Depth-Chart Shuffle

Pitt football coach Dave Wannstedt has told his players that everything they do with the Panthers is evaluated, on the field and off it, and when a few guys fell short in the latter areas recently their status in the former changed as well.

So, the Pittsburgh offensive like has sophomore Lucas Nix starting at right tackle ahead of senior Joe Thomas this week, while walk-on redshirt junior Alex Karabin is running with the first team at center ahead of Robb Houser. Also, sophomore Antwuan Reed is getting first-team reps at field cornerback ahead of senior Aaron Berry, and sophomore Andrew Taglianetti has moved ahead of redshirt junior Elijah Fields at free safety.

"To me, to be a consistent football player at the level that's expected of you in our program, (work ethic) carries over into the weight room,'' Wannstedt said. "It carries over into the offseason program and carries over into the classroom.

"And, sometimes, a player might be doing well on the football field, but in my opinion he's not doing everything he's supposed to do or do to the best of his ability in some other areas. So, we've got a few guys I'm not really concerned about where they are football-wise.

"But I am concerned about them doing everything that's expected of them in the other areas that affect this program,'' Wannstedt added. "So, we've got a few guys moved around. ... It's really not experimenting, but we want to make sure everyone in this program understands they're accountable every day.''

Nix played in six games, primarily in mop-up roles, as a freshman last fall. And that really opened his eyes as to what it takes to play football at this level.

"I think I'm picking up the concepts of the offense a lot better now, and that makes it a lot easier for me this spring,'' Nix said. "I guess it paid off that I spent a lot of time watching film in the offseason. John Malecki deserves credit for that, because he forced me to come in when I really didn't want to.

"The off-field work helps you improve as much as or even more than what you do on the field. That's for sure. And I think I'm having a pretty good spring so far. I'm getting some first-team reps, which are great, but I'll take any playing time that I can get. I just want to get on the field to show what I can do.''

While these moves might not be permanent, the message is sent that nothing will be given to the Pitt players by the coaches. It must be earned. However, that doesn't mean Wannstedt and his staff will alter the format for Pitt's second intra-squad scrimmage Saturday at 10:30 a.m. on the outdoor turf.

"I think it actually worked out (the first one) pretty good last week,'' Wannstedt said. "The difficult thing about scrimmaging, particularly 2-3 weeks into the spring and especially when there's guys who are hurt, is that sometimes there's a position where you're three-deep. But others are only two-deep.

"So, you want to give everyone an opportunity and a look, but like (Tuesday) we had only five receivers practicing and couldn't get into a second nickel-formation let alone a third. And when you're trying to work three quarterbacks and three running backs, it's difficult to get everyone the same amount of work.

"So, we'll look at what we did last week and try to get everyone a fair amount of work this week,'' Wannstedt added. "That way, we can make a good evaluation going into the spring game (April 11 at 2 p.m. at Heinz Field).''

Wannstedt noted that redshirt freshman Chris Burns has made some strides the past few practice sessions, but freshman Dion Lewis has still been getting the majority of first-team reps for about a week now. Redshirt sophomore Shariff Harris actually had the best day of the three during Thursday's practice.

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