For the first during Pitt’s training camp, Panthers coach Dave Wannstedt appeared to be disgusted with split-squad practices and the lack of full contact.
“I will be glad when we put the full pads on, and I will be glad when we get the entire team together,” Wannstedt said. “We’ve about reached the breaking point for two different groups for no pads. It’s time.”
Perhaps that had something to do with junior quarterback Bill Stull missing half of practice after injuring the thumb on his right (throwing) hand by hitting his hand off left guard C.J. Davis’ helmet during 11-on-11 drills.
Although Wannstedt said Stull’s thumb is “nothing serious, nothing broken,” it forced Andrew Janocko to handle quarterback duties for the remainder of practice.
“Billy hit his thumb today, so he had to go out, and we were down to one freshman, walk-on quarterback,” Wannstedt said. “That’s not fair to the rest of our football team. Thank goodness we’re about done with that.”
Wannstedt said Stull will “be back,” but it can’t come fast enough with Pat Bostick home in Lancaster dealing with “personal issues.” Bostick is expected to return to camp this weekend.
In the meantime, the Panthers have only two scholarship quarterbacks in practice (redshirt freshman Kevan Smith is the other), forcing Janocko and fellow freshman walk-on Spencer Whipple to take a lot of snaps.
The timing couldn’t have been worse for Stull, who was actually throwing the ball as well as he had all camp. His first pass of the day was a deep completion to Cedric McGee – who ran with the first team – along the left sideline with Kennard Cox in coverage.
Stull also rifled a completion to tight end Nate Byham that seemed to fire up the quarterback. He celebrated the play and clapped his hands as the drill broke. Stull also connected with Byham over the middle for a 30-yard gain.
Stull did throw one interception and nearly had two others picked off. Linebacker Adam Gunn intercepted one, but it came after the whistle when Stull was tagged by defensive end Joe Clermond. Another pass was dropped by corner Ricky Gary in midfield.
On the play where Stull hurt his thumb, the ball was intended for McGee but was tipped by corner Aaron Berry and landed in the hands of safety Mike Phillips.
Conor Lee continues to look solid in the kicking game, despite Pitt putting him in “game-time situations.” He made a 35-yarder from the middle and a 45-yarder from the left hash but missed a 31-yarder wide left. Lee also made a 27-yarder after Wannstedt demanded a sense of “urgency.”
The highlight, however, came at Lee’s expense when Aaron Berry slipped past Nate Byham and Jeff Otah and blocked a 37-yard attempt. It was recovered by Cox, who enthusiastically returned it for a touchdown.
Wannstedt praised the offensive linemen for their play in individual drills, mentioning left tackle Jeff Otah, left guard C.J. Davis, center Chris Vangas and right tackle Jason Pinkston and specifically pointing out right guard Joe Thomas, who struggled during spring drills.
“Joe Thomas has come back with a renewed sense of urgency,” Wannstedt said. “I was very pleased with the offensive line. We just need them to come together as a group. That will take a little time.”
With 17 defensive linemen on scholarship, Wannstedt had predicted players would be switched to the offensive line during training camp. The first move came Friday when redshirt freshman Jared Martin, who missed most of spring drills with a shoulder injury, donned a white jersey.
• Four prospects attended Pitt’s morning practice: Shady Side Academy senior offensive lineman Mike Farrell; Central Catholic sophomores Dom Timbers, a tailback, and Jeff Knox, a safety; and Johnstown junior lineman David Istanich.
Aliquippa receiver Jonathan Baldwin and Thomas Jefferson offensive tackle Lucas Nix and tight end Brock DeCicco are expected to attend the afternoon session.
Wannstedt also ripped the NCAA for forcing teams to practice without any pads for the first two days and without full pads until Saturday, when the Panthers practice only once, from 2:15 until 4:45 p.m.
“To try to have our kids practice with no pads, not even a shell on, is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” Wannstedt said. “The kids, they don’t know. You say practice, but with nothing to protect them, it’s not a very smart rule.”