Pitt football camp—Wednesday

The University of Pittsburgh held their ninth official spring practice on Wednesday. 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 -- University of Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt and his staff reviewed video from Tuesday's scrimmage and were even more pleased with how the Panthers have progressed to this point in training camp, but the only changes to the depth chart were spurred by injuries and not merit.

* Several players were bumped up and bruised after a tough week and scrimmage, so senior Reggie Carter replaced Darrelle Revis (left hamstring) at cornerback. Freshman John Malecki took over for sophomore Gus Mustakas (right shoulder) at defensive tackle, while redshirt junior Joe Clermond filled in for classmate Chris McKillop (left shoulder) on defense.

* On the offensive side of the line, redshirt junior Mark Yezovich took over for sophomore Conredge Collins (hamstring) at fullback. Since there are a lot of wideouts among the walking wounded, walk-ons Austin Ransom and Brandon Ballard have gotten more reps than usual in practice.

"For the most part, guys are showing some toughness,'' Wannstedt said. "We don't have any serious injuries, but we've got a lot of guys out here that are banged up and beat up and still practicing. And that's part of training camp. This kind of separates the men from the boys, as we say.''

* The injury list also includes WRs Cedric McGee (hamstring), Dorin Dickerson (left ankle), Aaron Smith (separated shoulder), Joe DelSardo (hamstring) and Marcel Pestano (left wrist) DBs Kelvin Chandler and Irvan Brown (shoulder), OG Kevin Hughes, TE Darrell Strong (hamstring) and DTs Jason Pinkston (concussion) and Mick Williams (concussion).

"Dorin Dickerson came out and got some work (Wednesday), which was encouraging,'' Wannstedt said. "Hopefully, Conredge Collins will be back (Thursday). Pinkston and Mick Williams are still slowed up by the concussions.

"Hopefully, Pinkston will be back (Thursday). Mick will probably be another day or two. Dorin is not at 100 percent, but he worked in some individual drills. So, it'll take a couple days, but he said he felt good.''

* Even though the defense was strong in the scrimmage, Wannstedt praised the offense's work overall. He added that the quarterbacks had good numbers, and the offense moved the ball. "But we just didn't come up with the big play, run or pass,'' Wannstedt said. "So, there were some good things, and it was something to build on.''

* Individually, Wannstedt cited strong play from OLB Tommie Campbell and DT John Malecki in the base defense, while Jovani Chappel played well at cornerback and on special teams. On offense, left tackle Jeff Otah "did some nice things,'' while tailback Shane Brooks "has kind of turned into that tough guy when you need a hard or two.'' Tailback Kevin Collier and defensive end Doug Fulmer have also continued to make plays.

"If you want to look at positions, probably our defensive line has improved,'' Wannstedt said. "But we still haven't settled on anything yet. The competition is so fierce that everybody is playing better and it's going to be interesting when we get to game week and name four tackles and four ends.

"So, it's going to be a good thing, and we're going to play a lot of guys. I think (Coaches) Greg Gattuso (DTs) and Charlie Partridge (DEs) are doing a great job of bringing the young guys along and at the same time maintaining the competitiveness overall.''

* The Panthers were unable to develop any consistency in camp last year at this time because there were so many injuries to key personnel. While there have been injuries this year, Pitt's main players are healthy.

"For the most part, the guys who are going to be playing are practicing,'' Wannstedt said. "So, at this time a year ago, (WR) Greg Lee had that shoulder, and he didn't do anything in training camp. (DE Charles) Sallet had something, and he didn't do anything.

"(DT) Thomas Smith didn't do anything, and (OLB) Clint (Session) didn't do anything. So, we had a lot of guys that for whatever reason were not with us, but this year our main guys are working and practicing.''

* Wednesday's workout lasted more than two hours, but there wasn't much heavy contact due to the scrimmage the previous day. However, there were several big plays.

* OT Jeff Otah provided a nice seal block to allow LaRod Stephens-Howling some room to get through the line for a big gain.

* Two seniors have been banging all week, and tempers flared a bit Wednesday afternoon, as center Joe Villani and middle linebacker H.B. Blades tussled for a while before being separated.

* QB Tyler Palko hit tight ends Darrell Strong and Steve Buches for big gains during the 7-on-7 drills, but he had plenty of time to throw. It should also be noted that OLB Tommie Campbell likely would have crunched Palko on a blitz if it was a live-action drill.

* WR Lowell Robinson beats CB Jovani Chappel by a step, although the coverage was good, and QB Bill Stull put the ball on the money for a long gain down the right sideline. Robinson has shown a lot of improvement, Wannstedt said, after being overwhelmed from changing to wideout and also playing on special teams. The Coach believed that Wednesday was his best practice.

* Safety Elijah Fields picked off QB Kevan Smith's errant pass down the middle. Fields showed great athleticism on the play and has moved to second-team thanks to an injury to safety Irvan Brown. Wannstedt believed that Fields has shown steady improvement as well after moving to the secondary. He and Robinson switched positions the night before training camp.

* Fields also can hit, when necessary, and dumped freshman TB Kevin Collier on his head with a solid open-field tackle.

* Palko hits WR Derek Kinder with a laser shot down the seam in front of safety Mike Phillips. Kinder protected the ball with his body. Phillips got a bit of retribution by picking off a Palko pass intended for Buches down the middle that Blades tipped into the secondary.

* Malecki aggravated his left shoulder stretching to make a tackle. It's the same shoulder that he injured initially at the Big 33 game, but he has been tough and has played well from the start in camp.

* DT McKenzie Mathews and TB Brandon Mason were excused for personal reasons. Mathews day off was previously planned.

"When all this happened with McKenzie, he practiced and stayed here,'' Wannstedt said. "But I had prearranged for him to go home and see his mother and his coach. It was set up four days ago, but he'll be back. This was a personal thing that I just felt was important to do at this time.

* Wannstedt would not elaborate on Mason's situation, but indicated that the situation will be discussed further in the next few days. Tyler Tipton has left the team and asked to be released from his scholarship.

"Tyler Tipton has come in and asked for a release, and we're going to do everything we can to help him get placed to another school,'' Wannstedt said. "We're calling a bunch of places. This is going to happen, but he's one of our guys. So, we'll do everything we can to help him get placed.'' * If Tipton wants to play this season, he'll need to go to a Division I-AA school where he can maintain his eligibility. He has three years remaining.

* Frosh Dan Loheyde (linebacker) and Dexter Davidson (quarterback) both underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Wednesday and are likely redshirt candidates. Loheyde had a ligament tear in his right knee early in camp, while Davidson had both knees operated on to clean out previous damage.

* Wannstedt did not hear any final information on PK David Abdul (heart condition) being eligible this season.

"One doctor approved him, but another wanted to give him some form of a stress test,'' Wannstedt said. "So, that's where that is at.''

* Also, QB Bill Stull will get the pins out of his hand Friday and return to the regular quarterback rotation next week.

* And finally, Pitt will hold its alumni weekend beginning with a golf outing and dinner Friday and barbecue Saturday. The alums will be allowed to watch practice, including Saturday's scrimmage, and sit in on team meetings. Former coach Jackie Sherrill and his wife are two special guests.

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