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Shell’s absence creates opportunities for Bennett, Crockett at Pitt spring drills


A couple of notes and quotes as Pitt’s spring practice approaches the halfway point:
Maybe the most glaring aspect of practice Tuesday was the absence of running back Rushel Shell, who was given an excused absence.
Coach Paul Chryst gave no definitive reason, but he did not place all of the blame on Shell’s upper leg injury from Friday. “Couple things,” Chryst said.
Meanwhile, Chryst likes the energy shown by backup running backs Isaac Bennett and Malcolm Crockett, who have been getting a wealth of repetitions since midway through Friday’s practice.
He did note that they have been fumbling a bit too frequently, but he said that can be a learning tool.
“If you can learn from all these mistakes, that’s good,” Chryst said. “If a guy is into it and it stings like it would in the fall, then you got a chance to learn. If you just kind of `Oh, don’t worry, it’s just practice,’ then I don’t think you ever allow yourself to get better. In that regard, guys are into it, taking the plays and practice to heart.”
— Defensive coordinator Matt House said he counted 17 missed tackles in Friday’s scrimmage. He blamed much of it on poor fundamentals.
“Our (shoulder) pad level was high in the scrimmage quite a bit,” he said. He also mentioned players taking bad angles to the football and tackling as problems that need to be corrected.
“Pad level, leverage and tackling,” he said. “Those are fundamental cores to defense. If we don’t get those done, we won’t be a very good defense.”
— House also was asked about defensive end Shakir Soto, who is one of four freshmen who graduated from high school early to enroll at Pitt in January.
“We joke in our defensive staff room that Shakir should be getting ready for the senior prom and he’s out there competing against 22-year-olds,” he said. “Every day is  a new experience for Shakir, but he is willing and certainly has a ton of potential.”
— Redshirt freshman wide receiver Chris Wuestner, on quarterback Tom Savage’s arm strength: “Dude’s got a cannon. He can really throw the ball around.”
On quarterback Chad Voytik: “He’s athletic and agile and can get the ball in there, too.”
— Injuries continue to sideline wide receiver Brandon Ifill (knee), defensive back Brendon Felder (foot), linebacker Shane Gordon (neck), safety Jason Hendricks (toe) and cornerback Cullen Christian (calf). Defensive end Devin Cook returned to practice.
— Senior linebacker Dan Mason is out for undisclosed off-the-field reasons, and Chryst said he is unsure when he will return.
— As a result of all the missing bodies, the team’s depth appears thin. Perhaps the incoming freshmen will help in that regard. If not, Pitt may end up looking like a team that has trouble handling several injuries at the same time.



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