Mick Dominates Again

The scene has played out time and time again during the opening three training camp training camp practice days for the Pitt football team, and the Thursday morning session comprised a perfect example.

Redshirt junior defensive tackle Mick Williams would not be denied. No matter which offensive lineman he faced, Williams would get to the quarterback or the running back or the tackling dummy used in one-on-one drills against the Pittsburgh O-linemen. No one appeared to be able to block him.

"I'm just out there having fun with the other guys, and we're working very hard together,'' William said. "We're all getting better together. The O-linemen, they're doing pretty good, but we just had a good day. But the key is that we all want to win games. It's the most important thing for us this year.

"We're tired of going home for Christmas. We want to go somewhere for the holidays, and we want to go somewhere hot. The D-line, we're making a lot of strides and a lot of plays, just because we're good athletes, but we've still got a ways to go to be where Coach Gattuso wants us.''

With Williams, senior Rashaad Duncan, junior Tommie Duhart and redshirt junior Gus Mustakas stuffing opponents from the interior on the D-line, Pitt's defense will be tough to stop. And Williams leads the way. Many have tried and certainly more will attempt to slow him down this season, but Williams -- now lightning quick at 6-foot-1 and 270 pounds to go with that raw strength -- always appears to reach his destination.

"And my heart's still the same,'' Williams said. "So, that's what I go on. I have the desire to beat my guy and get to the quarterback. I feel like I can play a million plays, but we still have to rotate guys in there. We have a great rotation on the entire D-line, and that's what keeps us fresh.''

During one sequence Thursday, Pitt's All-American tailback LeSean McCoy, attempted to run a quick hitter up the middle. Williams and Duncan had the play stuffed. McCoy quickly slid to his right, but Williams stayed in pursuit and stripped the football. Duncan was right there as well to recover it.

That's the way it's gone for the Panthers' offense when it goes up against what should be the top defense in the Big East again this season. Individually, Pitt's O-linemen didn't perform much better in one-on-one drills against the D-linemen, who's job it was to beat their opponent and knock down the tackling dummy standing several yards deep in the backfield.

Williams did not discriminate against any particular O-lineman. He beat C.J. Davis, Lucas Nix, Robb Houser and Chris Jacobson in the drill, and then he smacked the dummy to the ground. It bounced right back up, but few quarterbacks could have done the same if Williams hits them that hard.

Ends Jabaal Sheard, Tony Tucker, Tyler Tkach and Greg Romeus primarily used their quickness to beat Pitt's offensive tackles. Joe Thomas, in particular, had a rough morning. Thomas spent his second straight day with the first team, while redshirt sophomore Jason Pinkston remained in the afternoon.

The best performance by an offensive lineman was turned in by redshirt freshman left tackle Jordan Gibbs, who used a quick start and his strength on Greg Romeus to keep him away from the quarterback.

Jared Martin, a redshirt sophomore, has played backup center in the morning and did a nice job on Duhart on two occasions.

With three starters returning, Pitt's linebacking corps is also a team strength. However, with five young players -- redshirt sophomore Nate Nix, as well as redshirt freshmen Greg Williams, Brandon Lindsey, Max Gruder and Tristan Roberts -- the Panthers are set for the future, too.

"I love those guys,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "Nate Nix has really improved from the spring. Brandon Lindsey is about 15 pounds lighter and much quicker. He's improved from the spring.

"Tristan Roberts and Max Gruder ... Greg Williams, we've got some young guys who are athletic and can run. And they're all really eager to learn, so it's an exciting group. They want to play. Hopefully, they'll be able to gain a little bit more experience as we go along.''

Pitt linebackers coach Joe Tumpkin believe the only difference between the young players and the veterans, for the most part, was their inexperience.

"They're coming along, and you can see some things that they've learned in the spring they're already transforming them over to the things we're doing here in camp,'' Tumpkin said. "The big thing is that they have a great work ethic about them, and they eager to learn everything we tell them.

"The mistakes they make come from their inexperience, and you can't fault that. But they don't make them more than once, and that's a good thing. So, the more reps we can get for them, the better off they'll be.''

Those players practicing in the afternoon had conditioning work in the morning with Buddy Morris and James Smith, who instructed the group to run around the four practice fields one time. Despite the grumbling, they took off from the building toward the far field and circled back fairly quickly.

There also was quite a bit of post-practice conditioning for the morning players, running back and forth from sideline to sideline for about 15 minutes.

Wideouts Derek Kinder and T.J. Porter missed the morning practice again, but Kinder said other than a little stiffness his knee felt better Thursday.

"I hope to practice (Friday), and ... I'm real eager to be out there in full pads Saturday to get some contact,'' Kinder said.

Pitt's entire squad comes together for Saturday's 2-5 p.m. practice.

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