Here are some notes from today’s afternoon practice, Pitt’s second day in a row in shoulder pads. Sorry about no updates from Monday’s practice; had a rare day off.
*** The biggest news to come out of coach Dave Wannstedt’s press briefing after Tuesday’s practice concerned the offensive line, as Wannstedt said center and right guard positions remain wide open. Center Alex Karabin and right guard Greg Gaskins are working with the first teamers, but are being pushed by freshman Jack Lippert, a converted defensive lineman, and sophomore guard Ryan Turnley.
“I would say the center position and the right guard position are still up for grabs,” Wannstedt said.
The competition at center is surprising because two days ago offensive line coach Tony Wise told me Karabin, a walk-on from Greensburg Central Catholic, was the clear-cut leader.
Wannstedt, who said Lippert could move to guard, believes training camp will settle the issue.
“Once we get the pads on and we start doing everything live from top to bottom, what usually happens is guys have a tendency to separate themselves at that point,” Wannstedt said. “Lippert is in the mix. He’s doing a nice job. He is a possibility of going to guard. Ryan Turnley is having a good camp. The key is they don’t go backwards.”
*** Senior Greg Romeus missed his third consecutive practice Tuesday, sitting out with continued “stiffness.” Wannstedt said his star defensive end could return to practice Wednesday, when the Panthers begin to work in full pads.
“Romeus is a lot better,” Wannstedt said. “He’s fine. He’s OK. He’s just stiff. Hopefully tomorrow he will start doing something. But he’s fine.”
*** For the first time at this year’s training camp, Pitt worked on some situational drills, such as third-down, red zone and two-minute.
“It’s a little bit of learning process,” Wannstedt said. “Up to this point everything was middle of the field, first-and-10, run and pass. We were into a little more specific situations and it takes a little bit more focus and more thinking.”
*** Jon Baldwin celebrating his 21st birthday, made the most spectacular play of practice – and possibly of training camp – with a one-handed catch in the back of the end zone during 11 on 11 drills. The 6-foot-5 Baldwin, covered closely by Ricky Gary, leapt high in the air, reached up with his right hand and pulled in Tino Sunseri’s pass, prompting hoots from the coaches and players.
*** Once again, Tino Sunseri had a couple of passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage. Sunseri, who is listed at 6-foot-2 but is definitely closer to 6-0, had a pass knocked down by 6-5 Chas Alecxih.
On another play defensive end Brandon Lindsey jumped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted a Sunseri pass. Imagine if 6-6 Greg Romeus, who sat out practice, had been playing right defensive end instead of the 6-3 Lindsey.
*** Right guard Ryan Turnley (6-6, 305), vying for the starting job, had the block of the day when he smeared safety Kolby Gray about 10 yards downfield on a screen pass. Second-best block went to tight end Mike Cruz, who continues to play well. Cruz blasted 6-4, 250-pound Shayne Hale on a reserve to Jon Baldwin.
*** Freshman defensive end Bryan Murphy showed his athleticism by dropping back 5-7 yards into coverage in the flat and knocking down a pass.
*** The defensive line, especially the second and third stringers, had their way with the Pitt offensive front five. Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Tyrone Ezell was unblockable for much of the practice.
*** The defense forced four turnovers (one interception and three fumble recoveries) during 7-on-7, 9-on-9 and 11-on-11 drills. Lindsey had an interception, and Buddy Jackson, Saheed Imoru and Dan Mason had fumble recoveries.
Manny Williams stripped tight end Brock DeCicco and Jackson recovered in stride in open field for a would-be touchdown; Imoru stripped Cam Saddler at the end of a 25-yard run; Mason ripped the ball from Dion Lewis’ arms a split-second before the whistle to stop play.
*** The defense nearly had three more interceptions, but came up empty. Antwuan Reed dropped an easy pick on a bad pass by Sunseri to Mike Shanahan; Greg Williams missed an interception when Bostick floated an underthrown ball on a flea flicker; and safety Brock DeCicco mistimed his jump in the end zone on a Sunseri pass and Shanahan caught the ball for a touchdown.
*** Pat Bostick connected with a wide-open Ray Graham on a wheel route for a 20-yard touchdown.
*** Ed Tinker beat freshman cornerback K’Waun Williams for a 25-yard touchdown pass from Bostick, but a couple plays later Williams made a nice play to jam 6-2, 210-pound Todd Thomas at the line during two-minute drills.
*** There were no changes in the two-deep, which is listed below. Safety Andrew Taglianetti remained limited with a groin injury.
Here are the first and second teams from Tuesday’s practice.
Quarterback – Tino Sunseri
Running back – Dion Lewis
Fullback – Henry Hynoski
Wide receiver – Jon Baldwin, Mike Shanahan
Tight end – Mike Cruz
Left tackle – Jason Pinkston
Left guard – Chris Jacobson
Center – Alex Karabin
Right guard – Greg Gaskins
Right tackle – Lucas Nix
Left DE – Jabaal Sheard
Right DT – Myles Caragein
Left DT – Chas Alecxih
Right DE – Brandon Lindsey (Greg Romeus out)
Strong-side LB – Max Gruder
Middle LB – Dan Mason
Weak-side LB- Tristan Roberts
Cornerback – Antwuan Reed
Strong safety – Dom DeCicco
Free safety – Jarred Holley
Cornerback – Ricky Gary
Quarterback – Pat Bostick
Running back – Ray Graham
Fullback – Henry Hynoski
Wide receiver – Cam Saddler, Devin Street
Tight end – Brock DeCicco
Left tackle – Jordan Gibbs
Left guard – Juantez Hollins
Center – Jack Lippert
Right guard – Ryan Turnley
Right tackle – Cory King
Left defensive end – Nate Nix
Nose guard – Tyrone Ezell
Defensive tackle – Tyler Tkach
Right DE – Bernardo Nunez
Strong-side LB – Manny Williams
Middle LB – Shane Gordon
Weak-side LB – Greg Williams
Cornerback – Saheed Imuro
Strong safety – Kolby Gray
Free safety – Jason Hendricks
Cornerback – Buddy Jackson