*** St. Edwards (Ohio) defensive end Darryl Render committed to Pitt on Wednesday.
He is the 13th verbal commitment from the Class of 2012.
St. Edwards coach Rick Finotti said Render’s size, 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, sets him apart from most high school defensive ends.
“He is really stout against the run, very physical and plays with great leverage and has really improved his quickness,” Finotti said. “He is really a dominant edge rusher.”
Render, a three-star recruit, had offers from several MAC schools, plus West Virginia, Iowa, Connecticut and Cincinnati.
*** Coach Todd Graham spoke with the media after Wednesday’s two-hour practice, in which the Panthers held a game-script preparation workout, similar to what a typical Thursday practice would be during a regular game-week.
“It was really sharp,” Graham said. “Guys were really snapping around. I’m really pleased where we are at. I thought we had a good set of practices.”
*** Graham-coached Tulsa last season ranked third in the nation with 36 forced turnovers, getting an NCAA-leading 24 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries. Only Hawaii (38) and Oregon (37) had forced more turnovers. Graham said the Panthers, who finished tied for 58th in the NCAA last year with 22 turnovers, will find a balance between attacking and risk-taking.
“You have to decide what you want to do. I think in today’s college football you have to decide are you going to be a defend team or are you going to be an attack team? We like to dictate to the offense where they are trying to prepare for us. …We’ve got to be explosive. We’re going to blitz.”
*** Graham would rather go a little bit slower and be clean, then hurry up and make mistakes. To that end, the training camp goal of snapping the ball every 15 seconds has been pulled back a little bit. Instead, the staff is working more toward 18-second snaps.
Graham said there were too many miscues during training camp when they forced the 15-second issue. He understands that it is a new system for quarterback Tino Sunseri and the rest of the offense, so he doesn’t expect 15-second snaps right away, seen in Tulsa’s attack last year.
“That was our fourth year (at Tulsa),” Graham said. “We had recruited and gotten a lot of things in place to be able to do that. I just don’t want to force it. There is a lot of pressure on our quarterback. I just don’t want him hurrying to mess up. I think we’ve got to settle in where his comfort zone is.
“We started off early and we were hitting that 15-second mark with a lot more mental mistakes, a lot more putting the ball in jeopardy. So we’ve kind of slowed it a little bit. We’re still pretty fast. Eighteen seconds. …“It’s all new to these kids so it’s very important that we are adaptive to them.”
*** Graham said about 65 percent of the team’s offense is installed so far. At Tulsa, the unit evolved to feature 87 formations. Graham said he wants to be careful to avoid overwhelming the players with the new system.
“I just kind of felt that halfway through camp that we were really stretching them too much,” he said. “We kind of simplified it a little bit more. … I would say out of all the formations that we have in our book, I would say we are probably around 65 percent and we will build from that.”
Graham said the offense has focused on perfecting about 20 plays run out of many different formations.
“You’ve got to be careful not to do too much,” he said. “If you have 20 packages you are working on, that’s a lot of offense. What makes our neat is then you run it out of 80 different formations. It makes it extremely complex.”
*** Just because Pitt is being touted as a high-octane offense doesn’t mean the Panthers will abandon power football. Graham said the winter weather dictates running the football.
“We are a run, play-action pass football team,” Graham said, “and that’s what makes everything work.”
*** Pitt will host its annual Fan Fest from 6-8:30 p.m. tonight at Heinz Field. The event will feature live music and games. Players will sign autographs from 6:30-8 p.m. Admission is free. Parking is available in Gold lots 1 and 2 for $5.
*** Scouts Inc. released its top 200 NFL rankings on Wednesday. Pitt was the only school with two players in the top 10 – No. 3 Darrelle Revis and No. 10 Larry Fitzgerald. There was only one more Panther in the top 200 — LeSean McCoy at No. 103.
Quote of the Day
“The team is really together and really close. It could not have gone any better than it’s gone to this point.”
– Coach Todd Graham