LBs Solid For Thursday Afternoon Delight

Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh probably were close to needing resuscitation after freshman tailback LeSean McCoy went down with an ankle injury late in practice Thursday afternoon.

McCoy, who suffered a severely dislocated right ankle in high school nearly two years ago, appeared to roll his left ankle while trying to gain extra yardage after a big gain into the secondary.

"I think it was his 14th move in five steps, and I think he just twisted his ankle,'' Wannstedt said. "He was talking afterward, so if Shady's talking he's usually OK.''

There have been a lot of questions about Pitt's linebacking corps since the Panthers graduated all three starters from last season and lost a fourth for disciplinary reasons, but some were answered during Thursday afternoon. The practice again was indoors due to the heavy thunderstorms that blasted through the area for several hours.

While the jury is still out on the starters and their primary backups, the young players in the afternoon -- redshirt sophomores Steve Dell and Brian Kaiser, redshirt freshman Nate Nix, and freshmen Max Gruder, Brandon Lindsey and Tristan Roberts were aggressive and physical during the team's first practice in shoulder pads.

"I would say that after today's practice, I was pleasantly surprised in the first day in shoulder pads and actual physical contact with some of the things that they did,'' University of Pittsburgh defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Paul Rhoads said.

"I certainly saw that there was no lack of toughness among the group. They were hitting and tackling and running to the ball. Sure, they were missing some assignments, but there was speed and desire and toughness, there's no doubt about it.''

Another big-time running back recruit, Shariff Harris, displayed some speed and toughness, but he couldn't match Gruder. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Gruder smacked the 6-1, 190-pound Harris in a one-on-one situation and put him down. Gruder also penetrated and stopped McCoy behind the line earlier in the 9-on-9 drills.

After struggling with asthma early in camp due to the heat and humidity, defensive tackle Mick Williams had a nice afternoon with a cool breeze blowing indoors. Williams forced a fumble and nearly recovered in on one play, and he teamed with Myles Caragein to stuff several inside runs for no gain.

"It wasn't as crisp as you would like, especially the first day with the young guys in pads, but some guys really jumped out and were very impressive,'' Wannstedt said. "I thought Mick Williams had a great practice. I thought that Aundre Wright continued to make plays every time he touched the ball.

"Henry Hynoski did some good things today, and I thought that John Bachman and Dom Williams, both on the offensive line, showed up and had a good day. And John Pelusi, it's the first time he's been back full speed, and he's definitely going to be a major part of what we do this year.''

Hynoski was used as a single back to run the ball, like he was in high school, but he also played a role in the passing game. Wright was incredible when he got in the open field. He ran several reverses and was able to turn the corner on one, get downfield and break away for about a 50-yard gain. He also burned past the secondary, but the pass from Kevan Smith hung up a bit since he had Mick Williams in his face and that allowed frosh cornerback Buddy Jackson to make up ground and knock it away.

Pelusi got a couple passes in the seam for 20-yard gains, and he was solid in blocking in the 11-on-11 running drills. Jackson came up to smack him as well, so he was all over the field in the team session.

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