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Pitt’s freshman running backs look good, but it’s only practice


Pitt fans should contain their excitement over what I am about to write.
Remember, they are just freshmen and (as a wise man once said), we are just talking about practice.
But Pitt coach Todd Graham made a point of praising freshman running backs Corey Davis, Isaac Bennett and Malcolm Crockett after the morning session Wednesday.
“Those kids are special,” Graham said after allowing them to work with the first team. “They keep getting better every single day.”
Davis and Bennett each had one 80-yard run from scrimmage.
On one play, Davis hit the hole hard and would have made a nice gain in real time. The significant part of that play? New H-back Anthony Gonzalez threw a solid block.
“Corey is fast, really fast, more in the mold of what (starting running back) Ray (Graham) is,” the coach said. “Isaac is a big (5-foot-11, 190), physical downhill runner. Crocket is an every-down (back).”
Of course, don’t expect those three to take many plays from Ray Graham and Zach Brown, but Todd Graham did allow that 5-10 snaps per game is a possibility.
— Head injuries have been somewhat of a problem for Pitt through the first nine days of camp, and Todd Graham said the most seriously injured of the group — wide receiver Devin Street — isn’t ready to return.
“I wouldn’t expect Devin back for a few more days,” he said.
Meanwhile, wide receiver Cameron Saddler returned to practice, but he was limited. He wore one of those green jerseys usually used by quarterbacks and did not participate in 11-on-11 drills.
“We will still thud him,” Graham said, “but it’s limited.”
Cornerback K’Waun Williams is also close to returning.
— Inside linebacker Shane Gordon has returned from a head injury he suffered when he slammed into running back Ray Graham last week with one of the most vicious hits of camp.
“I banged my head a little bit, but that’s nothing,” he said. “At linebacker, you play the game dizzy half the time, anyway. It was just a little headache. Nothing serious.”
Gordon, a redshirt sophomore from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who originally committed to Auburn before former coach Tommy Tuberville was fired, looks to be the starter next to Max Gruder.
— The manpower shortage at the top of the wide receiver depth chart opens up opportunities for Salath Williams, Josh Brinson and freshmen Ron Jones and Darius Patton.
Graham had high praise for Williams, a redshirt freshman from Bishop McDevitt High School, who he said has had “an unbelievable camp.”
Patton, a good-looking freshman, made a nice (at least, I thought it was nice) one-handed catch, drawing this response from wide receivers coach Mike Norvell: “Two hands!”
— Graham was pleased that Pitt’s Heisman Trophy-winning running back Tony Dorsett, one of his boyhood heros, spoke to the team Tuesday.
What most impressed Graham about Dorsett’s 35-minute talk was how he told the Pitt players that – even after 10 years in the league – he still worried about simple items like starts and stops.
“Still lined up every day focused on the details,” Graham said, smiling at the thought.
The message that Graham hopes his players took from that:
“Discipline, not desire, will determine our fate,” he said. “Everybody has the desire around the country right now, but discipline to work and master your craft every day is what we have to continue to do.”
— Graham juggled the offensive line slightly and briefly in the morning, with right tackle Lucas Nix moving to right guard and senior Greg Gaskins playing right tackle.
Redshirt freshman Matt Rotheram also played a little right guard.
“We are trying to motivate those guys and create some competition,” he said, noting that Cory King remains the starter at right guard.
The starting line remains intact, from left: Tackle Jordan Gibbs, guard Chris Jacobson, center Ryan Turnley, guard King and tackle Nix.
Gaskins’ versatility probably will get him on the field early in the season. He can play right tackle and right guard and is the third center behind Turnley and Jacobson.
– Meanwhile, Turnley is becoming entrenched at center after showing Graham the necessary physicality to play the position.
“He is natural snapper,” Graham said. “He is very smart, very coachable and he improves his pass protection each day.”
— The NCAA has granted cornerback E.J. Banks, a Montour graduate, immediate eligibility after transferring from Notre Dame.
“He had a hardship, having to be one of the primary caregivers to his mom and (the NCAA) granted the waiver based on that,” Graham said.
— Only three days remain in training camp before Pitt begins preparations Monday for the opener against Buffalo on Sept. 3.



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