Pitt Practice Report Four

Pitt football coach Dave Wannstedt knew that it would be difficult to get enough playing time for all four quarterbacks on his roster, but through one spring practice week and four workouts he was able to make an assessment.

"I would say that Bill Stull is back to being 100 percent healthy, but this will be an important spring for him to get his timing back,'' Wannstedt said. "Pat Bostick has improved with his quickness and his arm strength from a year ago.

"Greg Cross is picking things up, but it's going to take time. Every day is a new experience for him. And Kevan Smith is working extremely hard, but it's his third year in the system. So, I expect for him to improve. ... Their attitudes are good, and they're competing. And that's the way it should be.''

One drill has the Pittsburgh quarterbacks throwing footballs at a netting that has three pockets in it. If he hits the netting, it's likely a catchable pass. The middle pocket, obviously, would be the best option. The quarterbacks start slowly at about 10 yards and move out to 20 and even 30 with a deep drop-back.

By the end of the period, Stull, Bostick and Smith were fairly accurate. Again, Cross didn't get much work throwing the football. He ran the offense in team drills for just one series and had a long run on a quarterback draw.

"Greg's working hard, and he's picking things up,'' Wannstedt said. "But it's going to take some time. What we have to determine is what he can and can't do right now and then take it from there. So, we want to get him as much work as possible without giving him too much to handle. But he'll get there.''

Stull still appears to have an edge on Bostick in the quarterback battle that will most assuredly continue into summer camp. While Stull certainly is healthy, stronger than last year and sharper with his passes, Bostick's intense work ethic can't be questioned. With all the improvement that he's made just since last season, there's no telling how far he'll go.

The quarterback battle isn't the only one being waged on the Panthers this spring. The matchup between sophomore Dom DeCicco and redshirt sophomore Elijah Fields at strong safety already has been documented as well, but it took a slight turn Saturday with Fields spending some time with the first team.

Many believe Fields should be the starter at strong safety, but DeCicco opened the spring with the first team and has played well. Both can cover a quick wideout or big tight end with equal ease, and neither is afraid to charge the line to stuff a running play. Fifth-year senior Eric Thatcher is the starting free safety, and DeCicco backed him up last fall.

While Thatcher hasn't played badly, either, the solution might be to get the best two on the field as much as possible, even if that's Fields and DeCicco. And in the end, the Panthers will benefit from the good competition.

That's also the case at cornerback. While junior Aaron Berry is secure field corner, the boundary spot is open with junior Jovani Chappel starting ahead of redshirt freshman Buddy Jackson so far. Redshirt sophomore Ricky Gary is backing up Berry like he did last season.

"We've got some good competition there,'' Wannstedt said. "Jovani's having a good spring. Buddy Jackson, Ricky Gary and (freshman) Ronald Hobby, they all have the ability to be starters. Once we have a couple scrimmages under our belts, things will start to clear up back there.''

Redshirt junior defensive end Doug Fulmer was among several Panthers to sit out Saturday's practice with injuries. Fulmer said he tweaked his groin, but it wasn't serious. Nonetheless, that gave sophomore Jabaal Sheard more reps with the first team, and he continued to shine. With redshirt sophomore Greg Romeus on the other side, backed up by redshirt frosh Tony Tucker, Pitt should be able to get a solid four-player rotation going at defensive end this fall.

"Jabaal's going to be a heckuva player for us,'' Wannstedt said. "The limited playing time that he had will help him understand what it's going to take this year. Right now, he's in the rotation. We've got Romeus, Fulmer and Sheard, and if we were playing tonight we would rotate those three guys.

"And Tony Tucker, if he keeps progressing the way he has, we would play all four of them. Tucker made some plays (Saturday), and he showed up more than he has since he's been here. He really had a good practice.''

The Panthers suffered a bit from fatigue after three straight days of practice and four workouts in five days, the final two in full pads. That's why the individual position drills were a little sluggish, but the 7-on-7, 9-on-9 and especially the 11-on-11, team portions were much crisper.

"The guys were a little tired,'' Wannstedt said. "We got out of here late (Friday) night, and we had them in here early (Saturday) morning. So, we're not consistently doing things at a high level like we need to. We've been a little bit up and down, but that has a little bit to do with maturity.

"So, as coaches, we've got to keep pressing them. And I told the players, you know what the expectations are every day when you walk onto this football field, so we can't be up and down with our practice intensity. One period was all out, and another one wasn't. We didn't scrimmage until the end, but we've got to learn to practice at a high level when we're not scrimmaging.''
The Panthers had a spirited goal-line session close practice Saturday. On a quarterback rollout, Smith sprinted for the end zone, but got drilled at the 1 by outside linebacker Brandon Lindsey (and others) and lost the ball. The defense recovered in the end zone, but that didn't matter. He was ruled down by the officials in attendance, but Wannstedt disagreed with the call.

"I'll have to see the tape, and I'll get back to you with a ruling,'' he said.

One play later, redshirt freshman tailback Shariff Harris blasted into the end zone for the score. This gave the offense a bit of revenge, since the defense got the better of it Friday night with two picks returned for scores at the end.

Along with Fulmer, senior fullback Conredge Collins and redshirt freshman defensive tackle Myles Caragein sat out. It was Collins' second straight miss after getting "bumped up'' Thursday, but it isn't believed to be serious. Caragein is another story. His right ankle was in a boot, and he expected to get X-rays later Saturday to determine if there was any damage.

Panther More Top Stories