It didn’t take long for two freshmen to make their mark in training camp, and it should come as no surprise that they’re not your ordinary freshmen.
Tailback LeSean McCoy and receiver Aundre Wright – both products of Milford Academy prep school in New Berlin, N.Y. – caught Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt’s eye with their dazzling play in Wednesday’s afternoon session.
McCoy showed a nice burst up the middle, and followed it with shake-and-bake moves to slip through the defense. On his first carry in 11-on-11 drills, McCoy went off-tackle left, cut inside and shimmied for a 20-yard gain.
Wannstedt was certainly impressed, although he’s looking forward to seeing how McCoy performs in contact drills before he starts heaping praise on the former Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt star.
“We would all agree that he has talent,” Wannstedt said. “We know that. We’re not going to stand here and be surprised by that.”
Wannstedt was encouraged by how quickly McCoy has grasped the offense, complimenting his mental approach and his lack of mistakes despite taking most of the reps with the first-team offense.
Now, the Pitt coach wants to see how McCoy handles contact. The Panthers can wear shoulder pads for the first time Thursday and go full pads on Saturday. <p"Like a famous fighter said, everybody's got a good plan until they get hit for the first time," Wannstedt said. "We'll start making some final evaluations as far as where he's at and where he might help us."
Wright, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound speedster who starred at Perry Traditional Academy, made a handful of eye-opening plays. He caught a Kevan Smith pass over the middle, then outraced safety Shawn Besong. Then Wright made a diving catch along the right sideline against corner Buddy Jackson, holding the ball aloft to show he caught it. Wright also picked up big gains on reverse handoffs.
“The guy who made two plays today like I remember three years ago when he was in our passing camp at Perry is Aundre Wright,” Wannstedt said. “He can get it. He can make plays with the ball in his hands. He did a couple things today that were very encouraging.”
Other highlights included linebacker Nate Nix intercepting a Kevan Smith pass after it bounced off the hands of fullback Chris Bova, and receiver Maurice Williams shook linebacker Tristan Roberts.
Also impressive for the second consecutive day was tailback Shariff Harris, who initiated contact on his runs by slapping away one arm tackle and throwing a forearm shiver at another. Harris, however, paid for it when he was nearly clothes-lined by defensive tackle Craig Bokor.
Defensively, Bokor also beat center Scott Corson to sack Smith, and defensive end Tony Tucker flushed the quarterback out of the pocket. Defensive end Justin Hargrove tipped a Smith pass at the line of scrimmage, and safety Elijah Fields tipped away a pass just before it reached the hands of tight end Dustin Walters.
Tailback Greg Williams left practice after participating in individual and special teams drills because of a thigh injury sustained during the high school track season, Wannstedt said. Although Williams isn’t 100 percent, Wannstedt said the injury is “nothing serious.”
“I’m really pleased about this freshman class, and I don’t want to focus too much on them just because we just finished practice,” Wannstedt said. “It will all change once we start mixing it up with the varsity players.”