A practice report from the Trib’s John Grupp:
· Heavy rainstorms over the South Side forced Wednesday’s afternoon helmet-and-shoulder pads practice inside. The Panthers were shorthanded, with 12 players sidelined with various bumps and bruises.
Among the players not in action: defensive end Jabaal Sheard, defensive tackle Mick Williams, tight ends Nate Byham and Dorin Dickerson, tailback Jason Douglas, defensive end Shayne Hale, offensive lineman Lucas Nix and wide receiver Mike Shanahan. Linebacker Tristan Roberts was forced out of practice early with a shoulder injury.
“Hopefully,” Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said, “it’s not serious.”
· Wannstedt switched around the schedule today to allow the Panthers – one day after a live scrimmage – to sleep in a bit. “I gave them breakfast off,” Wannstedt said. “Rest is the thing that we needed most.” The freshman got a change of scenery when they boarded a bus and headed to lunch at nearby Dave & Buster’s in The Waterfront in Homestead.
“Hopefully, that helps their mental state a little bit,” Wannstedt said.
· After watching tape of Tuesday’s scrimmage, Wannstedt said junior safety Dom DeCicco, senior lineman Gus Mustakas and offensive lineman Jason Pinkston were among the standouts.
· None of the three quarterbacks looked overly sharp, as the defense once again played well. Here are some samples.
· Bill Stull overthrew Aundre Wright on one pass along the sideline and under threw Aaron Smith on a 15-yard out.
Tino Sunseri rolled out and connected with Wright on a nice crossing pattern, but had a pass knocked down by a blitzing Shane Murray and was intercepted by Ricky Gary during 7-on-7 drills.
Pat Bostick’s pass intended for Devin Street was broken up on a nice play by redshirt freshman Jeremiah Davis, and the junior quarterback was sacked by Gus Mustakas when he was slow moving out of the pocket.
· The Pitt linebackers surely had some jammed fingers and sore hands after their interception drill. Former Panther quarterback Rod Rutherford, a first-year graduate defensive assistant, was firing left-handed lasers from about 10 yards during the drill. The linebackers dropped back and then reversed field to catch Rutherford’s offering. Adam Gunn and Shane Murray were among those who, somehow, managed to hold on to the passes. More frequently, Rutherford’s rockets whizzed through the hands or bounced off the chest of the grimacing linebacker. For sure, in the real games, it will be easy. They will not face any harder-thrown balls all year.
· The Panthers devoted much of the first hour of the three-hour practice to special teams work. Freshman kicker Kevin Harper, among the candidates to replace Conor Lee, hit a 53-yard field goal with room to spare. Aaron Berry blocked two field goal attempts.
· Junior tackle Jason Pinkston got the best of defensive end Greg Romeus during the daily pass rush/dummy drill. But one of defensive line coach Greg Gattuso’s guys got the upper-hand a couple plays later, as Justin Hargrove toyed with redshirt freshman Ryan Turnley on the way to the six-foot dummy quarterback.
· Jonathan Baldwin dropped an easy pass across the middle during passing drills, but then made a twisting catch along the sideline on a deep route, turning around and catching the ball one-handed like a snow cone with his right hand.
· The practice ended with a spirited drill in which the offense had one chance to convert a fourth-and-5. The reward? No up-down drills. Stull, under duress, threw the ball toward the sideline, where Baldwin outjumped Berry for the catch. But the play wasn’t a first down and, while the defense celebrated, the guys in white did some up-and-downs.