Here are some notes from Monday’s press conference in advance of Thursday’s game at Utah in the 2010 season opener.
*** Sophomore running back Ray Graham (knee) worked with team drills and should be ready to play. Senior defensive end Greg Romeus continues to practice this week. He is healthy.
“From an injury standpoint, we are probably as healthy as we could expect coming out of a very physical training camp,” coach Dave Wannstedt said. “Greg Romeus has been great the past week. Ray Graham is very close. He will be available to play.”
*** Wannstedt said two freshmen, cornerback K’Waun Williams and defensive tackle Aaron Donald, will play. Williams and Donald have been working with the second-team.
“They will be involved in the game in some capacity,” Wannstedt said.
***A week after awarding a scholarship to fifth-year senior center Alex Karabin, the Panthers also gave the good news to walk-on Pat Costello, a redshirt sophomore safety and special teams ace. Redshirt junior quarterback/holder Andrew Janocko had his scholarship renewed.
*** Redshirt sophomore strong safety Andrew Taglianetti, who missed 11 games last season with a knee injury, will play a big role as Pitt’s nickel back against Utah’s three or four-receiver sets. Reserve cornerbacks Buddy Jackson, Saheed Imoru and Williams and back-up safety Jason Hendricks also could play a role in Pitt’s sub-packages.
“It’s going to be big for our defense to communicate and realize what we are going up against,” Pitt free safety Jarred Holley said.
*** Wannstedt said he sat down with first-year starting quarterback Tino Sunseri recently and stressed that he doesn’t have to do too much.
“I really wanted to make the point to him that he is one of 11 players on offense. Does he have to make plays? Sure he does. But Lucas Nix needs to make blocks, (Jon) Baldwin needs to make catches, Dion (Lewis) needs to make runs. I want Tino to feel that there is no more of a burden on his shoulders than any other player on offense.”
*** Wannstedt is anxious to see how the Panthers will respond to adversity. Utah has won 17 games in a row dating to the 2007 season.
“There is nothing like when you are out there on your own and the lights are on and you get hit in the mouth. Everybody’s got a plan until you get in the ring and get hit in the mouth. Then you see how good your plan is.”
*** Freshman wide receiver Todd Thomas and freshman quarterback Anthony Gonzalez drew praise from Wannstedt for their work with the scout team. Thomas simulated Utah’s quarterback in the Wildcat formation and the athletic Gonzalez was able to mimic Utah sophomore quarterback Jordan Wynn.
*** Utah will be the first career start for right guard Greg Gaskins and center Karabin, and the second career start for left guard Chris Jacobson. Wannstedt said he is confident in the unit.
“We’re improving every day,” Wannstedt said. “We’ve got a ways to go. But I will probably be saying that Week 10 because it’s a young group, a new group.”