Spring Practice No. 3
• Dorin Dickerson might have found a home. In the first day of full-contact drills, the 6-foot-2, 223-pound tailback/receiver-turned-outside linebacker showed he isn’t afraid of contact and can make a big play.
In tackling drills, Dickerson lowered his shoulder and knocked Shane Murray onto his back. On their second collision, Dickerson threw another shoulder into Murray and knocked his chin back. In 11-on-11 drills, Dickerson picked off a Kevan Smith pass and returned it untouched.
• Tuesday’s practice began the old-fashioned way, with Oklahoma drills. The offense went 3-1 against the defense, as right tackle Mike McGlynn turned defensive end Joe Clermond away from the ball carrier; left tackle Jeff Otah pancaked defensive end Chris McKillop; and receiver Derek Kinder stood cornerback Kennard Cox up on a block. The lone winner for the blue jerseys was middle linebacker Scott McKillop, who shed tight end Darrell Strong’s block and tackled tailback Kevin Collier.
• When the first-team defense lined up, Clermond returned to his starting spot on the left side (opposite Chris McKillop). Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said Clermond spent the first two days of practice on the second team because he had arthroscopic surgery in the off-season and the coaching staff wanted to ease him into practice. That rationale should also explain why Doug Fulmer is on the second string. Fulmer, whose redshirt freshman season ended with a broken leg against The Citadel, is participating in full-contact drills but is still limping.
• It didn’t take long for Wannstedt’s decision to allow full contact with Panthers quarterbacks Bill Stull and Kevan Smith in the pocket to come into play. Junior nose tackle Rashaad Duncan beat left guard John Brown and blindsided Stull for a sack.
• The collisions continued, and the walk-ons got their shots in on the scholarship players. Fullback Chris Bova caught a screen pass and ran over middle linebacker Greg Webster. Receiver Austin Ransom pulled in a pass on the sideline, then lowered his shoulder and knocked over cornerback Jovani Chappel.
• The play of the day was Stull’s picture-perfect 45-yard pass to Kinder, who beat Cox on a post pattern. Another highlight was T.J. Porter’s catch in triple coverage of a Smith pass. Porter made Chappel, Webster and Murray miss before being chased down by walk-on Ross Ventrone.
• Stull showed some elusiveness by escaping the grasp of strong-side linebacker Adam Gunn in the backfield and sprinting to the sidelines to avoid a sack.
• Sophomore cornerback Aaron Berry broke up a potential trick play when Stull tossed it to LaRod Stephens-Howling in the right flat. Stephens-Howling appeared ready to throw it back to Stull for a flea-flicker, but Berry tackled him.
• Pitt is looking for a replacement for Darrelle Revis on punt returns, and the candidates include Berry, Kinder, Porter, senior safety Lowell Robinson and grayshirt freshman Aaron Smith, who is now wearing a blue No. 9 jersey to indicate defense, where he is playing cornerback.
• Former Steelers quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple attended practice, where he spent time talking to former Panthers QB Tyler Palko. Whipple’s son, Spencer (also a left-handed quarterback), is planning on joining the Panthers as a walk-on. Whipple would give Pitt two of the top 11 passers in the WPIAL last season without using a scholarship. Bethel Park’s Jeff Stewart completed 83 of 130 passes for 1,515 yards and eight touchdowns (ninth in WPIAL) while Pine-Richland’s Whipple was 107 for 187 for 1,468 yards and 11 TDs.
• Another potential walk-on who visited practice was former Central Catholic quarterback Andy Vaughan, now at Kiski School in Saltsburg. Vaughan succeeded Shane Murray as Central’s QB – and led the Vikings to the WPIAL semifinals – but also is capable of playing safety. His younger brother, Danny, is a Division I prospect at fullback-defensive end for Central. Their father, Jon, is Central’s offensive line coach.
• Two future Panthers visited the UPMC Sports Performance Complex. Thomas Jefferson safety Dom DeCicco sat in on team meetings prior to practice. Keystone Oaks offensive guard Chris Jacobson watched from the sidelines, where he spent a good deal of time talking to strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris.
• Wannstedt said linebacker Steve Dell, who is on crutches, had arthroscopic surgery on his knee in the off-season. Wannstedt is hopeful that Dell, expected to vie for starting position, will return this spring. Wannstedt said punter Dave Brytus was excused from practice for personal reasons. Receiver Oderick Turner did not practice, watching while wearing sweats. Linebacker Jemeel Brady and safety Irv Brown both practiced while wearing helmets and shoulder pads shells, but did not participate in contact drills. Defensive tackle Mick Williams did not wear a shell or pads, and participated only in warm-ups.
• One promising prospect who watched practice was Steel Valley defensive tackle Tyrone Ezell, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound sophomore, who attended with Ironmen coach Ray Braszo and assistant Anthony Berger, a former West Mifflin standout who played at Robert Morris.
• Pitt’s next practice is at 2:45 p.m. Thursday. The Panthers also practice Friday and Saturday afternoons.