Pitt football--Sunday walkthrough

The University of Pittsburgh held their thirteenth official spring 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.

Pitt football--Sunday walkthrough

PITTSBURGH -- After working hard for two weeks, the University of Pittsburgh football team went through its lightest practice in training camp Sunday night on the indoor field at the UPMC Sports Complex.

* But don't think second-year coach Dave Wannstedt is taking his foot off the gas pedal just yet. After two tough weeks and two intrasquad scrimmages, the Panthers depth chart is taking shape.

* There are still several positions up-for-grabs, and some experiments are not yet complete, but the move from safety to linebacker for sophomore Tommy Campbell is looking better every day. Now, he's working with the first team alongside seniors H.B. Blades and Clint Session.

"I've been waiting for this chance since I came here from high school,'' Campbell said. "I looked at it as a fresh start for me, moving to linebacker, and I left all the problems I had at safety behind me. I think I've become a better player and a new player as a linebacker.

"It doesn't hurt to have H.B. and Clint beside me, either. They've been helping me out a lot. Brian Bennett, Derron Thomas, I can ask any of them about anything. If I have a question, they'll help me out. Coach says that linebacker is the most experienced part of this football team.''

Campbell's speed and athleticism is a perfect complement to Blades and Session. The trio likely is Pitt's most aggressive linebacking corps in years, and each one is a playmaker. Sure, Campbell still makes some mistakes, but they're fewer and farther between.

"Perimeter plays, I can do real well on them, but I have to do better on the inside runs,'' Campbell said. "I make some false steps on those plays, but I'm learning all the time. And I'm going to get better. The best way to fix it is to get more repetitions. Eventually, the mistakes will go away.''

* Moves by two freshmen have not paid off just yet. Dorin Dickerson has yet to get on the field as a running back, other than going through some individual workouts, after being injured and switching from wideout. And safety Elijah Fields, who moved from receiver the night before camp, is still a work in progress for Pitt defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads.

* Rhoads has done extensive tutoring with Fields in an attempt to get him on the field, and he has shown a good deal of improvement just this past week along. But he'll have to make much more progress to earn playing time.

"I think between now and then ... the defensive line, a lot of people will rotate in and out,'' Wannstedt said. "We'll have starters, yes, but whether it's determined by Wednesday (the scrimmage) or not, I don't know. But I think we'll be pretty close to what we have to do.

"And when we start our preparation for Virginia next week, we can only work in so many players. You can't work three or four running backs to get ready for the game. You have to cut down to two running backs and four receivers for game week (practices).''

* The defensive line, however, will be an area that will utilize four-player rotations at the tackle spots and four at the ends. Sophomores Gus Mustakas and Corey Davis are the current starting tackles, while redshirt junior Chris McKillop and fifth-year senior Charles Sallet are the ends.

* The other tackles are sophomore Rashaad Duncan and frosh John Malecki, although Malecki has played with the first team lately. The backup ends are redshirt freshman Doug Fulmer and redshirt junior Joe Clermond.

"We're going to play eight guys on the defensive line and rotate all of them in and out in a game,'' Wannstedt said. "They're that close, and the competitiveness on our defensive line is so much healthier (than last season). So, it's a good situation.''

* One player who had not been able to make an impact at defensive tackle, even though he was expected to contribute, has been redshirt freshman Mick Williams. He suffered a concussion early in camp and has yet to get involved with contact drills.

"Mick Williams just hasn't felt good, but we've got to get him on the field,'' Wannstedt said. "He had the concussion, but it's been over a week. And we're expecting him back any day. I was hoping he'd be able to do something (in the scrimmage). But he just hasn't felt right. The minute he starts doing something, he doesn't feel good.''

* Another key position is left offensive tackle where junior Jeff Otah and sophomore John Bachman are battling. The two are splitting time with the first team, and Wannstedt said a decision could be made soon.

* Further review of the video from the scrimmage showed Wannstedt some positive points on offense as well as defense.

"The best things that came out of the film were that, from an offensive standpoint, we made a lot of first downs,'' Wannstedt said. "We got in a number of third-down situations, and the first-team offensive converted on five out of seven. And most of those were seven (yards) and less. So, we were making some first downs and moving the ball, which was good.

"The biggest thing that showed up from a defensive standpoint was that we were mixing in a lot, probably more defense (in the scrimmage) than what we'll use when the season starts. A few of the breakdowns that we had on defense were more of a mental standpoint than physical, and we'll get those corrected.

"But I thought the overall effort was good,'' Wannstedt added, "and I feel like we've taken a little step forward. It's just a matter of continuing with that type of attitude.''

* CB Darrelle Revis (left hamstring), S Mike Phillips (ankle), CB Reggie Carter (ankle) and WR Oderick Turner (leg) did not participate in Sunday's light workout. DT Mick Williams (concussion), WR Cedric McGee (hamstring), DB Irvan Brown and OG Kevin Hughes all returned for a bit.


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