Thomas-Nix RT Battle Continues

Pitt football training camp is in the homestretch now with just the third intrasquad scrimmage remaining Wednesday from 3-5 p.m.

The morning practice was relatively light, with the Panthers working out in just shorts with helmets and shoulder pads, but there still was a sense of urgency with the final scrimmage approaching and the Pittsburgh opener with Bowling Green just 10 days away.

"We have a few things to clean up first, as far as finishing camp goes,'' safety Dom DeCicco said. "Then, we can start concentrating on the season.''

The Pitt depth chart didn't get firmed up in the morning session, as many second-team players like Dom Williams and Ricky Gary got considerable time with the first team, and backup quarterbacks Pat Bostick and Kevan Smith got more reps as well. Williams stepped in for C.J. Davis at left guard, while Gary took over for Jovani Chappel and Aaron Berry at both cornerback spots.

While Bill Stull should be officially named Pitt's starting quarterback soon, Smith and Bostick are battling for the No. 2 spot. This is one position that Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said might not be determined until the game against Bowling Green kicks off at noon Aug. 30 at Heinz Field.

Several others will depend on how well certain players perform in the final scrimmage. For example, on the offensive line, junior Joe Thomas has continued to be the leading candidate for the starting right tackle position. Freshman Lucas Nix has made progress the past two weeks, but he doesn't appear ready to take that spot from Thomas right now.

However, a few weeks into the season, that could change. Thomas has been inconsistent throughout camp. Occasionally, he displayed the skill that made him a top recruit in 2006. However, more often than not, Thomas has been overpowered and overmatched by Jabaal Sheard. That might happen to a lot of right tackles this season, as Sheard continues to improve.

"Our O-line is doing all right, but I would say that our D-line is very tough,'' Sheard said. "Joe and Lucas are both big, strong guys, and I think they do a pretty good job on me. So, I have to use my quickness to beat them.''

The right tackle spot appears to be the only starting position still up for grabs, in essence, but I wouldn't be surprised if Thomas started the season and held onto it throughout. But I have a feeling that Nix will move in there as soon as the coaches believe he's remotely close to being ready. They expect more of Thomas and have given him every opportunity with playing time the past two seasons at guard and now moving him to tackle, and he has yet to seize the opportunities presented to him.

"Both guys are learning, Joe because it's a new position, and Lucas because he's just a freshman,'' Pitt offensive line coach Tony Wise said. "And they're both competing for the spot, pushing each other, so it's going to work out for this team. We'd like that to happen sooner, rather than later, but it'll happen.''

To me, that means Nix eventually will be the starter. And he could go a long way toward reaching that goal with a strong performance in the scrimmage.

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