Pitt Football Notebook

Pitt's bye week officially started with a team meeting Monday at 7 a.m. and will continue with practice Tuesday afternoon, as the football team will practice through Friday with an additional week to prepare for Navy (4-1) Oct. 18 at 3:30 p.m. in Annapolis, Md.

The 24th-ranked Panthers (4-1) were all present and accounted for, and that made Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt one happy camper.

"Everybody got back from the weekend, all the Florida guys got home, and we watched the South Florida tape,'' Wannstedt said. "Now, we'll move on to Navy. The players (did) some conditioning, and the coaches will start on Navy.

"We'll begin to practice (Tuesday), and it'll be a split practice. One part will be to work on fundamentals, and the other half will be to introduce Navy.''

Wannstedt also noted that some coaches were out recruiting after Pitt's 26-21 upset win against formerly No. 10 South Florida, and the response was good.

"We got a lot of e-mails and calls from recruits after the game, and we had a recruiting meeting (Monday) morning,'' Wannstedt said. "We had two coaches stay and recruit in Florida after the game, and that was very receptive.

"We also had two guys in New Jersey and in Eastern Pa. last week, and everybody was echoing the same sentiments. It's very positive out there, and that's good. We're very happy about that.''

Pitt linebackers coach Joe Tumpkin, who regularly recruits in Florida, and running backs coach David Walker were the two who remained in the Sunshine State. They primarily were there to check out Greg Pratt. The Naples High School running back is set to visit Pitt Nov. 28 for its game with West Virginia.

Tight ends coach Brian Angelichio and defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley were the other coaches on the recruiting trail over the weekend.

Linebackers Brandin Hawthorne from Pahokee High School, Shane Gordon and Austin Gamble from Cypress Bay, and running back Jason Douglas from Cypress Bay also are Florida players with interest in Pitt.

Got A Dime? The Panthers primarily played their dime defense against South Florida, which utilizes up to six defensive backs, three linemen and middle linebacker Scott McKillop. This kept redshirt junior weak-side linebacker Shane Murray off the field against the Bulls, but he finally could get more playing time at Navy.

"We're hoping to get Shane more full-speed work in practice this week,'' Wannstedt said. "He was ready to play last week, but we used a lot of six DBs. That was a part of the package we had for South Florida, so we used Ricky Gary in the game and Andrew Taglianetti, at times, and Elijah Fields at times. So, we were in our dime package a lot of times with two linebackers out.''

Murray, who suffered a right knee strain just before the season began, played sparingly in the second half at Syracuse. One player who got his first game action was freshman cornerback Antwuan Reed. He did not get into the opening four games this season, but now his redshirt is burned.

"He was on some special teams, and we're going to continue to work him in and get him in and put him into some positions where he can help us,'' Wannstedt said. "He's done a nice job in practice, and we're always evaluating that.

"We also look at where he plays, who he's behind and where he might fit. Then, you make a decision, but you don't want to ever waste a year of a player. But, if a guy fits into a spot where he can help you, I think we need to do that. And that's the case here.''

Reed apparently has moved ahead of redshirt freshman Buddy Jackson, who was expected to battle junior Jovani Chappel for a starting cornerback spot in training camp. However, a hamstring injury and inconsistency held him back.

"Buddy has just got to be a little more consistent in practice,'' Wannstedt said. "He's doing a better job, and he's been doing some good things. But he has to become more consistent.''

Walking Wounded Pitt had a few players banged up against South Florida, primarily Chappel and fifth-year senior wideout Derek Kinder. However, Wannstedt did not believe anybody would be out for the Navy game.

"We expect Derek to be fine,'' Wannstedt said. "(Quarterback) Greg Cross got hit on his hand. I thought it was worse at the time than it really was, but he could have come back to play if necessary.''

Stepping Up Junior right offensive tackle Joe Thomas was much maligned throughout training camp and the opening few games this season, his third as a starter at Pitt, but first as a tackle after two years at right guard.

Thomas appeared to play his best game at USF, and Wannstedt agreed.

"Joe played very solid,'' Wannstedt said. "He and Jason Pinkston are really coming on. Those guys played good, and Joe is one of those guys who has gotten a little better every week. And he's a great example of what this team really has been able to do these past few weeks.''

The Panthers have won four straight with three comeback victories.

Spread It Out Pitt has utilized a spread punting formation since Wannstedt has taken over as special teams coordinator this season, and the unit -- with fifth-year senior punter Dave Brytus -- was harassed through the USF game. The Bulls roughed up Brytus on his opening kick, blocked the next one and came close after that.

Still, Wannstedt did not believe any drastic changes were needed.

"We don't need to modify anything there,'' Wannstedt said. "We just need to execute it better. We did not execute our assignments the way that we're supposed to. And if you do that on offense, defense or special teams, then bad things will happen. And that's exactly what happened to us.''

Wannstedt noted that it was the players on the line of scrimmage, not the three personal protectors for Brytus, who were at fault in the USF game.

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