Nate Barnes

Notebook: Training Camp August 24

News and notes from Pitt training camp August 24 on the Panthers beginning their final week of camp, the new special teams system and a glimpse at some 11-on-11 action during Monday's practice.

11-on-11 work

The media is allowed to watch roughly the first half-hour of practice every day, and that time consists of stretching and some various positional drills. But Monday Pitt did 11-on-11 work for the first time during the media's viewing window. 

Both the first and second teams ran three plays apiece, offense against defense. Most of them were rushing plays, including a nice dash by James Conner off right tackle. 

On the last play, Phillipie Motley blanketed Elijah Zeise on a wheel route and swatted Nate Peterman's pass away as he looked for Zeise in the end zone. 

More importantly, though, was a look at some semblance of the team's depth chart so far. 

Notably, on the first team, Jordan Whitehead was on the field with the first team at the boundary safety position. There is a battle between Whitehead, Patrick Amara and Jevonte Pitts there. 

The first team linebacker unit featured Matt Galambos in the middle with Bam Bradley and Mike Caprara on the outside while Grigsby ran with the second-team defense. The position battle between Grigsby and Caprara is the only other loose end on the Pitt defense right now and while Grigsby was probably the starter entering camp, it was interesting to see which units the two were on this far into camp.

Beyond that, Dennis Briggs ran with the second-team defense at corner and recently-converted tight end Brian O'Neill was at the first-team right tackle. O'Neill was there as Alex Officer shifted from right guard to center and Alex Bookser from tackle to guard with Artie Rowell out, and he will return to the second team once a healthy Rowell returns to start at center while Officer and Bookser shift back to their usual spots. 

But it speaks volumes about O'Neill that he is playing with the first team considering he switched positions just this past summer. Head coach Pat Narduzzi said O'Neill is still raw, but definitely in the mix at right tackle. 

Special teams

If the new Pitt coaching staff isn't looking to simplify things, it at least wants to streamline some aspects them as the new schemes are implemented.

That's no different on special teams.

Special teams coach Andre Powell arrived at Pitt after putting together some of the best specialist units in the nation at Maryland and was brought in to do the same in Pittsburgh.

Kicker Chris Blewitt seems to like what he's done thus far. 

"Normally it seemed like we schemed to our opponent," Blewitt said. "With [Powell[, we do our specific thing and we know how to adapt to everybody else so we can master what we do and do it well against everybody else."

The Panthers are no stranger to special teams difficulties, from Ryan Switzer's two punt return touchdowns in a 2013 loss to North Carolina to Blewitt missing a field goal that would have beaten Duke last season, yet sent the game to overtime where Pitt lost. 

But having a short memory isn't an issue for Blewitt.

"I’ve had a couple concussions so it’s not too hard," Blewitt joked.

Injury Notes

Defensive tackle Darryl Render no longer has his left arm in a sling, but now just a brace. It would appear he injured his elbow earlier in camp, but there's no way to know for sure since the staff remains tight-lipped on the specifics of injuries. 

Most recently, fullback Colton Lively was seen on crutches this morning--he was likely hurt at some point during Saturday's scrimmage if the injury occurred on the field. 

Narduzzi maintained that, outside of Jaryd Jones-Smith who is out for the year with a knee injury, there are no injuries he foresees carrying into the regular season when Pitt debuts against Youngstown State Sept. 5. 


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