I got a day off, so here’s a practice report from John Grupp, the Trib’s esteemed Pitt men’s basketball and horse racing writer:
There was a big scare during Monday’s practice when quarterback Bill Stull went down during 11-on-11 drills, but the redshirt junior was only sidelined for a handful of plays.
During a botched pass play, junior right tackle Joe Thomas was pushed into Stull by defensive end Jabaal Sheard. Stull fell to the ground and began pounding his fist into the turf at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex facility while in obvious discomfort.
Stull walked off the field in his own power, got a quick check-up from team trainers and returned about 10 minutes later to run the first-team offense.
“Billy is a tough guy,” Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. “He’s a street guy. He wants to play.”
Wannstedt said Stull, who suffered a season-ending thumb injury in the opener against Eastern Michigan last year, had been hit in the ribs earlier in practice and re-aggravated the injury.
“I think he may even have hit himself,” Wannstedt said.
Pitt quarterbacks typically don’t wear the red “do-not-touch” jerseys at practice – defenders know they are off-limits – and Wannstedt said there are no plans to change. He wants his defensive linemen firing aggressively off the ball.
“We’re not live on the quarterbacks,” Wannstedt said. “We’re not hitting the quarterbacks. But we are going to rush the passer.”
And rush they did. It was part of a day-long trend in which Pitt’s first-team defense got the best of the Panthers’ offensive line. The right side of the d-line, tackle Mick Williams and end Greg Romeus, was especially dominant.
• On the first play without Stull, sophomore quarterback Pat Bostick fumbled the snap from center.
• With Jason Pinkston moving to left tackle, the job for the starting right tackle remains contentious, with junior converted guard Joe Thomas, freshman Lucas Nix and fifth-year senior Chase Clowser getting looks.
“(Right tackle) is wide-open right now,” Wannstedt said. “Am I concerned? Yeah. I’m concerned with the whole group. But I’m confident at the same time that three weeks from now we will have somebody in there that will get the job done.”
• Wannstedt called it the best day of practice since workouts began last Tuesday. Pitt will hold its first scrimmage today from 3-5:30 p.m. Wannstedt said each player will get about 25 plays.
“I was very pleased today,” he said. “It was a heck of a practice today, from start to finish. The reason: our guys showed up today and practiced hard and with a lot of enthusiasm.”
Here are some of the highlights:
• Receiver Derek Kinder can throw touchdown passes, too.
The senior, coming back from last year’s torn ACL, connected with a wide-open Oderick Turner for a long touchdown on an end-around. (Gorman note: It’s not a first. If you recall, Kinder threw a 21-yard TD pass to Turner against Louisville in 2006).
• Junior wide receiver Cedric McGee also had an outstanding practice, looking very sharp in pass drills.
• Senior nose tackle Rashaad Duncan terrorized offensive linemen during the 5-on-5 rush drills. On one play, the 6-foot-2, 295-pound Duncan enervated senior guard C.J. Davis on the way to the tackling dummy.
• Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Myles Caragein continued to be virtually unstoppable during the rush drills. In the 11-on-11, the Keystone Oaks High School product stuffed tailback Kevin Collier behind the line of scrimmage, while freshman Tony Tucker swooped in to force a fumble.
• Redshirt junior defensive end Doug Fulmer (knee) missed another practice Monday. Fulmer, who missed last year with a right knee injury, twisted his left knee at Sunday’s practice.
Redshirt freshman cornerback Buddy Jackson (hamstring) and tailback LaRod Stephens-Howling were limited.
• Strong-side linebacker Adam Gunn intercepted a tipped Stull pass during live action. It was a rare training-camp sight.
According to Wannstedt, Stull had thrown 115 passes in training camp entering Monday’s practice and been intercepted once. The junior was completing close to 70 percent of his passes.
• That said, is the starting job locked up for Stull?
Not quite yet.
Wannstedt indicated that Bostick, who started the final eight games last year, is still in the mix.
“Right now, it would be between those two,” Wannstedt said. “I think they have separated themselves from the rest.”
• That means Bostick has pulled ahead of redshirt sophomore Kevan Smith, who started three games last fall, junior-college transfer Greg Cross and freshman Tino Sunseri in the QB derby.
But does it mean Bostick won’t redshirt this season?
“I’m sure that would be option, but the biggest concern I’ve got right now is what gives this football team the best chance to win,” Wannstedt said. “It’s a long season. We’re still just in the first week of camp. I really haven’t given that any serious consideration.”
• There has been much talk about freshman Jarred Holley competing for a spot on the two-deep at cornerback, but Wannstedt said that redshirt sophomore Ricky Gary is the third corner.
“Ricky is playing very good,” Wannstedt said. “Last year he started the first three games and played good and then got hurt and kind of got out of the mix. But he’s back and he’s stronger and he’s off to a good start.”
Jackson, who was expected to contend with junior Jovani Chappel for the starting boundary corner job, hasn’t helped himself by missing back-to-back practices.