Keep an eye on Juan Price, but keep out the E.
Price, a freshman outside linebacker, has asked the Pitt publicity people to take the E off the front of his first name. He won’t be Ejuan as he was at Woodland Hills.
But by any spelling, Price has been one of the young standouts over the first two days of practice.
“The young man from Woodland Hills is pretty special,” Pitt coach Todd Graham said.
Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson is even more adamant about Price’s potential.
When I asked him the other day who was the best pass rusher he ever coached in college, he really couldn’t come up with a good answer. (He did coach former Steelers great Jason Gildon at Altus High School in Oklahoma.)
Tuesday, Patterson amended his answer.
“Ask me that same question in about three years and I might say, `Juan Price is the best pass rusher I ever coached.’
“Let me tell you, if you’re a quarterback, that ball better get out quick. He is lightning.”
Plus, Price weighs 250 pounds, according to Patterson, even though he is listed at 235 in the Pitt media guide.
“People don’t realize that,” Patterson said. “He is packed together.”
Price, who signed with Ohio State this year before changing his mind after former coach Jim Tressel resigned, is one of the players backing up All-Big East candidate Brandon Lindsey at the Panther position.
Graham said practice Tuesday was the best yet (including the spring), and after it ended, he spent 15 minutes lecturing his team.
“That was a short (speech),” Patterson said. “He has a mouthpiece, now.”
There were times, though, when assistants Mike Norvell and Tony Dews nearly yelled themselves hoarse when things didn’t go just right.
Several dropped passes littered the turf, but Graham said the team’s overall intensity was amped up for the indoor practice. (He moved it inside to get out of the rain.)
Graham spends a lot of time talking to his players and his coaches – at practice, in the halls, in meetings. Monday night, everything stopped for several minutes while Graham had an animated conversation with a couple of assistants.
LET’S SEE HIM IN PADS
The Ryan Turnley experiment continued at center Tuesday, but Graham said he won’t have a good sense of how Turnley is handling the position switch until the team puts on the pads later this week.
`GET OUT OF THEIR WAY’
Two of the most impressive players so far have been running backs Ray Graham and Zach Brown.
We know about their ability in the run game. Graham ran for 922 yards and eight touchdowns last season while making only two starts as Dion Lewis’ backup. Brown totaled 1,152 yards and 11 touchdowns in three seasons at Wisconsin.
But when Graham and Brown get their 195- and 220-pound frames rolling after catching a screen pass in space, not many cornerbacks are going to feel like getting in their way.
But, again, let’s see them do it in pads.
Not that I should tell Todd Graham how to run his offense, but why not? Use that screen pass to Graham and Brown, Todd, and use it often.
TOUGH ROAD AT HOME
This is a little difficult to believe with the Panthers having games against Buffalo and FCS Division 1-AA Maine, but Sporting News analysis reports that Pitt has the second-toughest, non-conference schedule in the nation.
In addition to those two cream puffs, Pitt will play Utah, Notre Dame and Iowa (the only road game of the group). They won’t be easy, but the toughest stretch will be playing at Iowa and home to Notre Dame and South Florida in a span of 13 days from Sept. 17-29. South Florida, by the way, will be one of the strongest teams in the Big East.
The toughest non-conference schedule belongs to LSU, who plays Oregon in Dallas, at West Virginia and Northwestern State and Western Kentucky at home.
Pitt will play Syracuse at noon on Dec. 3 on ESPN or ESPN2.