Pitt football camp—Thursday

The University of Pittsburgh held their tenth official spring 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 football camp—Thursday

PITTSBURGH -- It took nearly two weeks, but Tommie Campbell worked his way into the starting lineup Thursday for the University of Pittsburgh.

Campbell, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound sophomore, moved from safety to outside linebacker this past spring and steadily moved up from the bottom of the depth chart during training camp. Once the Panthers put on full pads and started hitting, Campbell's speed and athleticism paid dividends.

Joining seniors H.B. Blades and Clint Session as Pitt's linebacking corps, Campbell moved ahead of redshirt junior Derron Thomas, who started nine games last season at weak-side linebacker.

"He's had a real good camp and finished up the spring strong once we moved him to linebacker,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said.

* Wannstedt also noted that defensive tackles John Malecki and Rashaad Duncan alternated with starters Gus Mustakas and Corey Davis, while junior Jeff Otah shared time with first-teamer John Bachman at left offensive tackle. And redshirt freshman Craig Bokor, a former defensive tackle, has moved to second-team offensive guard.

"That's probably the best thing that has happened in his career,'' Wannstedt said. "I think he's going to be a heckuva offensive lineman for us down the road. So, he's making progress. ... We've got two more scrimmages (Saturday) and one next week, and that'll help in our evaluation process.''

* The other big move concerned blue-chip recruit Dorin Dickerson. The four-star athlete came to Pitt as a wide receiver, although he primarily played running back in high school. And the past two days he's been working individually with the running backs. However, he has yet to do any team work while recovering from a sprained left ankle.

"I watched his film, too, and we were fighting for him in recruiting,'' Pitt running backs coach David Walker said, referring to he and wideouts coach Aubrey Hill. "So, I'd love to have him in our group, and Aubrey would love to have him in his. But the best thing is that Dorin is a good enough athlete and a smart enough kid to handle both if that's what his role ends up being.''

* Dickerson actually was falling down the depth chart at receiver, however, because he missed about a week due to the ankle injury. And he is a little bit overweight and out of shape since he also was injured during practice for the Big 33 game in mid-June. Dickerson partially tore the ACL in his right knee and fractured his right ankle.

"I'm just trying to get healthy right now, and they made a switch with me to running back,'' Dickerson said. "So, we'll see how that goes, and we'll go from there. But I'll play anywhere. It doesn't matter to me. I'll play anywhere, as long as we win, so we'll see what happens.

"The bigger I get, maybe, eventually, this will be the full-time position for me. And it's where I'm at right now. There was a little bit of a question there before the season, but not to move there. I would just get a pitchout or two ... but I'm with the running backs right now.''

* The move by Dickerson spurred redshirt sophomore tailback Brandon Mason to leave the team. Mason returned to his home in Phillipsburg, N.J. Wednesday, and his status is up in the air. Dickerson always thought about being a running back since he arrived at Pitt.

"It was definitely a temptation for me,'' Dickerson said. "When I would be watching the running backs from the sideline, I would be like, 'man, I miss playing running back and getting those handoffs and taking those licks.'

"It definitely was a temptation, but we'll see what happens. Hopefully, good things will come out of it.''

* Walker also had some kind words for redshirt freshman tailback Shane Brooks. Wannstedt called him the team's power back, before Dickerson joined the stable, but Brooks has also moved up the depth chart.

"To Shane's credit,'' Walker said. "He's spending a lot more time trying to learn his craft, and that's evident by the questions he asks in meetings and the notes that he takes and the extra studying he's doing with LaRod.

"So, he wants to contribute, and he understands and sees that he can contribute. So, his focus is better all the time, better than it was in the spring, and he's really improving.''

* Former Pitt coach Jackie Sherrill (1977-81) attended practice Thursday and will stay around through the weekend for the Panthers' alumni activities. Sherrill spoke to the team before its meetings, and they watched the Sugar Bowl after the 1981 season when Pitt beat Georgia on a last-second pass from Dan Marino to John Brown.

"I never watched that game on TV, but they had us written off,'' Sherrill said. "The credits were running and everything, how good Georgia was in winning, but all of a sudden they had to change the story.''

* Brown's son, John, is a redshirt freshman on this year's team, and offensive lineman Paul Dunn from the 1981 Panthers is the OL coach now.

"It's very impressive, certainly, when you look at the facilities,'' Sherrill said. "I've followed Pitt, and when you look at the athletes on the field there's no question that Dave knows what types of athletes that it takes to play in this game. So, I've been very impressed with the young men he's brought in.

"When we were here, the Pirates won, the Steelers won and we won. So, when you said Pitt anywhere, that got you in the front of the bus and in the front door instead of waiting to get in. ... You had a period of time here where they lost some ground, (but) Dave's the right guy for the job at the right time. And he's on the right track by getting the players in here.''

* Pitt has one practice Friday and the second intrasquad scrimmage Saturday from 10:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. at the UPMC Sports Complex.

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