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DiPaola: There was more than football going on Saturday at Pitt’s scrimmage

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A few leftover notes from Pitt’s tackle-to-the-ground scrimmage Saturday.
* I guess I watch practice differently than a lot of reporters in that the two things that stuck with me more than anything were Pitt coach Paul Chryst’s interactions with his players.
Here are two:
He chastised a player for failing to retrieve an incomplete pass that had bounced out of everyone’s reach. Chryst wanted the player to get the ball himself, instead of assuming a coach or manager would pick it up.
Later, he had what appeared to be a pleasant conversation with sophomore cornerback Titus Howard. I couldn’t hear what was said, of course, but both men seemed to be enjoying each other’s company. Howard is suspended for the season, but is permitted to practice.
Insignificant matters? I don’t think so. They show Chryst to be a coach who demands that his players be accountable while building a personal relationship with them.
To me, that is the essence of coaching.
Here is some football stuff:
* Kicker Chris Blewitt missed on four of eight field-goal attempts, but he was true from 52 yards after a miss from 47 was wiped out by a false start penalty. Blewitt is among the least of Pitt’s concerns. He was 14 of 18 last season as a freshman.
* Redshirt freshman wide receiver Jester Weah, one of the best-looking athletes on the team, made a nice catch with outstretched hands for an 18-yard gain on a slant route. I mention it only because Weah’s hands had been inconsistent early, but appear to be getting better.
* Chryst jokingly said, “I forgot we had him,” when he was asked why Tyler Boyd did not participate in the tackling portion of the scrimmage. Chryst is not the first coach to attempt to keep his best player healthy by giving him periodic rest days. Dave Wannstedt did the same with running backs Shady McCoy and Dion Lewis.
* Junior Ronald Jones scored on a 20-yard run on a jet sweep.
* Rachid Ibrahim continued to be a weapon out of the backfield in the passing game, but he also scored on a 6-yard run where he had to pick his way through traffic and use some of his physicality. He said he has gained 10 pounds. He is listed at 185.
* Freshman safety Patrick Amara stepped up late in the scrimmage to return an interception for a touchdown.
* Among those in attendance were Chancellor Patrick Gallagher — his second consecutive Saturday appearance — and Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley, the former Pitt safety (1990-1993) who is in town for a preseason game against the Steelers at Heinz Field.
* Pitt has full days of practice through Thursday next week before taking a break for Fan Fest from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday. Classes start Aug. 25.

 

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