Pitt football from Saturday

The University of Pittsburgh held their fifth official practice on Saturday. 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 football from Saturday

PITTSBURGH -- University of Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt wanted to set the tempo Saturday for the first training camp practice in full pads and matched two of his biggest players in a one-on-one drill.

Defensive tackle Jason Pinkston, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound freshman, and left tackle Jeff Otah, a 6-6, 340-pound junior, pounded each other for several minutes to get players fired up on both sides.

"We wanted to get it off on the right foot, and we did,'' Wannstedt said. "They were two big guys, just kind of pushing, but it started us off on the right foot. That type of energy and excitement is what it's all about.''

* Wannstedt believed that Pinkston "probably got the better'' of Otah in that drill, but quickly added that "the way he finished practice he must have used up all his energy on that one play. I wish he would've saved a little bit for the inside run.''

* The Panthers worked that offensive play extensively, and the offensive line controlled the defense more times than not with redshirt sophomore Brandon Mason, sophomore LaRod Stephens-Howling, redshirt freshman Shane Brooks and freshman Kevin Collier running wild.

* Mason ran especially hard and scored three touchdowns in the red-zone offense. He appears to be much stronger and faster this season after taking a redshirt last fall due to a broken ankle.

"I got to use my legs a little bit, working in water and things like that, but I had to do a lot of upper body at first,'' Mason said. "And I came back a lot stronger. ... I put on a little more weight, too, which is better for me. I'm at about 220, about 10 pounds heavier, but I'm stronger and faster.

"The offensive line did a great job, and it all starts up front with them. They came out and punched the defense in the mouth, and that's how it all starts. They gave us some good blocks, but we have a lot of talent in the backfield that can go out and our thing.''

* Wannstedt wasn't pleased with the overall intensity level, but he was happy that the running game showed some improvement.

"I thought we ran the ball better today for the first time and made some strides there, but we have a lot of work to do with our run defense,'' Wannstedt said. "That's an area where, if we're going to be an improved team, we need to obviously run the ball better and we need to stop the run better. We're working a lot of people in there to get the right mix.''

* To better determine which players belonged at what level on both sides of the ball, Wannstedt said the Panthers will have three controlled intrasquad scrimmages between now and Saturday. The first will be Sunday.

"That's my timetable to put players in situations enough where it's full speed, and we'll be able to evaluate exactly where they're at and where we're at (as a team),'' Wannstedt said.

* While the running game flourished, the passing game struggled a bit. Quarterback Tyler Palko had another rough day, but was vindicated a bit with a nice audible at the line and 50-yard touchdown strike to Oderick Turner.

* The redshirt freshman has moved into the top two in wideouts, with junior starter Derek Kinder, ahead of guys like senior Joe DelSardo, redshirt freshman Cedric McGee, redshirt sophomore Marcel Pestano, junior Lowell Robinson and freshmen T.J. Porter, Aaron Smith and Dorin Dickerson.

"Oderick Turner, he made some plays today,'' Wannstedt said. "He and Kinder, and in my mind we have two receivers. ... And everybody else has a ways to go. They're not ready to go.''

* DelSardo (hamstring), Dickerson (ankle) and Smith (shoulder) are day-to-day with injuries. Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Mick Williams (headache, concussion) left practice early and has been sick the past couple days. ... Junior tight end Darrell Strong has an excused absence to attend a funeral, while frosh defensive tackle Mackenzie Mathews has left the team for personal reasons. Mathews reportedly is homesick.

"I'm still optimistic,'' Wannstedt said. "We've had conversations. His brother was down today, and we've had several conversations with his mom, and I think he just needs a little bit of time. And we'll see how that goes.''

* Freshman Nate Byham ran with the second team at tight end due to Strong's absence, and Wannstedt said he immediately earned a spot in the mix there. ... Freshman Joe Thomas has worked his way onto the second team at offensive guard. ... And redshirt junior Kennard Cox has pulled even with fifth-year senior Reggie Carter, if not ahead a bit, for the starting cornerback spot across from Darrelle Revis.

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