Tight ends don’t necessarily have to disappear from Pitt coach Todd Graham’s offense.
They can become H-backs, or 3-backs, as Graham likes to call them.
So far, Hubie Graham, a transfer from Illinois who sat out last season, is leading the pack at what Todd Graham calls “the most complicated position in our offense.”
The 3-back is, basically, a tight end who can run and catch, without sacrificing his blocking.
Todd Graham described the 3-back’s myriad of duties this way:
“He has (to line up) in the backfield, (be) an inline (blocking) tight end, he has to split out and has to be involved in the play-action game and protections.”
Hubie Graham, who played with Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin at West Scranton High School, is the best at performing all of those requirements for Pitt.
Graham played two seasons at Illinois, catching four passes and making one start. So far, Graham has shown an ability to get open in the middle of the defense, sometimes even running away from defenders.
Backing up Graham is Sto-Rox graduate Drew Carswell, who also played with a Penn State quarterback (Paul Jones) in high school.
“Carswell is learning,” Todd Graham said Monday. “He has a lot of potential. He has a lot to learn from a blocking standpoint.”
Carswell has been especially impressive because his left hand injury is wrapped tight, and he catches everything with one hand.
Graham pointed out that Brendan Carozzoni, a redshirt freshman from St. Ignatius (Ohio) High School, has shown potential at the 3-back.
Also in the mix, but maybe getting lost in his first year at the position, is former linebacker Kevin Adams.
Thomas Jefferson graduate Brock DeCicco, who started three games at tight end last season, has left the Pitt program and will transfer.
— Graham is so pleased with running backs Ray Graham and Zach Brown, a transfer from Wisconsin, that he said he could put both players on the field at the same time. But he also mentioned that freshman running backs Isaac Bennett, Malcolm Crockett and Corey Davis have been impressive. Crockett had a long run in the morning session.
— The scrimmage no one outside the team was allowed to watch Sunday turned out to be a show for the defense.
“Defense, naturally, is a little bit farther ahead,” Graham said. “I thought they dominated the scrimmage.”
The team’s second scrimmage is Saturday – and it also is closed to the media.
Graham speaks to the media every day, but he said he believes the team has a sharper focus at scrimmages when the sideline isn’t littered with spectators.
Last year, scrimmages – as well as every minute of training camp — were open to the media, and Pitt kept stats and handed them to reporters. After excellent access the first five days of camp, reporters now are escorted from each practice after one hour.
— Graham made a point of praising redshirt freshman wide receiver Salath Williams for “really stepping up,” and starting safety Jarred Holley as someone “who we don’t say much about.”
“Holley had a great scrimmage,” Graham said.
— Punter Matt Yoklic of Pine-Richland had some 50-yard boomers, the coach said.
— For the moment, Ryan Turnley seems to have nailed down the center job, even after four bad snaps Sunday.
Graham said he won’t tolerate continued malfunctions at the position, but he allowed that “(Turnley) had the adrenaline flowing a little bit. He was snapping it back there pretty firm.”
While admitting the competition at center between Turnley and Chris Jacobson is ongoing, Graham said Turnley “is basically the starting center and Jacobson is the starting left guard.”
“That has been pretty consistent for quite some time now.”
That could change, however, especially when you hear Graham call Jacobson “our best center and our best guard.”
— Like any coach, Graham wants to solidify his starting five on the offensive line as soon as possible. That means the competition at center could end by the end of the week. If Turnley can’t win the job, Jacobson would be replaced at left guard by redshirt freshman Matt Rotheram.
— Antwuan Reed and K’Waun Williams are the starting cornerbacks, but Buddy Jackson will figure prominently in the mix.
“There is competition, but those three are basically the starting cornerbacks,” Graham said.
Freshmen Lafayette Pitts and Lloyd Carrington continue to impress as backups at cornerback.
— Graham kept wide receiver Cameron Saddler and Williams out of the morning session after they had a “little bell-rung deal” in practices over the weekend.
Wide receiver Devin Street had the same thing happen to him early in practice Monday.
“We practice very physical and compete against each other,” said Graham, while suggesting that none of the injuries appear serious.
— Redshirt sophomore inside linebacker Shane Gordon listed his hit on running back Ray Graham last week and others turned in by outside linebacker Brandon Lindsey and freshman defensive back Roderick Ryles as the hardest in camp.
— Believe it or not: The best catch of the day was a running, one-handed grab by quarterback Anthony Gonzalez, who was taking a break from his regular job.