Wednesday Morning Mania

A one-on-one drill between the offensive and defensive linemen highlighted Pitt's Wednesday morning practice, and both sides shared the success.

Sophomore defensive tackle John Malecki and junior defensive tackle Gus Mustakas were strong performers for the University of Pittsburgh against fifth-year senior center Chris Vangas and junior guard C.J. Davis. But Vangas also held his own against junior tackle Rashaad Duncan in another matchup. Duncan also struggled a bit against Davis. End Greg Romeus, who pressured the quarterback and tipped the pass attempt in an 11-on-11 drill, was unable to move Otah in their clash.

Ends Chris McKillop and Joe Clermond were able to take advantage of their quickness against tackles Jason Pinkston and Jeff Otah, but for the most part the two bigger offensive linemen held them off. Freshman recruit Chris Jacobson, practicing in the morning session with the veterans, had a decent effort against Malecki, although he eventually would have pushed through if the quarterback didn't dump off the ball quickly.

"We have a real good group this year at tackle and end,'' defensive line coach Greg Gattuso said. "We have a solid starting group and a little more depth than in the past. I'm looking forward to rotating these guys in and out to keep them fresh. So, we're looking for a big year from our D-line, but we still have a lot of work to do to get where we want to be.''

The offensive linemen unveiled new knee braces, two for each except for Davis, as a protective measure before the morning workout.

During the special teams portion, Aaron Berry, Tamarcus Porter and Lowell Robinson were the punt returners. Junior Dave Brytus handled the kicking duties, for the most part, while Lucas Stone was the holder for place-kicker Conor Lee. Stone even snagged the snap and took off for a decent run on one play. Lee was successful on the other four kicks.

The veteran wideouts have been put through their paces with assistant coach Aubrey Hill the past two days, and Derek Kinder, Porter, Oderick Turner, Marcel Pestano and Cedric McGee performed particularly well in a goal-line drill. The receiver runs a patter through the end zone, while another acts like a defender and waves his arms to distract him while Hill zips passes high and hard to his players. Every one held on despite the velocity and height of the passes.

To prepare for the 11-on-11 portion late in the morning practice, the defense got geared up with a Mad Dog cheer. The barking was included.

"It's just something we did to get fired up,'' redshirt junior safety Eric Thatcher said. "It seems to get everybody going.''

In the drills afterward, Porter made a one-handed grab along the right sideline despite tight coverage from Berry. However, on Stull's deep pass to Pestano, cornerback Kennard Cox was in double-coverage with sophomore safety Jovani Chappel. Cox was in front of Pestano, played the ball and pulled in a slick interception on an over-the-head grab.

Secondary coach Chris Ball was elated with his unit's play and gave several high fives and chest bumps during the drill.

There were some struggles for the offense late in the drill. For the second straight day, Stull was chided for dumping the ball off to no one in the flat. The play easily could have been intercepted. Also, on an attempted reverse to Porter, the handoff appeared to be good, but he fumbled the ball. And for the second straight day, a snap was mishandled between freshman center Greg Gaskins and the quarterback.

As the morning session wound down, strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris and his staff patiently awaited with large elastic bands for stretching purposes prior to conditioning and running drills.

Clairton coach Tom Nola and star safety Manny Williams, a 2008 Pitt commitment, showed up to watch the afternoon practice.

Panther More Top Stories