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Notes from Pitt’s Sunday practice

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AROUND THE PANTHERS

 

Here are some notes from Sunday’s afternoon practice.

*** Pitt running back Ray Graham, who left Saturday’s scrimmage, has a sprained left knee and is being listed as day-to-day. “I’ll be good,” the sophomore running back said as he walked off Pitt’s practice field Sunday afternoon with a heavy brace on his knee.

*** That’s the good news, kind of. The bad news is Pitt lost one of its most promising true freshmen, defensive end Bryan Murphy, for at least six weeks with a broken right foot. Murphy, a training-camp standout, was injured during Saturday’s scrimmage when someone stepped on his foot. Murphy is scheduled to have surgery on Monday. It’s a tough break for the Don Bosco (N.J.) Prep product, who had dazzled coaches all week and earned second-team snaps in recent days.

*** With one defensive end out, a couple more returned. DEs Greg Romeus (back spasms) and Shayne Hale (ankle) took part in individual drills. It was Romeus’ first action since Thursday and only his second day in pads since last weekend. For the second day in a row, safety Andrew Taglianetti (groin) participated in positional drills.

“It was good to get Romeus back out there working,” coach Dave Wannstedt said. “He got back in the middle of things. We expect to do more with him every day and get him ready to go.”

*** Graham was joined by a host of other running backs who didn’t practice the day following Pitt’s first training camp scrimmage. Dion Lewis sat out with flu-like symptoms and starting fullback Henry Hynoski had a mild concussion. With those two out, Jason Douglas took the reps with the first team and Chris Burns worked with the second unit. Wide receiver Jon Baldwin did individual work, but sat out the 11-on-11 drills, giving more first-team reps to Devin Street.

*** Nose tackle Myles Caragein (ankle) and outside linebacker Tristan Roberts (concussion) also were inactive.

*** Based on Wannstedt’s post-practice press briefing, it appears walk-on Alex Karabin will be the team’s starting center. Karabin, a 6-1, 290-pound redshirt senior, graded well in the scrimmage based on tape reviews to stay ahead of Jack Lippert.

“I think a few things are getting cleared up,” Wannstedt said. “Alex Karabin is doing a very good job at center. He really is. You’ve got to give the guy credit. He’s coming on. He’s making the calls. He’s smart. He’s tough.”

As for the right guard position, Wannstedt said “we’ve got a battle going on there” with first-teamer Greg Gaskins and second-teamer Ryan Turnley. Wannstedt said Lippert “could get some work at guard.”

*** With a live scrimmage on Saturday and a two-a-day Monday, the Pitt coaches cut short Sunday afternoon’s practice by about 40 minutes. No complaints here. That being said, there weren’t a whole lot of notable performances during the abbreviated session. Here are a couple:

*** Chris Burns, one of only two healthy running backs on Sunday, broke a pair of long runs during 11-on-11 drills. He showed excellent burst and speed. Granted it was against second and third-teamers, but they were impressive runs regardless who was chasing after him.

It’s encouraging to see Burns still working hard. Rated as one of the nation’s top 15 running backs coming out of New Wilmington, he is sort of a forgotten player in his third year at Pitt. But he ran very hard Sunday.

*** Justin Hargrove pounced on a fumble by Pat Bostick, leaving the frustrated redshirt junior quarterback pounding his fist once in the South Side turf.

*** Here is an anecdote from practice that I think reveals some of the character and leadership on the Pitt Panther football team.

After practice, as most of the team was leaving the field, first-year linebackers coach Bernard Clark called his group together. The former Miami (Fla.) star told the linebackers that they had 10 missed tackles on the day. “I don’t know how much we’re running,” he said, “but we’re running.”

With that, middle linebacker Dan Mason and reserve Manny Williams yelled, “Well let’s run then.” Mason jumped up to the front to lead the group. There was no shirking duties or hung heads. The linebackers, about 10 of them, lined up and started to run. At least five minutes later, as Dave Wannstedt was giving his post-practice press briefing, the linebackers were still out there, running hard for coach Clark.

It showed me two things. One, Mason —and even a back-up like Manny Williams – are terrific leaders who will be held accountable. Two, Clark is a great addition to the staff who fits in well.

Another thing on Clark. He has to be the toughest, most focused coach – nay, person – I have ever seen. Every day, regardless of the temperature or humidity, he wears a thick, heavy sweatshirt to practice. Sunday’s scrimmage was sweltering. It was almost unbearable on that synthetic turf. And there was Clark, wearing a thick hoodie and looking cool.  

*** Wannstedt said there will be no let-up in the camp’s intensity. The Panthers will scrimmage again on Wednesday and Saturday.

“This week is going to be a grinder week,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough week. We’re not going to back off at all. We’re going to come out and be physical. We’re going to take a step forward as a football team from an execution standpoint and a toughness standpoint.”

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