Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt appeared relieved that the Panthers were ending split-squad practices in only shoulder pads and looked forward to going live on Saturday.
For that reason, Friday’s afternoon session had a more relaxed atmosphere and produced a smooth practice that saw quarterback Kevan Smith perform at his best this week and an interesting position switch.
If Maurice Williams looked out of place while participating in quarterback drills, it wasn’t just because he was wearing No. 84. Williams played it at Erie Strong Vincent, but was recruited as a receiver/defensive back.
Yet Williams and Bishop Canevin walk-on Dan Gustine worked out with the QBs, as did Smith and walk-ons Steve Malinchak and Spencer Whipple. Williams had little trouble in footwork drills, but his accuracy was inconsistent. Williams also saw time at receiver, turning a screen pass from Smith into a 55-yard touchdown.
Even so, it adds intrigue to a position that is quickly becoming an area of concern as far as depth issues. Starter Bill Stull banged his right thumb off a helmet, Smith is inexperienced and freshman Pat Bostick still hasn’t returned to camp yet.
Bostick, by the way, is expected to return to Pitt training camp early next week, Sunday at the earliest.
Smith was sharp in passing drills, especially 11-on-11 play. He drilled a pass to Austin Ransom over the middle in traffic. He also tossed two other touchdown passes, to tight ends Darrell Strong and Dustin Walters.
Even if the Panthers don’t have much depth at quarterback – at least with scholarship players – Wannstedt gave Stull and Smith a vote of confidence.
“Kevan was better today,” Wannstedt said. “Two weeks from now, I expect to feel very comfortable with Bill Stull and very comfortable with Kevan Smith. I don’t expect them to be what Tyler Palko was last year, but I do expect that Billy, for sure, will be there and he’ll be able to run the offense and go out and win games for us. I don’t have any doubt about that. But we need to get better and better every day. We have a lot of work to do.”
Other highlights included defensive tackle Craig Bokor beating Purdue transfer Jason Kacinko, who has to sit out this season, to sack Smith; defensive tackle Mick Williams making several stops at the line of scrimmage; and freshman tailback Shariff Harris scoring on a 15-yard run.
“I really thought that Shariff Harris did some good things today,” Wannstedt said. “He got a lot more opportunities today in practice and I really thought he did a heck of a job. He’s got more explosion, and he’s strong. He’s a big back who can run. The big thing is, as with most of these freshmen, he just needs to learn what to do.”
= LeSean McCoy, who twisted his ankle in practice Thursday, did not participate in the afternoon session but was walking without discomfort and is expected to practice Saturday when the Panthers put on full pads.
Aliquippa wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin, celebrating his 18th birthday, stopped by practice and received royal treatment from the Panthers. Stull, receiver Derek Kinder and tight end Nate Byham spent time with him on the sideline, making it clear that the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Baldwin is a top recruiting target.