Notebook: Spring Practice #1

News and notes from Pitt's first practice of the spring, and the first live work under new head coach Pat Narduzzi.

Fresh off a return from spring break, the Panthers opened up their first spring practice Sunday in the South Side. The team was indoors due to some chilly weather.

The team participated in positional drills before moving into 7-on-7's and team work.

"Day one was a good day," Narduzzi said. "We will keep stacking them one on another and keep getting better."

One interesting development came from Narduzzi's disclosure that he did watch a single one of Pitt's games from last year as he was asked about the differences between his new system and the one from last year. Not that it really matters.

"It is a fresh slate," Narduzzi said. "It doesn't matter what happened before. It is about where we are now."

--Pitt's offense is set at nearly every position as it enters spring work as the program returns eight of 11 starters on that side of the ball. But there is a major question mark on the right side of the offensive line which lost all-league performers in guard Matt Rotheram (All-ACC Third Team) and tackle T.J. Clemmings (All-ACC First Team).

In the group featuring a likely starting unit, redshirt freshman Alex Bookser lined up at right guard and Jaryd Jones-Smith took reps at right tackle.

Bookser was a 4-star recruit out of Mount Lebanon in 2014 and will likely face competition in the fall from fellow redshirt freshman Mike Grimm, also a 4-star pickup from Bethel Park.

Jones-Smith's inclusion on the early version of a "starting" unit comes as no surprise. He started three games at right tackle last season and was essentially the line's "Sixth Man" of sorts last season, filling at multiple positions.

Of note, Alex Officer and long snapper David Murphy took reps at the center position while Artie Rowell continues his recovery from a torn ACL.

--During work on drills featuring delayed hand-offs, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney had to tell James Conner to slow down a few times. Not that it's a bad thing, nor a problem Chaney minds having.

Rather, Chaney is looking for his backfield to develop a few technical skills to help find a "rhythm" in the running game.

"James wants to go downhill fast and some of the plays are delayed and deliberate and take a little more time," Chaney said. "He’ll get those figured out, he’s really committed to being a good football player and I’m glad he’s with us."

The rest of the ACC is unlikely to share his sentiment.

--Unlike the offense, Pitt's defense doesn't quite know who its main contributors will be this season. The unit lost four starters, including three of its four leading tacklers in safety Ray Vinopal (68 tackles) and linebackers Todd Thomas (73) and Anthony Gonzalez(team-high 81).

But the defensive line returns three of four starters and will help lay the foundation for Josh Conklin's defense. Darryl Render and Khaynin Mosley-Smith anchor the front four at tackle while Shakir Soto returns after starting every game in 2014.

The impact of this group could be amplified, though, depending on what the Panthers receive from redshirt senior end Ejuan Price. Price has played just six games in the last three seasons and was sidelined for all of 2014 after sustaining a torn left pectoralis muscle in his chest in the preseason.

When healthy, Price has shown he can play. He posted 23 tackles and four for loss in four games before his 2013 season was cut short by a back injury. He played in all 13 games his freshman year at linebacker and recorded 27 tackles and four sacks.

In turn, the priority of Price's new head coach is a simple one.

"We are going to keep him healthy," Narduzzi said. "We have been pretty successful at keeping guys healthy so I don't expect him to miss a snap next year."

Narduzzi's defensive schemes rely on pressure generated by the defensive line, an ability Price has showed in the past.

"If I’m on the field I know I can contribute," Price said. "I’ve just tried to stay motivated, that was the hardest thing sitting out basically two years in a row."

Today, the opportunity ahead of Price isn't what motivates him as the Panthers move into a new season. Motivation is no longer an issue for him as he's out playing with his teammates again.

"My guys motivate me because I love my team," Price said. "As long as they’re doing it and I’m in it with them I just feel like we’re doing it together so they motivate me and I motivate them right back."

Practice Highlights

Pat Narduzzi

Chad Voytik

Ejuan Price

Lafayette Pitts


Panther More Top Stories

Follow @PantherDigest\r\n\r\n

Fresh off a return from spring break, the Panthers opened up their first spring practice Sunday in the South Side. The team was indoors due to some chilly weather.

