Pitt's First Scrimmage; Spring Practice No. 8

Pitt football coach Dave Wannstedt noted that each player got about 30 snaps during the Panthers' initial intra-squad scrimmage Saturday on the outdoor turf field, and some progress was evident heading into the second half this spring.

Pittsburgh has completed eight spring workouts now and has seven remaining before the annual Blue-Gold game April 11 at 2 p.m. at Heinz Field.

"We ran probably close to a hundred plays today,'' Wannstedt said. "We generally have not gotten the third group as many reps as we did today, but I thought it worked out pretty well that everybody got an opportunity.

"I thought that all three quarterbacks did a nice job, making some plays under pressure, because we had everything live today. And I think that makes a difference when they know that those guys are coming after them for real.

"(And) defensively, we gave up the one big pass play to Baldwin down the middle,'' Wannstedt added. "But overall, I thought our defense was solid. Greg Williams showed up, and the backup defensive linemen showed up. Justin Hargrove, Myles Caragein and Chas Alecxih showed up.''

Wannstedt also lauded the play of backup wideouts Michael Shanahan and Aaron Smith, who are battling for the fourth and fifth spots with Aundre Wright. And the running backs -- primarily Shariff Harris, Chris Burns and Dion Lewis -- all made some plays, Wannstedt said, although he preferred to check the tape for a final assessment.

"Pat Bostick,'' Wannstedt said, "he's the guy who probably gets talked about the least, but he's as dependable as anyone. We know what Pat can do and what he needs to improve on. But he's always totally prepared and does what's asked of him. He's working as hard as anybody.''

Wannstedt noted that Bill Stull and Tino Sunseri both did a nice job avoiding the rush and making throws on the move, although neither scrambled for yardage.

Burns opened at tailback and had a few nice runs, but he couldn't score and was stuffed by the middle of the D-line on a short-yardage play. When fullback Henry Hynoski was used in a single-back set, he was able to plow for several yards each time, which makes one wonder if he'll be used on the goal line and in other short-yardage situation.

"I didn't do too bad, but I can always do better,'' Burns said. "Overall, it wasn't a bad first scrimmage, but I know some little things here and there that I didn't do exactly right. So, I have some improvement to make for the next time, and hopefully I'll get a chance to score. I was disappointed I didn't get in today.

"(But) probably we all have some things to work on. That said, I think we've shown a good deal of improvement for the first two weeks and in the first scrimmage. So, we're looking forward to getting better to get where we want to be by the end of the spring and going into summer workouts.''

The big passing play for the first-teamers was a Stull connection to Jonathan Baldwin for about a 60-yard touchdown on a post pattern. Baldwin had the inside route on cornerback Jovani Chappel, and Stull put the ball on the money. Safety Dom DeCicco bit on the play-action, so he couldn't get back in time.

The Panthers tried a few screen plays, and Sunseri had one to Burns to the left side that gained eight yards and a first down. Then, a screen was set up to the right side, but Burns couldn't shake Shayne Hale. The left defensive end read the play and strung it out to force Sunseri to throw the ball away.

Bostick's two best passes were a crossing pass to Shanahan where he waited for the receiver to get open and then zipped a completion to him. Bostick also fired a touchdown in the middle of the end zone to Hynoski.

Redshirt sophomore weak-side linebacker Max Gruder also made a couple big plays. He stuffed Kevin Collier for a two-yard loss of a blitz, as Collier was the up-back in an I-formation. Gruder also sacked Stull on the next series.

"It was nice to be out there with a chance to make some plays,'' Gruder said. "I think we started a little slow on defense, but we picked it up and played pretty well. ... I was nice to make a play in the backfield, but the D-line cleared things out for me to get in there. I do think we fed off that after that play and played pretty well together on defense.''

Dion Lewis got the better of cornerback Buddy Jackson on two plays. Lewis took a pitch around the left end and met a charging Jackson. After a collision, Lewis kept running, and Jackson had to pick himself up off the ground. Later in the scrimmage Lewis shook Jackson and ran in for a touchdown.

The defense also did some ball-hawking. Stull was picked off by Dom DeCicco, but it appeared that Baldwin ran the wrong route since no one was there except DeCicco. The junior safety appeared to get a second pick a short time later, but the referees ruled no catch. Stull threw a third interception that Steve Dell picked off, but there was a pass-interference call on DeCicco for bumping Dorin Dickerson a bit early.

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