The Panthers got a scare near the end of practice when shifty freshman tailback LeSean McCoy fell to the ground after stutter-stepping through the defense. McCoy let out a scream and clutched his left ankle.
Forgive McCoy if was worried. He was the nation’s top tailback prospect in 2005 when his senior season at Harrisburg’s Bishop McDevitt High School ended with a compound fracture of the right ankle.
McCoy, however, later got up and walked off the field.
“I think it was his 14th move in five steps, and I thought he just twisted his ankle,” Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt joked. “He was talking, so if Shady’s talking, he’s OK.”
= On a more positive note, freshman receiver Aundre Wright once again dazzled with his catch-and-run ability. The former Perry Traditional Academy standout, who spent the past year at Milford Academy, had several big plays.
A play-action fake handoff to McCoy sprung Wright on an end-around where he followed tackle Frank Kochin’s blocks and weaved in and out of the defense for 40-plus yards. Wright later caught a pass in the right flat, beat corner Sherod Murdock to the sideline and slipped by safety Shawn Beson for another big gain.
“Aundre Wright continues to make plays every time he touches the ball,” Wannstedt said.
Practice remained indoors, where the freshmen donned shoulder pads for the first time and seemed enthusiastic about making contact.
“Not as crisp as you would like, particularly with the first day in pads,” Wannstedt said. “Everything is moving a little faster today.”
Wannstedt praised the play of a handful of Panthers, most notably that redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Mick Williams had a “great practice.” The highlight for Williams came when the 290-pounder flushed quarterback Kevan Smith out of the pocket. Smith rolled right to the sideline, but Williams chased him down 20 yards later.
Wannstedt also credited freshman fullback Henry Hynoski, who showed nice burst on a 10-yard run up the middle; offensive linemen John Bachman and Dom Williams, who were destroying defenders with downfield blocks; and tight end John Pelusi, who had a 30-yard catch.
“He’s going to be a major part of what we do this year,” Wannstedt said of Pelusi.
= Freshman defensive end Tony Tucker put pressure on the backfield several times, once chasing Smith out of the pocket and forcing an incomplete pass. Another time, he read a reverse and stopped Wright for a loss.
Smith continues to have difficulty handling the ball, either fumbling the exchange or botching handoffs. At one point, the coaches pulled him out of the huddle and made him work on taking snaps while Spencer Whipple took over. Smith appeared frazzled for a while, but later regained his composure and threw some nice passes.
Smith wasn’t entirely to blame. Defensive tackle Craig Bokor had his way with center Scott Corson, who later moved to right guard but was pulled after drawing an illegal procedure penalty.
= Unfortunately for Smith, Pitt’s young secondary made some nice plays in coverage. Freshman corner Buddy Jackson broke up a deep pass intended for Maurice Williams on the left sideline. And Smith threw a pretty pass deep to the right sideline that a receiver couldn’t handle.
= Before his injury, McCoy made a nice move by catching a swing pass and using a stop-and-go move to freeze linebacker Brandon Lindsey and slip by. Lindsey’s hamstring bothered him early, but he returned to practice and was involved in several stops.
= Freshman tailback Shariff Harris has been running angry all week, but he met his match on a run up the middle when middle linebacker Steve Dell met him head-on and stood him straight up. Dell and walk-on linebacker Brian Kaiser were involved in a handful of loud collisions.
Harris recovered to catch a screen pass and turn it into a 20-yard gain after beating Murdock to the sideline.
= Finally, Wannstedt was asked for an update regarding freshman quarterback Pat Bostick, who left camp Monday and returned home to Lancaster. Although he spoke to Manheim Township coach Mike Melnyk after he met with Bostick Wednesday, Wannstedt hadn’t spoken with the quarterback, who could return as early as Saturday.
“I have not heard a word,” Wannstedt said. “The only information I’ve got is from reading your story.”