*** Freshman wide receiver Darius Patton was taken to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Oakland after collapsing at practice.
“He’s awake and alert and his vitals signs are very good,” coach Todd Graham said. “We hope he is going to be fine. That’s all I really know.”
Patton, 18, played at Penn Hills as a sophomore before transferring to Poland (Ohio) Seminary.
*** Former Pitt running backs LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis stopped by the South Side practice facility on Thursday morning during some free time before tonight’s Eagles-Steelers game at Heinz Field.
“It was neat for our guys to have them come back,” Graham said. “I appreciate them taking the time to do that. They came into the office. How is the team going to be? Anything we can do to help to motivate the players, talk to them? They were great.”
Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett also visited the Pitt facilities on Tuesday.
*** Joe Butler, who runs Metro Index Football Scouting Service, attended today’s Pitt practice and I got a chance to talk to him about some of the Panthers’ pro prospects.
Among Pitt’s seniors, Butler said offensive guard/tackle Lucas Nix is the highest rated according to NFL scouts. The 6-foot-6, 310-pound Nix is projected as a second- or third-round pick in the ’12 draft by some scouting services. Butler raved about the former TJ star and it’s easy to see why. Butler also said outside linebacker Brandon Lindsey, defensive end Chas Alecxih and inside linebacker Max Gruder are getting notice.
Here is what coach Todd Graham said about Nix after practice:
“He can be as good as he wants to be,” he said. “I told him and (Jordan) Gibbs that I will be very disappointed if they weren’t the two best tackles in the league and if he moves down to guard, I expect him to be the best guard in the league.”
*** Chris Jacobson doesn’t get a whole lot of rest during Pitt’s two-hour practices. He’s the first-team guard and the second-team center, so he’s out on the field almost exclusively during drills.
The 6-3, 295-pound Keystone Oaks graduate probably doesn’t mind the long day at all – as much as he loves the game. But a couple of players are benefitting from Jacobson’s hearty work — sophomore Tyrone Ezell and freshman K.K. Mosley-Smith. The two defensive tackles get to work against an all-Big East caliber blocker who is vastly superior to a typical second-string center.
“Lumpy probably doesn’t like it because it’s hard being in this offense and go with the ones and the twos,” Graham said. “But he’s done a good job.”
*** Cornerback K’Waun Williams (head) returned to practice, but wore a green “hand’s off” jersey. Two safeties, Jason Hendricks and Brandon Ifill, sat out practice.
*** Wide receiver/kick returner Cam Saddler (head) didn’t participate in practice, but it’s hard to keep him away. Saddler wore his jersey and shoulder pads, and helped out during special teams drills whenever he could, ie., moving around cones, running down loose balls and offering general encouragement.
*** An impressive week by sophomore Juantez Hollins has pushed the Aliquippa product into the mix at left tackle. Hollins’ improvement has coincided with a better understanding of the offense and a procedure to have a bothersome knee drained.
“I think he’s competing to start,” Graham said. “That’s how positive I want to be about that. He’s had a lot of problems with his knee. He’s been having trouble bending. He’s a big, physical, athletic guy. Up to four days ago, (he’s) going to be a back-up. Then all of a sudden, he got his knee drained, he got a smile on his face and he’s looking impressive. He’s got a chance. He’s competing for a starting role.”
*** The offensive line has only two positions locked in – Jacobson at left guard and Ryan Turnley at center. Jordan Gibbs will start at one tackle spot, and Nix will start at either right guard or right tackle.
The possibilities are:
1. Juantez Hollins at left tackle, Jordan Gibbs at right tackle and Nix at right guard.
2. Gibbs at left tackle, Greg Gaskins at right tackle and Nix at right guard.
3. Gibbs at left tackle, Nix at right tackle and Cory King at right guard.
“We are very open to those three scenarios and it could be any of those three scenarios,” Graham said.
Graham said the offensive line – and just about every other position battle for the Sept. 3 opener with Buffalo — will be settled after Saturday’s final scrimmage.
“I would think what we look like on Monday is pretty much what we will look like Week One,” he said.
*** There have been some bad snaps at practice, but Graham believes that’s more an indication of the Panthers’ style of defense.
“We’ve got a guy standing over (center) on every down, attacking him. I think that’s kind of hard to snap the ball, too. When we start playing 4-3 teams, when there is nobody over him, I think it’s a little easier and take a little stress off you.”
*** Graham said the back-up quarterback spot remains up for grabs heading into Saturday’s scrimmage. Trey Anderson, a freshman walk-on, is running with the second team, but Mark Myers is coming off a pair of solid practices.
“I think Mark is doing a lot of good things, too. The reason we are talking so much about Trey is because he’s new. He’s been a pleasant surprise for being an 18-year-old walk-on freshman. He is no doubt competing to be the No. 2 quarterback. … Mark has come on. He had his best day yesterday. I think that has a lot to do with it. He sees there’s competition there.”