Saturday Smash

Saturday, the first practice in full gear, didn't alter opinions on much for the Pitt football team: The Panthers are still thin at quarterback and on the offensive line, deep at running back, strong up front on the defensive line and at tight end, and extremely talented among the younger players.

But that didn't mean there weren't some negatives as well.

"There were some very encouraging things and some other things that take us back to square one,'' University of Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt said. "An encouraging thing was the effort, and an encouraging thing was a few of the guys that have a chance to help us: (LeSean) McCoy, Aundre Wright, Tommie Duhart, a few of the newcomers, we'll get some help from them.

"But the discouraging thing was that we had penalties, quarterback exchange problems, and to have that after practicing for four days is ridiculous. The center thing is somewhat new to John Bachman and Greg Gaskins, but after this many practices we just can't put the ball on the ground. ... So, we're back to the basics on that and have to take care of the basics.''

Junior quarterback Bill Stull didn't practice due to a cut on the thumb of his right (throwing) hand. He got stitches in it and wore a protective glove, but did not throw. Also, senior wideout Derek Kinder left practice midway through with a knee injury. He walked off with some help, but he was in pain.

"Derek Kinder injured his knee,'' Wannstedt said. "It was a noncontact injury. He caught a ball and made a cut, and he went down. He's getting X-rays right now, so we have to wait to see about that.

"Billy Stull, he wanted to go, but ... we just thought that if he went out there and threw today or got it banged taking a snap, it could be worse than it is. So, we wanted to give him a day to let it calm down. He'll be fine, but he if it was up to him he wanted to play.''

Redshirt freshman Kevan Smith took the majority of the snaps and was solid after coming through with his best performance during camp on Friday. Smith is still working out some timing issues, however, as his long balls hang up a bit too long and his short ones need to have a better touch. But for a kid who is playing just his third year as a quarterback, Smith isn't doing too badly. He certainly is tough, and he appears to be improving all the time.

Freshman LeSean McCoy, who sat out Friday's practice with a sprained ankle, returned to live contact drills and looked every bit as quick and powerful as before the injury. He hit the holes hard and displayed several amazing moves that led to a few big gains.

The defensive line provided a lot of pressure, including big plays by John Malecki, Gus Mustakas, Mick Williams and Jabaal Sheard, to name a few. Fifth-year senior center Chris Vangas actually had his best practice, with flawless snaps and quick pull-outs on running plays. He drilled linebacker Shane Murray on one sweep that cleared the way for LaRod Stephens-Howling, but in all fairness he basically was blindsided by Vangas.

The Panthers have taken it easy with Stephens-Howling, preferring to give the younger players -- Kevin Collier, McCoy and Shariff Harris -- the bulk of the carries, with fullback Conredge Collins getting his share as well.

"I thought Conredge Collins did some nice things out there,'' Wannstedt said. "He came out and made a few plays, blocking and running. He's off to a good start. I think he's more mature and in better shape, and I think he's hungrier. So, for the first time, I think we've got a few guys there. And that's a good thing, because we're going to have to run the ball.

"We just have to weed through the offensive line and figure it out, but it'll take a couple days. The skill spots, you can get an opinion from the beginning without pads, but the linemen take a couple days after you put the pads on. So, we have to get the offensive line worked out.''

Wannstedt also singled out senior tight end Darrell Strong for working hard on and off the field, but acknowledged that he still has more work to do to earn playing time this season.

Other injury news: fifth-year senior DE Chris McKillop suffered a hamstring injury Friday and did not practice. He is day-to-day, as is Brandon Lindsey with a sore hamstring. Also, wideout Maurice took a shot to his hand and needed an X-ray. It wasn't broken, so he came back and iced it and returned to the field 20 minutes later.

"He came back in and made three plays at the end,'' Wannstedt said. "That's very unusual for any player, but what's encouraging about that is that he's just a freshman.

And, finally, there was nothing knew on frosh quarterback Pat Bostick. Wannstedt said that he did not talk to the player or his father Saturday.

"We have had contact with his dad,'' Wannstedt said. "(Trainer) Rob Blanc had a conversation with his dad today just to follow up and make sure everything was OK, and nothing has changed. So, we're just going off what the dad says and what the kid says, and we expect him back here in the very near future. When? How? What? ... I'm not sure.''

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