Monday Morning Mania

The Pitt football team was indoors again for Monday morning's training camp practice at the UPMC Sports Complex, and the Panthers went through a fairly light workout again with a tough one scheduled for the afternoon.

Pittsburgh continued to show various formations on offense to utilize players like senior tight end Darrell Strong, speedy freshman wideouts Aundre Wright and Maurice Williams and elusive junior tailback LaRod Stephens-Howling. LaRod's quickness was especially evident on several sweeps to both sides where offensive tackles Jason Pinkston and Jeff Otah sealed the corner to turn him loose.

Otah has a sore ankle and sat out Sunday's practice. He returned for a while Monday morning, but played only half the practice. When the Panthers went to the 11-on-11 drills, redshirt junior Chase Clowser took over on the left side for Otah. Strong also is an effective blocker in a tight formation or can be split out to open things up for Stephens-Howling.

"Darrell, he's a different kind of animal,'' redshirt sophomore wideout Oderick Turner said. "Anything thrown his way, he can come down with it. He's athletic. He can run well for his size, and he can still play quarterback. The way he moves for a big boy, I'm glad he's on my team.''

After a slow start, Turner had a strong second week and is back at his starting wideout spot. While some might believe that it was about time for Turner to step up his game, it also factored into the situation that the other wideouts were playing much better.

"I guess maybe I got a little complacent, but I think we're all playing good right now,'' Turner said. "And I know you can't hold back anything because somebody will be there to take your place. And that's a good thing, because the competition makes us all better players.''

While redshirt junior Marcel Pestano has had his share of big plays during camp, he primarily has been a possession receiver with redshirt sophomore Cedric McGee. But the rookies, Wright and Williams, have been the home-run hitters for the Panthers the past two weeks.

Wright beat frosh cornerback Buddy Jackson on a deep post route, and redshirt freshman quarterback Kevan Smith hit him in stride. When Smith can cut loose, he's been extremely accurate. When he has to take something off a pass is when Smith has struggled a bit.

Wright also had about a 20-yard run on a reverse to change field position, but Williams might have outdone him on just one play. FIrst, Williams beat senior cornerback Lowell Robinson down the far side, and there was late safety help from sophomore Jovani Chappel. But speed and athleticism won out, as Williams got a hand on the slightly underthrown pass, tipped it to himself and kept running into the end zone for the touchdown.

Those were just two examples why Pitt should not miss Derek Kinder this season. Wideout appears to be the Panthers' deepest position. All they'll need is someone to get them the football.

Freshman quarterback Pat Bostick had a rough morning. He got a few second-team reps during 7-on-7 drills and fell victim to a poor pass route and a worse blocking technique during one two-play sequence.

First, on a quick-hitch timing play, Bostick took a couple steps back and dumped the ball over the line. But Strong wasn't there like he was supposed to be. Instead, linebacker Dorin Dickerson picked it off and raced the other way to the end zone. That drew the ire of offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh, who quickly addressed the situation with Strong.

On the next play, freshman center Greg Gaskins whiffed on Tommy Duhart, and the rugged sophomore defensive tackle forced Bostick to quickly retreat. He never got rid of the ball, and a conversation between Gaskins and redshirt sophomore guard Craig Bokor ensued.

Pitt still has an afternoon practice Monday and one Tuesday, along with a morning walkthrough Wednesday to prepare for the final scrimmage that afternoon.

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