After scrimmaging Saturday, the Panthers conducted a light practice in only helmets and shells, which allowed them to contemplate a major move on the offensive line.
Mike McGlynn made his debut by lining up at center with the second-team offense during a two-minute drill. It was a long-awaited position switch for the fifth-year senior, who has started 31 consecutive games at right tackle but appears to have lost that job to sophomore Jason Pinkston.
McGlynn hasn’t participated in full-contact drills while recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum, but is expected to find a starting spot somewhere in the front five once he returns. The most likely destination is at center, where fifth-year senior Chris Vangas is the only contender with experience but has struggled in pass protection.
Not that it’s a done deal.
McGlynn also took reps at left guard and right tackle, and the Panthers could elect to shake up their starting rotation. Or they could be preparing to ease McGlynn in as a reserve and serve notice that no starting jobs are safe.
• Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt found the Panthers’ second scrimmage to be better than their first, and emphasized the need to eliminate errors.
He wasn’t specific, but it’s fair to say that now that the Panthers have resolved the center-quarterback exchange issue, Wannstedt wants them to minimize snap-count penalties and turnovers for Wednesday’s scrimmage.
“We still have a few mental mistakes that we need to clean up,” Wannstedt said. “There is that fine line between how much we are trying to do on offense and defense and how much the players can handle.”
It’s fair to say that the second week of Pitt’s training camp went much smoother than the first, and Wannstedt is pleased with the progress. The players are taking a serious approach to the season, fighting through bumps and bruises and making practices more productive.
Wannstedt also noted that the less time the coaching staff has to concentrate on correcting mistakes, the more time it can spend on toying with potential lineups.
He mentioned finding places where receiver T.J. Porter can fit, wondered what LaRod Stephens-Howling can do at tailback compared to LeSean McCoy and where fullback Conredge Collins fit into the offense.
“If we can clean up the little things, we will be ready to go,” Wannstedt said. “I like our attitude because I really have not had to jump-start these guys. They have come out ready to practice and work.”
• Wannstedt said the coaching staff will wait until after Wednesday’s final scrimmage to set the depth chart, and one of his greatest areas of concern is at outside linebacker.
Adam Gunn and Shane Murray flanked middle linebacker Scott McKillop again today with the first-team defense. It’s just a matter of time before Dorin Dickerson moves into the starting lineup, and Jemeel Brady and Nate Nix are pushing Murray on the weak side.
“We have a good group of guys there, but we are still trying to work through things,” Wannstedt said. “The difficult is finding the right combinations.”
• Wannstedt also noted four true freshman as potential contributors this season, based on their play in the second scrimmage: McCoy, free safety Dom DeCicco, defensive end Jabaal Sheard and receiver Aundre Wright.
“There are a few guys that made plays yesterday that have a chance to help us in some capacity this season.”
• A week after first-team All-Big East selection Derek Kinder was lost for the season with a torn ACL, the receiving corps appears to be solid if not spectacular.
Oderick Turner appears to be in position to start at split end, while Marcel Pestano and T.J. Porter are the frontrunners to replace Kinder at flanker. Wannstedt, however, also is quick to credit Cedric McGee.
We’ve got enough talent here to have a very good receiving corps,” Wannstedt said. “Marcel Pestano has matured so much. Two years ago, he was a guy I didn’t think could make it. He has done a great job for us. Oderick Turner and T.J. Porter have had good camps. Cedric McGee is a young guy no one talks about (but should).
“Then you throw in the two young kids.”
While Wannstedt was referring to Wright and fellow freshman Maurice Williams, we shouldn’t forget about another newcomer. Aaron Smith has looked very comfortable in his return to receiver, especially in making difficult catches and staying inbounds on the sidelines.
• Wannstedt, by the way, did mention Smith as a candidate to return punts: “He has great hands back there.”
Most likely, that job will go to cornerback Aaron Berry or Porter. Personally, I’d be apprehensive to put my top cover corner in such a dangerous position with little proven depth behind him, but Wannstedt is happy with the play of backup corners Lowell Robinson and Ricky Gary.
• Speaking of the kicking game, Wannstedt said he feels “good” about Pitt’s special teams. Punter Dave Brytus showed signs of improvement, and kicker Conor Lee’s 1-for-3 showing on field goals doesn’t have Wannstedt worried. Lucas Stone is the likely holder.
When the Panthers practiced covering kicks, Porter and Robinson were deep on returns. Other possibilities include Kevin Collier and Stephens-Howling, Wright and Williams or Buddy Jackson and McCoy.
• Sophomore John Malecki was at nose tackle with the first-team defense, perhaps as a reward for his diving interception in the scrimmage.
Malecki and junior Rashaad Duncan have take turns lining up with the starters, and it’s a competition that likely won’t be determined until the end of training camp.
During the two-minute drill, Mick Williams also ran with the first team at defensive tackle.
• McGlynn wasn’t the only lineup change with the first-team offense during the two-minute drill. Chase Clowser was at left tackle and John Bachman at left guard, presumably to give starters Jeff Otah and C.J. Davis a rest.
• Quarterback Bill Stull ran the drill efficiently and threw a touchdown pass on a fade in the left corner, where Turner jumped over corner Kennard Cox to make the catch.
• Jordan Gibbs lined up at left tackle with the second team, which was run by freshman QB Pat Bostick, who had a pass intended for Wright on the left sideline intercepted by DeCicco.
• Tight end Darrell Strong, who might be used more as a receiver this season, made several nice catches. The best was a leaping grab over the middle in the two-minute drill.