It's been a long seven months for Pitt fans, following two coaching searches and an extended postseason that carried over into the first week of January.
Finally, Pitt fans have a new season to look forward to following the aftermath of events that occurred following Pitt's last regular season game in Cincinnati. The 2011 starts, sort of, with Pitt's annual media day.
While the first game is still a little over three weeks away, here's a little of what to expect starting with today's media day.
- Typically in years past, Media Day has been a press conference with the head coach, followed by open access to all players with photo opportunities. If you need any proof of the pace at which Todd Graham wants this program to revolve around, he's starting things with a freshmen and first-year practice for the morning. There will be opportunity for photos of the new players in action in their first practice of the 2011 season.
- Following that opening practice, Graham will hold his first press conference for media day. Interestingly, since being hired, Graham has met with the media several times prior to spring practice, and at least twice since spring practice ended. How much more can we hear the words "high-octane" and "fast-tempo" before actually seeing some results?
There's no question that some of the things that Graham will address here will be what players have impressed him the most during the summer months. After his first month on the job, he commented that a couple senior offensive linemen impressed him early in winter conditioning—Chris Jacobson, Jordan Gibbs. Will those be the two names he mentions again, or will there be others?
Position changes—one of the greatest attributes of Media Day. Since Graham came on board, Jacobson has moved to center, Ryan Turnley has moved to center, Brandon Lindsey had moved to Panther, as have Bryan Murphy and Shayne Hale. There was some talk about Lindsey possibly playing both the Panther and staying at the down position late in the spring. Will Lindsey stay at Panther, play both, or did Murphy make enough of a case in the spring to claim that Panther spot?
Are there any other players that have left the program? Dion Lewis and Henry Hynoski declared early for the NFL, while underclassmen Kolby Gray and Dan Schneider have also chosen to move on. According to the official roster, everyone else is back, but Media Day is where it is announced that others have moved on.
Without question, one of the biggest questions on everyone's minds is the health of sophomore linebacker Dan Mason. We've seen Mason a couple of times since the end of the regular season. He was performing agility drills at the end of spring practice. Is he healthy enough to handle full contact? This will be one thing—and has been one thing since he was injured—that Panther fans are hoping to hear some good news on.
Following Graham's session with the media, players and assistant coaches will be available for photos and interviews. This is usually the opportunity to see who passes the look test, in terms of who has trimmed down or bulked up.
Typically, in years past, this is where Media Day ends. However, Pitt will hold the first of five night practices for this training camp. For this first night practice, this will be our first look at the returning veterans. It might be tough for the first two days since the team will not be in full pads. However, it is our first look at the team since spring.
What to expect from Panther Digest? A brief recap of the freshmen practice, as soon as it's over tomorrow. There will also be video from Graham's press conference later in the afternoon, with a possible full transcript (if the technology Gods cooperate). We also hope to have some photos available for viewing later on Monday afternoon. Then, we'll wrap it up with a recap of the returning veteran's practice later Monday night.
It's a new coaching staff, and a new routine to figure out, but we expect to provide the same full coverage of training camp. Sit back, relax, and get your countdown on towards the start of the regular season. However, instead of waiting for September 3, enjoy the next couple of weeks of training camp coverage. This time of year is what always makes it worth it being a college football fan.