The Panthers have one more week in camp and then go into their game-planning for the regular-season opener against Eastern Michigan Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. at Heinz Field. University of Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt addressed several issues prior to Sunday afternoon's practice.
"We're making some progress, and overall I thought it was a better team scrimmage Saturday than the first one but we still have a lot of work to do,'' Wannstedt said. "The point of emphasis this next week, the next two weeks, still needs to be for us to clean up the little things in several areas.
"The big plays will come in all phases of the game, if we get a little more discipline and if we get a little smarter in what we're supposed to do. We still had some basic, mental mistakes that we need to clean up.''
Several individual performances and players were praised by Wannstedt.
"Conredge Collins continues to have a very good camp,'' Wannstedt said. "Jeff Otah is night and day compared to where he was a year ago at this time. He's really playing well. The defensive line, Chris McKillop didn't scrimmage the first time because of a hamstring, but he showed up and made some plays. I thought Scott McKillop, both of the McKillops, did a nice job. The depth is another thing, in some areas, that's real encouraging.
"Ricky Gary, Lowell Robinson, Dom DeCicco, these guys are all in backup roles, but they all made plays (Saturday). The linebacker thing and the offensive line are the two positions that we're still working through and are still not settled. We probably won't be settled until maybe the first of next week.
"(But) Adam Gunn did a good job,'' Wannstedt added. "Shane Murray played very well. Jemeel Brady's getting better. Dorin (Dickerson) did good. So, we've got a good group of guys there, who we're coaching hard. So, they're working hard, and ... we've got to figure out what the right combination is.''
Wannstedt also noted that several freshmen have played well thus far and most certainly will make an impact in some way this season.
"As far as the young guys,'' Wannstedt said, "I think it's pretty obvious that we'll get contributions out of Jabaal Sheard, Dom DeCicco, LeSean McCoy, Aundre Wright, they're a few of the guys who made plays (Saturday) that I think will have a chance to help us in some capacity this year.''
While Wannstedt added that the 2007 Panthers are still a work in progress, there are several areas that are solid and certainly better than at this time last season. That leaves just two to finalize before the regular season.
They are the offensive line and linebacking corps. As far as the line goes, the Panthers need to determine their five best guys and get them on the field together to develop some cohesiveness. The linebacking depth chart is set concerning the players involved, but a first and second team have not yet been determined. It's just known that Adam Gunn, Scott McKillop, Shane Murray, Dorin Dickerson and Nate Nix are the top five. Dan Loheyde and Steve Dell are battling for the backup in the middle. None of the freshmen are likely to contribute at linebacker this season unless an injury occurs.
"I feel good where we're at with the things that you can control,'' Wannstedt said. "I think our team is just about where we need to be physically from a conditioning standpoint. We're just about contact ready, with all the hitting that we've done, and I think we've pretty much cleaned up the penalties. ... We've pretty much cleared up the center-quarterback exchange thing.
"The turnover emphasis is something that we'll talk about all year, and we're still not where we need to be there. And, for the most part, I think we know our players. For example, where will T.J. Porter fit in the best. What does LaRod (Stephens-Howling) give us compared to McCoy. How does Conredge Collins fit in. So, I think we have a better feel for how to utilize our people.
"All those things, I feel real good with where we're at today,'' Wannstedt added. "So, we've just got to clean up the little things, and we'll be ready to go. (And) I like their attitude. We really haven't had to jump-start these guys, so they've come out ready to practice and work. It's been a good group.''
There were no major injuries in the scrimmage, Wannstedt said. He also noted that the kicking game will be solid with punter Dave Brytus and place-kicker Conor Lee. The holder for Lee will be either Brytus or redshirt sophomore Lucas Stone, who is slightly ahead in the race to win the job.
The punt returner right now would be Aaron Berry, but T.J. Porter is a close second with Aundre Wright and Aaron Smith also competing. Lowell Robinson is the top kickoff returner.
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