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Pitt’s Graham `just being careful’ by keeping Gordon on sideline

Pitt inside linebacker Shane Gordon watched from the side Saturday for the second day in a row, but it wasn’t his idea. He wanted to return, but coach Todd Graham said no.
Gordon had one of the hardest hits of the week Thursday when he slammed into running back Ray Graham. Immediately after the play, Gordon appeared woozy, so the coach is taking no chances with his player’s health.
“First and foremost, we have to make sure we are very cautious with something like that,” Graham said. “And we might be a little over-cautious. I would rather do that.
“In the end, this is a game and it’s very, very important. You never know about that. He felt like he could go today and we said no. Just being careful.”
– Five players returned kickoffs this morning, but I can’t imagine anyone better for the job than cornerback Buddy Jackson, the fastest player on the team, according to speed analyst Cameron Saddler.
Ray Graham, of course, could handle it, and he has 38 returns (no TDs) on his resume the past two years. But Todd Graham needs to save Ray for his 15-20 carries and 5-8 catches per game from scrimmage.
– Intriguing possibility on returns: Freshman wide receiver Darius Patton, who already has caught the attention of his position coach Mike Norvell in pass-catching drills.
A little bit of trivia about Patton: His father Shawn Patton played running back for Jim Tressel’s national championship team at Youngstown State in 1994.
Patton, 18, said he weighs only 160 pounds and is trying to gain weight by stocking up on the proteins – fish, chicken and pasta.
He transferred from Penn Hills after his sophomore season to live with his father in Poland, Ohio, and has enjoyed their talks about life and football.
“It’s ironic because in his first year (at Youngstown), he struggled and we wore same number (3),” Patton said. “All the stories he told me, I am fighting through the same kinds of things he fought through.
“There are guys who are bigger, stronger, faster. You just have to put that aside and play your game.”
Also, freshman Ronald Jones, 5-8, 165, is making a smooth transition from quarterback at Fort Meade (Fla.) High School to wide receiver.
– Norvell is perpetually hoarse. But he told me he likes it that way. I’m guessing this: If Norvell is not yelling at you, you don’t matter.
– A name to watch from Norvell’s stable of receivers: Junior college transfer Josh Brinson.
“He has really shown some great signs of being able to help us,” Todd Graham said. “He is going to be a major contributor.”
– Graham pointed out “the elevation” in junior wide receiver Cam Saddler’s game.
“A lot of it has to do with practicing the system (since the spring), but he knows there are guys pushing him,” Graham said.
– One of the bigger plays of the morning was turned in by Brashear graduate Ed Tinker, a redshirt sophomore wide receiver, who took a 5-yard hitch pass and ran 80 yards for a score. “That’s the kind of stuff we are wanting to see,” Graham said.
– Graham keeps amending the lapse he prefers between the time the official sets down the ball after a play and the next snap.
“The last two days it was 17 seconds, down from 22 in the spring,” he said. “I want it to be around 10-12 seconds. We are getting better with our tempo.”
– He also said practice can get grueling about this time in camp when the team has been working for six days in a row. But no one is complaining, he said.
“I am proud of my guys and how they have responded and are pushing forward and fighting through,” he said.
Pitt will be back on the field Saturday night. Sunday, the team will scrimmage for the first time.
– Graham said he doesn’t know if redshirt sophomore tight end Brock DeCicco, who has missed three consecutive practices, has decided to transfer.
“Waiting to hear,” Graham said. “We hope he stays here. If he doesn’t, we wish him the very best.
“Brock is a tremendous young person. I have nothing but great things to say about him. He is working through some things.”
Among those things is the fact that the tight end is de-emphasized in Graham’s style of offense.
– I couldn’t help but notice that Todd Thomas was with the first team at Spur outside linebacker, even though Greg Williams was in uniform. Williams missed Friday with cramps.
“Those guys are battling for it,” Graham said. “I try to motivate them a little bit (by giving each player reps with the first team). Todd is very, very talented and so is Greg. It’s going to be interesting.”
– A couple of celebrity sightings the past two days – former Pitt tight ends coach Joe Naunchik, a longtime coach in the WPIAL (now an assistant at Hempfield); and Pine-Richland assistant Eric Kasperowicz, a former Pitt defensive back. And former Pitt coach Walt Harris.
I also met Central Valley junior running back Robert Foster, who watched practice Friday. Pitt has offered him a scholarship, but he is not close to making a decision.

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