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Some Pitt thoughts on the brink of training camp


Random thoughts, with Pitt training camp opening Aug. 4:
* The Panthers look solid in terms of experience on the offensive line, but the player to watch is big tackle Jaryd Jones-Smith. Yes, he is glaringly inexperienced, but he is 6-foot-7, 335 pounds, with an incredible reach that must make weightlifting an adventure for him. Line coach Jim Hueber trusted Jones-Smith enough in the spring to give him most of the reps with the first team while Adam Bisnowaty recovered from a back injury. By all accounts, Bisnowaty is OK, but Jones-Smith, a redshirt freshman, gives Hueber a nice alternative in the event of injury or ineffective play (one of which will surface somewhere on the line at some time in camp).
* But, among the starters, the player to watch on the line is senior right tackle T.J. Clemmings. He struggled last season in his debut effort on offense after playing defense for his first three years at Pitt. But coaches are raving about him, he has become a leader among his teammates and coach Paul Chryst has great respect for the hard work he has put into his position switch. Clemmings was named one of three winners of the Ed Conway Award for the most improved offensive player in the spring. Keep an eye on Clemmings’ development.
* The other Ed Conway winners were two other seniors, defensive end David Durham and linebacker Todd Thomas (special teams). Both are keys to the defense this season. Durham plays a position where the Panthers are thin — that was the case even before Ejuan Price was lost for the season with a pec injury — and Thomas is eager to make an impact on the team in his final year of eligibility.
* The initial depth chart, released last week when Pitt passed out its media guides at the ACC meetings in Greensboro, N.C., shows only seven  seniors among the 25 first-team players. They are Clemmings, Durham, Thomas, wide receiver Manasseh Garner (who is developing into a respected presence in the locker room), right guard Matt Rotheram, outside linebacker Anthony Gonzalez and free safety Ray Vinopal. Of course, depth charts in July are rarely worth the paper they are printed on  (it is some nice, glossy stuff, though), but there are only four other seniors on the entire roster.  They are: running back Isaac Bennett (recovering from shoulder surgery), wide receiver Kevin Weatherspoon (one of Chryst’s favorites), fullback Adam Lazenga and defensive lineman LaQuentin Smith.
* Of the 11 seniors, nine are the last personnel remaining from the Dave Wannstedt era. The exceptions are Bennett and Smith, who were signed by Todd Graham in 2011.
* Actually, there are other key players — recruited and signed by Graham that year — who will be of immense help this season. They include three starters — center Artie Rowell, defensive tackle K.K. Mosley Smith and cornerback Lafayette Pitts. The others are listed backups Nicholas Grigsby at linebacker and Ronald Jones at wide receiver, plus defensive end Devin Cook and safety Jevonte Pitts.



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