Pitt Spring Practice No. 4

The Pitt offense picked up its play Sunday after being dominated by the defense during the opening three spring practice sessions.

Pittsburgh, which worked out four straight days this week, was indoors again Sunday for its second straight day in pads.

"This was our fourth practice in a row, and the guys are a little bit beat up and sore, but that's good,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "Anything that you can put the players through this time of the year where they have to deal with a little bit of adversity, being sore and being tired, is a good thing.

"But they came out here and were productive and handled it the right way. That's all part of developing that team chemistry and developing a little bit of character inside each kid, too. Offensively, I thought all three quarterbacks threw the ball well today. Jonathan Baldwin, he and Oderick Turner are both off to a fast start at the wide receiver position. And that's very encouraging.''

Turner and Baldwin both got loose for long touchdown passes from quarterback Bill Stull, and Baldwin also out-leaped junior safety Dom DeCicco for a score in the corner of the end zone to cap a two-minute drill. Stull through a nice touch pass where Baldwin could get it, but senior cornerback Aaron Berry and DeCicco were unable to make a play.

Turner also turned in a great catch. He displayed excellent concentration while going up for a Stull pass and while pulling it down as well, as senior cornerback Jovani Chappel grabbed his facemask.

"We've all got big expectations for this season,'' Baldwin said. "We've got a new offensive coordinator, and he's added a lot of spunk to the offense. So, it feels real good, and I'm ready to get going. My goals were set higher last year, and I didn't succeed to get those goals. I set even bigger goals this year.

"So, I have to work hard to get to those goals. I have to catch a lot more balls, get open more, keep working on my press release and know all my assignments. All those little things, that's what I've been focusing on so far, all the small things. And hopefully that'll turn into big things for me and the team.''

Senior Greg Cross has been playing well this spring after moving to wideout from quarterback, but he suffered a right leg injury during a long pass play. He appeared to land wrong and twisted something, but he should be all right.

With Cross and redshirt sophomore Aundre Wright, who has been dressed but watching from the sideline with an undisclosed injury problem, redshirt freshman Michael Shanahan and redshirt sophomore Aaron Smith have also gotten additional reps in the passing game.

The running game was bolstered by strong play from freshman Dion Lewis. The speedster from New Jersey came through with a shake that baked cornerback Ricky Gary. Lewis took a pitch and broke outside toward the open field. Gary came up to make the play, but he bit -- just enough -- on a juke by Lewis that caused him to whiff on the play and allowed the tailback to run for a long score.

Redshirt sophomore Shariff Harris and redshirt freshman Chris Burns also had some nice runs behind a solid performance from the offensive line.

"Our offensive line, I've got to mention Lucas Nix and Chris Jacobson,'' Wannstedt said. "Both of those guys have gotten better. And when you see guys getting better after just a few guys, that gets you excited. And for us to be good up front, those guys have to play and have to come through for us.

"I think they realize that there's a spot open. They both want to play, and I think they're both starting to get the grasp that they have the ability to play. So, that's very encouraging, and we're looking forward to their development.''

The quarterback play was decent, as Stull was able to make some nice throws and hit open receivers when he got the chance. Junior Pat Bostick has shown that his arm strength clearly has improved, while redshirt freshman Tino Sunseri continues to have a good spring. He moves well in the pocket, has a strong arm and throws the nicest passes.

Pitt's defense has looked good up front, especially tackles Tommie Duhart, Mick Williams and Myles Caragein, and redshirt junior Elijah Fields came up with the biggest play. He read a pass in the flat from Stull attempted for senior tight end Dorin Dickerson and picked it off.

Wannstedt said that redshirt sophomore defensive end Tony Tucker has been excused for personal reasons the past two days. He was here Friday, but his dad drove in and picked him up. Tucker is home with his family in Bowie, Md., but he is expected to return sometime Monday.

On the recruiting trail, there were several locals watching practice, including a group from Woodland Hills High School. However, wideout-tailback Dom Timbers was not among them. Lineman Adam Metz from Lower Dauphin High School in Hummelstown, Pa. (near Harrisburg) also was in attendance.

Pitt is off Monday, but returns to action Tuesday with a 2:45 p.m. practice.

Panther More Top Stories