and wide receiver/punt returner Aaron Smith, are no longer on the roster. The two can continue taking classes on scholarship at Pitt after receiving medical dispensations. Wright, a former Perry Traditional Academy star, suffered torn ACL in his left knee injury near the end of spring drills. Smith, one of the state’s top recruits while coming out of Gateway High School, averaged 6.4 yards on 17 punt returns last year. This gives the Panthers two extra scholarships (think it’s time redshirt senior center and walk-on Alex Karabin gets his free ride?)
*** Redshirt freshman Kevin Adams, originally recruited as a fullback, will move to defense, presumably outside linebacker. The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder from Nyack, N.Y., is the only player making a position change heading into training camp.
*** Running back Andre Givens, part of the 2010 recruiting class, will enroll in a prep school and won’t play for Pitt this season. The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder rushed for 2,358 yards in his final two seasons at Youngstown (Ohio) Hubbard.
*** Coach Dave Wannstedt noted three spots — the interior of the offensive line, defensive tackle and cornerback – are points of concern heading into camp.
“Those would be the three positions that come to mind first that we need to get cleaned up and address at training camp,” Wannstedt said.
Wannstedt did say 6-3, 290-pound redshirt junior Chris Jacobsen is the clear front-runner at left guard. Jacobsen’s first career start came in the Meineke Car Care Bowl last season against North Carolina.
“Chris is right where he needs to be,” Wannstedt said. “I expect him to have a very good training camp and be the guy. It’s his job to lose.”
Greg Gaskins and Alex Karabin are the front-runners at right guard and center, respectively.
*** With Pitt’s depth and experience, it will be hard for any true freshman to make an impact. But Wannstedt wants the newcomers ready to play. He told them as much as Thursday night.
“(I told them) prepare yourself to play to the best of your ability,” he said. “Once we get through training camp, I will sit down with each kid and we will talk about who might have an opportunity – and opportunities come in different ways. I don’t want any of our freshmen sitting there right now thinking ‘I’m going to be redshirted and this year’s over.’ I want them all competing to the best of their ability and we will see where it goes.”
Last season, only three true freshmen (Ray Graham, Dion Lewis, Dan Mason) didn’t redshirt.
*** Freshman defensive end T.J. Clemmings, one of Pitt’s most highly rated recruits in years, hopes to make an immediate contribution. The 6-foot-6, 280-pounder from Teaneck, N.J., is learning from two of the best in seniors Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard.
“Anything they do, I’m going to do,” Clemmings said. “They got to this level because they work hard. Anything I see them do, I’m going to mirror that.”
Clemmings doesn’t turn 19 until mid-November, but he looks like a grown man, and speaks like one, too.
“I’m just going to compete for a spot,” he said. “I don’t have plans to redshirt. If it does come down to that, we will take care of that when it comes. Right now I’m just working hard and trying to do my best and get a job.”