\r\n

The team participated in positional drills before moving into 7-on-7's and team work.

\r\n

\"Day one was a good day,\" Narduzzi said. \"We will keep stacking them one on another and keep getting better.\"

\r\n

One interesting development came from Narduzzi's disclosure that he did watch a single one of Pitt's games from last year as he was asked about the differences between his new system and the one from last year. Not that it really matters.

\r\n

\"It is a fresh slate,\" Narduzzi said. \"It doesn't matter what happened before. It is about where we are now.\"

\r\n

--Pitt's offense is set at nearly every position as it enters spring work as the program returns eight of 11 starters on that side of the ball. But there is a major question mark on the right side of the offensive line which lost all-league performers in guard Matt Rotheram (All-ACC Third Team) and tackle T.J. Clemmings (All-ACC First Team).

\r\n

In the group featuring a likely starting unit, redshirt freshman Alex Bookser lined up at right guard and Jaryd Jones-Smith took reps at right tackle.

\r\n

Bookser was a 4-star recruit out of Mount Lebanon in 2014 and will likely face competition in the fall from fellow redshirt freshman Mike Grimm, also a 4-star pickup from Bethel Park.

\r\n

Jones-Smith's inclusion on the early version of a \"starting\" unit comes as no surprise. He started three games at right tackle last season and was essentially the line's \"Sixth Man\" of sorts last season, filling at multiple positions.

\r\n

Of note, Alex Officer and long snapper David Murphy took reps at the center position while Artie Rowell continues his recovery from a torn ACL.

\r\n

--During work on drills featuring delayed hand-offs, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney had to tell James Conner to slow down a few times. Not that it's a bad thing, nor a problem Chaney minds having.

\r\n

Rather, Chaney is looking for his backfield to develop a few technical skills to help find a \"rhythm\" in the running game.

\r\n

\"James wants to go downhill fast and some of the plays are delayed and deliberate and take a little more time,\" Chaney said. \"He’ll get those figured out, he’s really committed to being a good football player and I’m glad he’s with us.\"

\r\n

The rest of the ACC is unlikely to share his sentiment.

\r\n

--Unlike the offense, Pitt's defense doesn't quite know who its main contributors will be this season. The unit lost four starters, including three of its four leading tacklers in safety Ray Vinopal (68 tackles) and linebackers Todd Thomas (73) and Anthony Gonzalez(team-high 81).

\r\n

But the defensive line returns three of four starters and will help lay the foundation for Josh Conklin's defense. Darryl Render and Khaynin Mosley-Smith anchor the front four at tackle while Shakir Soto returns after starting every game in 2014.

\r\n

The impact of this group could be amplified, though, depending on what the Panthers receive from redshirt senior end Ejuan Price. Price has played just six games in the last three seasons and was sidelined for all of 2014 after sustaining a torn left pectoralis muscle in his chest in the preseason.

\r\n

When healthy, Price has shown he can play. He posted 23 tackles and four for loss in four games before his 2013 season was cut short by a back injury. He played in all 13 games his freshman year at linebacker and recorded 27 tackles and four sacks.

\r\n

In turn, the priority of Price's new head coach is a simple one.

\r\n

\"We are going to keep him healthy,\" Narduzzi said. \"We have been pretty successful at keeping guys healthy so I don't expect him to miss a snap next year.\"

\r\n

Narduzzi's defensive schemes rely on pressure generated by the defensive line, an ability Price has showed in the past.

\r\n

\"If I’m on the field I know I can contribute,\" Price said. \"I’ve just tried to stay motivated, that was the hardest thing sitting out basically two years in a row.\"

\r\n

Today, the opportunity ahead of Price isn't what motivates him as the Panthers move into a new season. Motivation is no longer an issue for him as he's out playing with his teammates again.

