Pitt football from Monday

The University of Pittsburgh held their seventh official spring practice on Monday. 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 Monday

PITTSBURGH -- Freshmen Mackenzie Mathews and T. J Porter were expected to make an impact on the University of Pittsburgh football team this fall, but the two became homesick and left the team.

* Mathews, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound defensive end from Syracuse, returned Monday after missing three days. And Porter, a 6-1, 185-pound wideout from Pahokee, Fla., sat out Sunday afternoon's practice before returning to the team for the Monday afternoon workout.

"It was great to have them back, and they both made some plays today,'' second-year Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "It was encouraging. Like anything, I realize that things like that happen. They happen every year. They happen in the NFL, but you just do the best you can.

"There's always that fine line ... you want to make sure you keep as many players as you can, but you sure as heck can't compromise anything from a team standpoint. And this has nothing to do with football. These are just personal things with young kids, and it's all part of it.''

* Mathews earned preseason honors from the Sporting News as the Big East's No. 15 recruit. Porter was targeted by the Panthers as a top prospect by working him in with the veterans while the other freshman and youngsters practiced separately to open training camp.

"T.J. had a nice catch for a touchdown (Monday), and Mack had a couple nice (pass) rushes,'' Wannstedt said. "So, how much they would contribute, it's early yet. Right now, we're just trying to get everybody as much work as we can. ... There's personal things, and there's football things, and there's a difference. That's in high school. That's in college, and that's in the pros.''

* Wannstedt also was asked if he believed that coming to Pitt early, in time to take summer courses, adversely affected the freshmen.

"I think that everybody deals with things differently,'' Wannstedt said. "I can tell you that all of our freshman did outstanding. They all took two classes in the summer, and ... they all did a good job.''

* Pitt's newcomers recorded a 3.27 grade point average in the summer, while linebacker Nate Nix, tight end Nate Byham, quarterback Kevan Smith and defensive tackle Greg Romeus each had a perfect 4.0.

* The Panthers will hold an intrasquad scrimmage Tuesday afternoon, but the quarterbacks will be off-limits to contact.

* Wannstedt said each player likely will get about 15 plays with 45 plays combined for the three units.

* Pitt's walking wounded list included freshman LB Dan Loheyde (right knee surgery), redshirt freshman WR Cedric McGee (left hamstring), freshman WR Aaron Smith (separated shoulder), freshman WR Dorin Dickerson (left ankle sprain), redshirt freshman DT Mick Williams (migraines), redshirt junior safety Jameel Brady, freshman QB Dexter Davidson, redshirt freshman safety Irvan Brown and freshman OL Kevin Hughes.

* Former Pitt coach Foge Fazio made a special guest appearance at Monday's practice.

* Freshman running back Kevin Collier and redshirt freshman defensive back Ross Ventrone were highlighted during Monday's practice. Collier had several nice runs in the team drills. He had a nice run around left end and could not be caught by freshman safety Elijah Fields.

* Porter burned Ventrone for about a 50-yard touchdown catch. He slipped past the linebackers into the secondary and then juked Ventrone to run untouched into the end zone.

* Collier and Ventone even came together for one brief moment when the running back plowed the safety to gain extra yardage down the sideline.

* Fields was a third-team safety Monday and has steadily improved.

* Despite another lackluster day for the offense, quarterback Tyler Palko fired a touchdown pass to wideout Oderick Turner, who beat cornerback Kennard Cox, on a flag pattern.

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