Thursday Practice Report

The University of Pittsburgh held their third official practice on Thursday. PantherDigest.com senior writer Dale Grdnic was in attendance. Dale has a number of news and notes concerning the Pitt football team. Read on for details.

Pitt FB training camp from Thursday

PITTSBURGH -- The opening two training camp practices for the University of Pittsburgh at the UPMC Center were little more than touch football sessions with no pads and no tackling, but the action picked up considerably Thursday when shoulder pads were added to the mix.

"We love to hit, so it wasn't really football until today,'' freshman cornerback Aaron Berry said. "And it's only going to get better.''

* Berry, from Harrisburg's Bishop McDevitt High School, continues to impress everyone who watches him play with Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt at the top of the list.

"Aaron Berry, he's off to a fast start,'' Wannstedt said. "He's a player. And we've got Reggie Carter. KC (Kennard Cox) did some good things. Javoni Chappel, he's like a little pit bull out here. So, we have some serious competition for that other cornerback spot out there.''

* Wannstedt wasn't particularly pleased with the crispness of practice, but the intensity level rose with shoulder pads on the players.

"Today was the first day with pads,'' Wannstedt said. "We're still not tackling, but at least the linemen can block somebody. So, we've got some good stuff to teach from, and it was good. But we have just one more day like this, and then we'll be full tilt on Saturday.''

* The Panthers will go with full gear and have full-contact practice sessions beginning Saturday morning at 8:30.

* Another frosh in the secondary has had a good camp. Safety Elijah Fields from Duquesne was ready to crush a few receivers, although tackling is still limited with players wearing only shorts and no lower pads. But he did toss freshman tailback Kevin Collier out of bounds aggressively on one play.

* Thursday was a big recruit day for the Panthers with a plethora of players watching practice and sitting in on meetings who have verbally committed and others they want. The group included Thomas Jefferson's Dom DeCicco, Erie McDowell's Dan Matha, Aliquippa's Brandon Lindsey and Jonathan Baldwin, Rochester's Derek Moye, Gateway's Shayne Haile and Cameron Saddler, Laurel Highlands' Kaleb Ramsey and Penn Hills' Joe Rash.

* Both practices were indoors due to the prospect of rain, although the skies cleared for the afternoon and the temperature rose.

* Special teams work has been at a premium during each workout, but the place-kickers got some action indoors Thursday. Redshirt sophomore Conor Lee, redshirt freshman Lucas Stone and frosh Dan Hutchins appeared to be perfect on several kicks each from between 30-40 yards.

* The Pitt running game has looked good in the capable hands of sophomore LaRod Stephens-Howling, who is quicker and stronger than last season. He still hits the hole quickly, but can break a tackle if necessary.

* On one sequence, Stephens-Howling blasted off left tackle, and junior Jeff Otah just smashed defensive end Doug Fulmer. On the same play run a second time, he pancaked end Joe Clermond.

"I counted five pancakes on the day,'' Wannstedt said.

* While both practice sessions were a little ragged, at times, especially in the morning, the coaches continue to throw a lot at the Panthers in hopes that something will stick. Wannstedt and his staff will find out soon.

"By the end of this week, will pretty much have the nuts and bolts in and have a foundation set (on offense and defense),'' Wannstedt said. "And then things should come together. But we weren't sharp this morning.

"We didn't throw the ball very good, and we didn't catch the ball very good. As excited as I was the day before, we didn't take a step forward. We kind of leveled off again.''

* Defensive lineman Jason Pinkston had a solid second day of practice since being ruled academically eligible by the NCAA Clearinghouse Wednesday. He racked a ball carrier, scooped up a fumble and rumbled into the end zone with a huge escort. Greg Webster and Jared Martin made sure he was untouched by an offensive player.

* As the afternoon session wound down, the Panthers got a slight scare as freshman wideout Dorin Dickerson was injured. While running an out pattern, he became entangled with Berry, who fell on him. Dickerson was a little gimpy afterward and sat out the final 45 minutes, but he was much better later on.


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