After its Wednesday morning practice, Pitt head coach Paul Chryst addressed two big storylines, aside from the Wednesday practice itself.
His first item, was announcing that Todd Thomas was back on the team. Thomas left the team last Tuesday, the opening day of training camp. On day one of camp, it was redshirt freshman Mike Caprara on the first team and not Thomas.
Prior to that, while Thomas has been a productive player in his career, he's also proven to overcome a number of obstacles. Initially signed in the class of 2009, Thomas was forced to spend the 2009 season at Milford Academy. He signed with Pitt's 2010 class, but suffered a knee injury four weeks in to the regular season. After redshirting in 2010, Thomas played in 10 games in 2011, starting six as a redshirt freshman. He later revealed that he suffered a knee injury in the South Florida game that season--September 29. He played through that injury, which was later revealed as another tear in that same left knee.
This past spring the first spring he was able to take part in. With his health in order, he was poised to make an impact this year. He still has a chance to make an impact. However, after missing a week, it might delay when he'll get back to the field.
"I like Todd Thomas," Chryst said after that first day. "He's obviously played for us. With all the linebackers, we'll start with six and then find the best three, and he'll certainly be in the mix. And you guys know Todd — you love the energy and the competitiveness he brings. A lot of players respond to Todd, and that's all good stuff."
"I guess that's how the cookie crumbles, and I have to go out there and work hard every day," Thomas said, in his last comments before initially leaving the team. "I'm happy, I'm 100 percent, I'm ready to roll. I'm going to study hard, and learn my role."
Thomas broke up three passes in that first practice. He met with Chryst after last Tuesday's practice and decided to leave the team. At the time, neither Chryst or Thomas said he was transferring anywhere, nor did either say if he was taking a leave of absence.
Thomas was in uniform today, but without pads, therefore not practicing. Chryst didn't say when Thomas would return to the field, or what his plan was going to be. He did say that since Thomas left the team, the two have talked every day since then.
"You guys may have noticed that Todd Thomas was back today," Chryst said. "I was able to talk to Todd every day. We had continued discussions. He's back on the team. That's all I'm going to talk about, there."
In the same breath, Chryst announced that Tom Savage would be the starting quarterback. Savage spent two years at Rutgers, starting as a freshman in 2009. He threw for 2,211 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 11 starts. He started four games in 2010, before eventually losing out to then freshman Chas Dodd.
Savage then transferred to Arizona, where he was set to be the heir apparent to Nick Foles, now of the Philadelphia Eagles. After the coaching change there, Savage decided to leave Arizona. He entered the Pitt program last summer as a walk-on.
"We like what he has done to this point," Chryst said. "Right now he gives us the best chance for our team to win. I think he got familiar (with the offense) last year. He got a lot of reps in spring."
Savage--having already been named a starter once in his career--accepted today's news cautiously, knowing that he'll be pushed by redshirt freshman Chad Voytik, just as he has to this point.
"I was obviously excited, but I'd be a fool to take it any more than that, especially what's happened in the past," Savage said. "I can't get complacent. It's a privilege, but I have to continue to improve.
"(Being named a starter) doesn't (change anything). Every day is a competition whether it's someone else or yourself. I just have to go out and play."
Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph added that the competition will go on, in a sense, with the hope of continuing to develop both quarterbacks.
"You always want competition; that's what makes teams better, and that's what makes players better," Rudolph said. "The competition will continue. We know going forward who the starter is going to be, but it won't change anything. The next guy still has to be ready.
"I don't think Chad will miss a beat in his approach. I think Chad is Gung-Ho in his approach. He's wired in to just competing, and he enjoys that. You can bet he'll continue to put pressure on himself, and I don't expect him to relax one bit."