The Offense Strikes Back

The Pitt offense was knocked down several times by the defense during the first week in training camp, was battered and bruised, but apparently was not out.

During a practice-ending, overtime situation Sunday afternoon, the first-team Pittsburgh defense got sacks from Jabaal Sheard and Tommie Duhart to put the offense in a third-and-25 situation. Sheard appeared to knock the ball loose, but the coaches gave it back to the offense.

Quarterback Bill Stull connected with wideout Oderick Turner for 23 yards on third down, and tailback LeSean McCoy converted the short-yardage situation on fourth down. Then, Stull threw a fade into the end zone for Turner that he pulled down between cornerback Jovani Chappel and safety Eric Thatcher.

"We went third down live, from a standpoint of down and distance situations,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "We put a little bit more pressure on and created a little bit more competition, and the defense really performed well. We were not good enough on offense and didn't make enough third downs.

"Then, we simulated an overtime situation and put the ball on the 25-yard line. The defense had them third-down-and-25. They completed a long pass, and Shady converted the fourth down. And they ended up scoring, so it was perfect from a coaching script standpoint (with) the offense coming through.''

Wannstedt singled out Turner for making the "two big catches at the end,'' and added that "he's had a good camp.''

It was also a good day for fifth-year senior Derek Kinder, who went through an entire practice apparently without any problems. And defensive end Doug Fulmer also had a solid day after missing the past four to rest his sore knee.

There were a handful of players out, however, including defensive tackles Gus Mustakas (knee) and Mick Williams (leg strain), cornerback Aaron Berry (hamstring), and safety Irvan Brown, cornerback Buddy Jackson and defensive end Greg Romeus (undisclosed injuries).

"We have too many guys with bumps and bruises that need to get back out there,'' Wannstedt said. "It happens in camp, but it's never acceptable from a coaching standpoint. You want all your guys out there practicing.''

The Panthers had five freshman contribute last season, including quarterback Pat Bostick, wideout Mo Williams, Sheard and safety Dom DeCicco, as well as McCoy, who went to prep school. Wannstedt believed more could play this fall.

"I'm going to say this now, but I think we're going to have more freshmen help us this year than last year,'' Wannstedt said. "Most of it might be on special teams. I'm not sure yet, but I'm very encouraged by 4-5 of these guys.''

One opinion is that wideouts Jonathan Baldwin and Cam Saddler, place-kicker Kevin Harper, cornerback Jarred Holley, offensive tackle Lucas Nix and safety Andrew Taglianetti are freshmen who could play this season. Baldwin and Nix could be in the regular offense at some point, while the others could play on special teams return or coverage units with Harper possibly kicking off.

Also during the practice, safety Michael Toerper picked off a pass and then was planted in the sideline by tight end Dorin Dickerson.

Taglianetti was torched on a long pass from quarterback Pat Bostick to Saddler, but after being victimized he came up to smack Saddler after a short pass was poorly thrown.

There were several pass deflections during the practice. Tony Tucker, Chas Alecxih, Sheard and Duncan all got their hands on attempted passes to knock them to the ground.

With Berry and Jackson on the shelf, Holley and Ronald Hobby were the second-team corners behind Chappel and Ricky Gary.

Pitt practices just once Monday afternoon (2-5 p.m.) to prepare for a two-for-Tuesday that includes an afternoon intrasquad scrimmage at 3:30.

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