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Inside the Ropes with Pitt football – Day 10 morning practice

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More bad news came for the Panthers today, as freshman receiver/return specialist Cameron Saddler learned that he has a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that will require surgery.

The 5-foot-7, 175-pound Saddler had impressed coaches with his play in the first week of training camp was expected to compete for playing time this season, especially on kick and punt returns.

Instead, Saddler faces a six- to nine-month rehabilitation.

The injury has become commonplace in football, but what makes Saddler’s hard to swallow is that, like Derek Kinder’s last year, he did it without making contact. A punt skipped past him, and when he turned to retrieve it his left foot remained planted while his left knee twisted.

The immediate swelling was a giveaway that Saddler was likely done for the season, and an MRI Wednesday night revealed the nature of the injury. The former Gateway High School star spent yesterday’s practice on crutches and wearing a bulky knee brace.

Saddler is the second Pitt player to be lost for the season to knee surgery, as redshirt junior defensive end Doug Fulmer tore ligaments in his left knee Sunday.

* Although Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt was steadfast in saying he won’t lighten up their camp to prevent injuries, the Panthers are taking preventive measures to protect some players. LaRod Stephens-Howling, for example, has ceded second-team reps to Shariff Harris and Chris Burns some days.

* After banging their shoulders Wednesday, tight end Nate Byham and weak-side linebacker Shane Murray returned to practice this morning.

Receiver Cedric McGee, however, injured his left ankle in practice and had to be carted off. McGee made a nice one-handed catch during drills.

* A half-dozen others spent time on the stationary bikes or pulling a weighted sled, including tailback Kevin Collier, safety Irv Brown, tackle Ryan Turnley, cornerback Buddy Jackson and tight end John Pelusi.

* Josh Marks, the former Southern Columbia star who left the Penn State team last week, watched practice from the sidelines for the second time in a week. He has been released from his scholarship at Penn State and appears set to transfer to Pitt, although nothing is official.

I’ve heard through the grapevine that Marks was making nice progress but apparently couldn’t get out of Joe Paterno’s doghouse despite being on the second-team at right guard (behind Central Catholic graduate Stefen Wisniewski) as a redshirt freshman.

* LeSean McCoy has been impressive on a daily basis. But the sophomore had an up-and-down day that will likely secure his place in the backfield – just not as a passer. On one play, he took a toss right and set up to throw cross-field to Derek Kinder before defensive tackle Rashaad Duncan blew up the play. McCoy later took another toss right and threw a wobbly pass downfield that was intercepted by cornerback Aaron Berry.

McCoy had a couple of spectacular runs, though.

He took a toss right and followed a big block by Byham, who pancaked end Jabaal Sheard so hard that it left Sheard wobbly walking back to the huddle. And McCoy also ran 30 yards for a touchdown when strong-side linebacker Adam Gunn shot the wrong gap. McCoy ended the day by pushing the pile for a touchdown in a short-yardage situation drill.

* Pitt practices again from 3-5:30 p.m.

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