The end of training camp is near, and the Panthers have to welcome the idea of getting into a regular routine. Their last morning practice was in shoulder pads and shells, and a handful of starters sat out to nurse minor injuries.
Right tackle Jason Pinkston, left tackle Jeff Otah, tight end Darrell Strong and defensive ends Joe Clermond, Chris McKillop and Greg Romeus were the prominent players sidelined, although none appears to have a serious injury.
That caused a shakeup in the first- and second-team units. The starting lineup included Chase Clowser at left tackle, John Bachman at right tackle and Jabaal Sheard and Ty Tkach at the defensive ends. Another minor move was Rashaad Duncan running with the ones at nose tackle.
The second stringers had freshman Jordan Gibbs and walk-on Frank Kochin at tackle, with freshmen Justin Hargrove and Tony Tucker at end.
The only other significant lineup note is that Dan Loheyde has been taking plenty of reps at middle linebacker ahead of Steve Dell – although both are coming off knee injuries – and Jemeel Brady is slightly ahead of Nate Nix at weak-side linebacker.
• There isn’t much to report from team drills, although a few plays stood out in terms of sheer athleticism:
• Strong-side linebacker Dorin Dickerson is developing into a dangerous pass rusher. He blitzed off the edge, using a double move to blow past left guard C.J. Davis for a sack.
• Quarterback Bill Stull picked up a safety blitz by Eric Thatcher, listened for center Chris Vangas’ calls and threw a picture-perfect deep ball down the right sideline to Cedric McGee, who made a diving catch between cornerback Aaron Berry and safety Mike Phillips for a 40-yard gain.
• On the next play, backup Kevan Smith rifled a 30-yard pass over the middle to tight end Nate Byham.
• Pitt ended practice (and perhaps started preparation for its Sept. 1 opener against Eastern Michigan) by working on the victory formation – the quarterback takes a knee – as offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh counted down.