Pitt football from Sunday

The University of Pittsburgh held their sixth official practice on Sunday. 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.

PITTSBURGH -- The University of Pittsburgh football team enters its second training camp week at the UPMC Sports Complex with an increase in the walking wounded and missing in action lists, but second-year coach Dave Wannstedt doesn't appear to be concerned.

* Wideouts Aaron Smith (shoulder), Dorin Dickerson (ankle), QB Dexter Davidson, DT Mick Williams (concussion), safety Jameel Brady and OG Kevin Hughes missed both practices Sunday. WR Cedric McGee missed the second workout, while OL Derrell Jones and CB Aaron Berry (shoulder) returned for the afternoon session after missing the morning.

* There was no new information on AWOL DL Mackenzie Mathews, who is homesick and taking a leave of absence for personal reasons. WR T.J. Porter joined Mathews Sunday, but his return is expected to be imminent.

"Actually, we're in better shape now than we were at this time last year,'' Wannstedt said, referring to Pitt's injury situation. "We've got a few minor things.'' He noted that Dickerson should be back any day, and the worst injury could be Smith. He will be evaluated again this week.

"Hopefully, (Porter) will be here (Monday),'' Wannstedt said. "He was out here this morning, and we talked. And he just needs a little bit of time, so we're going to give it to him. We'll have some discussions with him (Sunday) night, but we hope he'll be back (Monday).''

* Wannstedt again opened practice Sunday afternoon with an individual competition between freshman DT Jason Pinkston and junior OT Jeff Otah. Instead of a lineman drill, however, a pass was thrown to Otah with Pinkston in coverage. Otah was open for a flash in the end zone, but Pinkston closed quickly and knocked it away.

"We're just trying to keep it loose,'' Wannstedt said. "They're doing a good job. I'm pleased with how the guys are working, and we're getting better. We do have a ways to go, but I like what I see. I like our attitude. The biggest challenge (is) our two scrimmages this week, and we need those scrimmages.

"You practice so long in a controlled environment where the guys are (being told the situations). Now, we're almost to that point where we need to put them out there and let them play a little bit and see who can make plays when they're in the heat of the battle.''

* The Panthers will hold intrasquad scrimmages Tuesday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Wannstedt noted that the scrimmages will determine how far the team has progressed this summer and how the depth chart stacks up as camp winds down.

* Wannstedt believed the majority of Pitt's injured players would return for the scrimmages, at least by Saturday, but backup quarterback Bill Stull will not take part. He can't take snaps under center, only in the shotgun formation, due to a finger injury. Wannstedt hopes he'll be healthy in a week.

* Stull's limitations have allowed freshman Kevan Smith to get the majority of snaps with the second-team offense at quarterback.

"I've been very pleased with Kevan Smith,'' Wannstedt said. "I probably haven't mentioned his name. Probably of all the freshmen, we've talked about a lot of the guys, but we haven't mentioned him.''

* Along with Smith, Wannstedt singled out freshman DL John Malecki for "having two good (practice) days'' and DE Tyler Tkach as an unsung guy.

* Sophomore TE John Pelusi, who had offseason knee surgery, is progressing nicely and "a little ahead of schedule,'' Wannstedt said. Pelusi met with Dr. Freddie Fu and is doing all the individual blocking work. He will be evaluated again at the end of training camp.

"The type of surgery he had,'' Wannstedt said, "has a seven-month (rehab). He's in his fifth month, so we won't do anything premature.''

* In the post-practice conditioning drills, QB Tyler Palko, LBs Clint Session and H.B. Blades and CB Darrelle Revis led the way.

* Defensively, Wannstedt believed the Panthers were making progress on defense, but "we've still got some work to do.''

* Freshman safety Elijah Fields is among those who are making steady progress, although Wannstedt said he was a little bit behind schedule since he was moved to defense the day before camp began.

"We've had some extra meetings and individual work to get him caught up, and he's making progress,'' Wannstedt said.

* In the team portion Sunday, a short controlled scrimmage, TE Nate Byham came through with a six-yard TD reception from Stull. He beat Ross Ventrone and Shane Murray in the back of the end zone.

* Senior TE Steve Buches had two big receptions to put the first-team offense in the red zone, but it couldn't score. The defense held in the two-minute drill, as Palko was sacked on the final play as time ran out.


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