Pitt football—Tuesday

The University of Pittsburgh held another 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—Tuesday

PITTSBURGH -- What a difference a day made for the University of Pittsburgh's offense during practice Tuesday at the UPMC Sports Complex.

A day after being hammered into submission by the defense in two training camp sessions, forcing second-year coach Dave Wannstedt to end Monday's workout 15 minutes early, quarterback Tyler Palko made better decisions and the offensive line blocked much better.

"Well, that's why you practice,'' Wannstedt said. "I think our guys showed a little bit of character today, particularly on offense. (Monday's) practice was so one-sided (for the defense), so it was good to see the offensive players come out and respond today.

"And that's what it's going to take. It's going to take a team effort, because we're not good enough to beat anybody with any one phase. It's going to take offense, defense and special teams every week.''

* The Panthers have two practices Wednesday with one final intrasquad scrimmage in the afternoon. They close camp with two night workouts, the annual FanFest Thursday from 7:30 to 9:15 at Heinz Field and Friday from 6-8 p.m. at the UPMC Sports Complex.

"I think we're going to go into the season with a lot of positions cleared up, but with the mentality that we're also going to play a lot of guys (at certain positions),'' Wannstedt said.

* TB LaRod Stephens-Howling had several runs for first downs on sweeps, as well as between the tackles to show his versatility. With Brooks having another good day, freshman Kevin Collier looking better all the time and Dorin Dickerson working his way into the lineup Pitt's RB situation appears to be better than it was last season.

"Right now, it's going to be running back by committee,'' Wannstedt said. "We're going to play 'em all, but LaRod's the starter.''

* Palko connected with WR Oderick Turner for a big gain over CB Kennard Cox. Turner returned after missing Sunday and Monday's sessions and appeared to step up into the first-team role with Derek Kinder.

"At receiver, if we were playing tomorrow, it'll probably be Oderick and Kinder,'' Wannstedt said. "But Marcel's going to play a ton. And we'll rotate other guys in. ... Marcel Pestano probably had his best day.

"Maybe since I've been here. And not just catching the ball but showing some toughness, but getting knocked around and holding onto the ball.''

* RB Shane Brooks had several big runs Tuesday, including some between the tackles, but he also bolted around right end for a 20-yard gain as right guard John Simonitis and right tackle Mike McGlynn caved in the defense on that side.

"Shane Brooks had a good day, and ... I though our offensive line really showed up today and competed,'' Wannstedt said.

* Freshman CB Aaron Berry was all over the field. He picked off QB Bill Stull on a downfield pass that WR Lowell Robinson didn't make much of an effort on, but he also broke hard on a swing pass to Brooks to knock it away.

* Berry excelled on special teams as well by coming off the left end to block a game-winning field goal attempt by frosh PK Dan Hutchins. He just missed blocking another kick late in practice, but probably would've been called for roughing on the play. However, he was close to getting the ball.

"Aaron Berry made plays,'' Wannstedt said. "He intercepted a ball. He blocked a game-winning field goal, so he was very impressive.''

* The first-team offensive and defensive linemen squared off in an individual blocking drill where each player went one-on-one against his counterpart across the line, and the offense won the overall drill.

* McGlynn straightened up DE Joe Clermond. Simonitis got the better of DT Corey Davis. NT Rashaad Duncan, who moved up to the first group Tuesday, beat C Joe Villani. DT Gus Mustakas slipped past OG C.J. Davis, but LT John Bachman held off DE Doug Fulmer for a while until his speed paid off.

"There's very few positions that are locked in, especially on the defensive line,'' Wannstedt said. "And like I've said before, we'll rotate eight guys in there, four at tackle and four at the end positions, but that can be healthy when you have a young football team. Competition can be good.''

* There's still some competition at PK, but that's not how Wannstedt wants it. Pitt's PK situation took a blow when senior David Abdul was not cleared medically Monday. His career is over, and the Panthers must go with redshirt sophomore Conor Lee or freshman Dan Hutchins. Both are walk-ons.

"We're down to two guys, and both have had good camps,'' Wannstedt said. "They're both capable of going in there and kicking a game-winning field goal. Conor (sore hamstring) wanted to kick today, but we decided to hold him back until the scrimmage.''

* Wannstedt also praised the work ethic of punter Adam Graessle during training camp. Graessle, a senior, appears to be ready to have a big season -- where he might add long field goal tries to his kickoff duties -- and that could propel him to get a shot in the NFL next year.

"I think he's worked on all phases of his game,'' Wannstedt said. "His hang time, directional punting, his operation time (from the snap to the kick). And all the things that he's doing are things that I think can help him kick at the next level, but ... he's prepared himself for a great season this year.''

* Frosh QB Dexter Davidson (knee surgeries), DT Mick Williams (concussion symptoms), CB Reggie Carter (left hamstring) and WR Cedric McGee (left thigh) comprised the walking wounded Tuesday. FB Conredge Collins (knee) and WR T.J. Porter (not feeling well) also did not practice.

* Most of the injured players should be ready for the scrimmage, but Williams is still a question mark. An MRI did not find any damage to his head, so it's just a matter of getting him healthy enough to practice.

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