\r\n

\"My guys motivate me because I love my team,\" Price said. \"As long as they’re doing it and I’m in it with them I just feel like we’re doing it together so they motivate me and I motivate them right back.\"

\r\n

Practice Highlights

\r\n

Pat Narduzzi

\r\n

Chad Voytik

\r\n

Ejuan Price

\r\n

Lafayette Pitts

","mobileBody":"Follow @NateBarnes_ Follow @PantherDigest

Fresh off a return from spring break, the Panthers opened up their first spring practice Sunday in the South Side. The team was indoors due to some chilly weather.

The team participated in positional drills before moving into 7-on-7's and team work.

\"Day one was a good day,\" Narduzzi said. \"We will keep stacking them one on another and keep getting better.\"

One interesting development came from Narduzzi's disclosure that he did watch a single one of Pitt's games from last year as he was asked about the differences between his new system and the one from last year. Not that it really matters.

\"It is a fresh slate,\" Narduzzi said. \"It doesn't matter what happened before. It is about where we are now.\"

--Pitt's offense is set at nearly every position as it enters spring work as the program returns eight of 11 starters on that side of the ball. But there is a major question mark on the right side of the offensive line which lost all-league performers in guard Matt Rotheram (All-ACC Third Team) and tackle T.J. Clemmings (All-ACC First Team).

In the group featuring a likely starting unit, redshirt freshman Alex Bookser lined up at right guard and Jaryd Jones-Smith took reps at right tackle.

Bookser was a 4-star recruit out of Mount Lebanon in 2014 and will likely face competition in the fall from fellow redshirt freshman Mike Grimm, also a 4-star pickup from Bethel Park.

Jones-Smith's inclusion on the early version of a \"starting\" unit comes as no surprise. He started three games at right tackle last season and was essentially the line's \"Sixth Man\" of sorts last season, filling at multiple positions.

Of note, Alex Officer and long snapper David Murphy took reps at the center position while Artie Rowell continues his recovery from a torn ACL.

--During work on drills featuring delayed hand-offs, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney had to tell James Conner to slow down a few times. Not that it's a bad thing, nor a problem Chaney minds having.

Rather, Chaney is looking for his backfield to develop a few technical skills to help find a \"rhythm\" in the running game.

\"James wants to go downhill fast and some of the plays are delayed and deliberate and take a little more time,\" Chaney said. \"He’ll get those figured out, he’s really committed to being a good football player and I’m glad he’s with us.\"

The rest of the ACC is unlikely to share his sentiment.

--Unlike the offense, Pitt's defense doesn't quite know who its main contributors will be this season. The unit lost four starters, including three of its four leading tacklers in safety Ray Vinopal (68 tackles) and linebackers Todd Thomas (73) and Anthony Gonzalez(team-high 81).

But the defensive line returns three of four starters and will help lay the foundation for Josh Conklin's defense. Darryl Render and Khaynin Mosley-Smith anchor the front four at tackle while Shakir Soto returns after starting every game in 2014.

The impact of this group could be amplified, though, depending on what the Panthers receive from redshirt senior end Ejuan Price. Price has played just six games in the last three seasons and was sidelined for all of 2014 after sustaining a torn left pectoralis muscle in his chest in the preseason.

When healthy, Price has shown he can play. He posted 23 tackles and four for loss in four games before his 2013 season was cut short by a back injury. He played in all 13 games his freshman year at linebacker and recorded 27 tackles and four sacks.

In turn, the priority of Price's new head coach is a simple one.

\"We are going to keep him healthy,\" Narduzzi said. \"We have been pretty successful at keeping guys healthy so I don't expect him to miss a snap next year.\"

Narduzzi's defensive schemes rely on pressure generated by the defensive line, an ability Price has showed in the past.

\"If I’m on the field I know I can contribute,\" Price said. \"I’ve just tried to stay motivated, that was the hardest thing sitting out basically two years in a row.\"

Today, the opportunity ahead of Price isn't what motivates him as the Panthers move into a new season. Motivation is no longer an issue for him as he's out playing with his teammates again.

\"My guys motivate me because I love my team,\" Price said. \"As long as they’re doing it and I’m in it with them I just feel like we’re doing it together so they motivate me and I motivate them right back.\"

Practice Highlights

Pat Narduzzi

Chad Voytik

Ejuan Price

Lafayette Pitts

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