Pitt Spring Practice No. 12; Second Scrimmage

Pitt's offense made some strides in its attempt to catch up to the Panthers' defense, as the team took part in a second spring intra-squad scrimmage Saturday at the indoor practice field.

The Pittsburgh depth chart remained the same as it was in the initial scrimmage a week ago with players like freshman tailback Dion Lewis, sophomore offensive tackle Lucas Nix, redshirt sophomore offensive guard Chris Jacobson and redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Myles Caragein making strong pushes for starting spots.

"Lucas Nix is making a real case to be our starting right tackle,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "He's really coming on. Lucas, Chris Jacobson, Myles Caragein, I think we've got 3-4 guys who are trying to solidify their position this spring. We still have a lot of competition right now. That center position (with walk-on Alex Karabein and senior Robb Houser) there's a lot of competition.

"Joe Thomas is doing a good job for us right now. I'm looking for the best five offensive linemen, and right now I don't know how it's all going to shake out. But I like the competition right now, and ... this will make us a better team. Alex Karabin is doing a nice job. He's been alternating with first group.

"(And) if we're playing tomorrow, Dion Lewis is in the mix for about 30 carries, in my mind,'' Wannstedt added. "We know that Shariff is a good player for us, and Chris Burns is going to be a good player for us. But Dion, he's come in here and probably has as good a grasp of what we're doing as any of the backs. And he's done it in a short period of time.''

The Panthers ran about 100 plays in the scrimmage with the first and second teams getting about 35 each and the third group netting about 30.

"It was a good scrimmage,'' Wannstedt said. "I thought the kids showed a lot from an energy standpoint. The kids showed up early this morning and were excited about being out here, excited about practicing (and) excited about scrimmaging. Everybody got an opportunity.

"From the quarterback position, I thought all of them did some good things at times and, obviously, we've got a ways to go. From a running back standpoint, I thought Dion Lewis made some plays that I think made the statement that he's progressing. He took some steps forward, and that's real encouraging to see.

"Defensively, as a group, we were solid,'' Wannstedt added. "We played Brandon Lindsey some at defensive end, and he made some sacks. He played middle linebacker and defensive end. That's a credit to Brandon trying to get on the field. There's been a battle between the coaches for Brandon.

"And Coach Gattuso, all along, has believed with his explosiveness that he could be a good pass-rusher. And when you look at our middle linebacker depth with Adam Gunn, Steve Dell and Shane Murray, Brandon wanted to find a way to get on the field, and this is it. He won't be a fullback. He's a defensive player.''

Safety Elijah Fields and tackle Craig Bokor were the top playmakers for the Pitt defense. Cornerback Antwuan Reed also took over early for senior starter Aaron Berry and was all over the field with three tackles and four blocked kicks.

"Craig Bokor probably is playing as good as anybody right now,'' Wannstedt said. "I'd have to say, right now, he's our third defensive tackle. I think he's really making some strides. You have Mick Williams and Myles, and Gus Mustakas isn't out here. But Bokor is playing better than all the other tackles.''

Reed recorded three straight blocks on redshirt freshman place-kicker Kevin Harper during the pre-scrimmage field-goal kicking drills. Reed broke in clean from the right side and smacked the ball away. He nearly jumped offsides on the fourth kick, and with no penetration Harper was able to make the kick.

Reed also blocked a Harper extra-point attempt during the scrimmage. Harper didn't appear to get the ball up quickly enough, but Reed was unblockable during that sequence in the field-goal kicking drills. Harper made 3 of 6 attempts from 38, 40 and 46 yards, so he has a strong leg but has been erratic.

Dan Hutchins, the leading punter candidate, was 6-for-6 with field goals from 27 and 34 yards, two from 38 and two from 39 yards.

Dion Lewis had 14 carries for 56 yards and a spectacular 19-yard touchdown where he burst up the middle and basically ran untouched into the end zone on a second-and-nine play. He also had a twisting 10-yard run up the gut to the 1, and Texas Tech transfer Joe Capp blasted in from there. Capp is a tough fullback that Wannstedt believed could contribute on special teams this year.

The other running backs were less impressive, as Chris Burns had 18 carries for 14 yards with a long run for eight, while Shariff Harris tallied eight yards on six carries with a long run for four yards. Harris also spent some time at fullback to "see if he can be a multiple-position back for us,'' offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti said. "He's a big, strong kid, and he can run inside.''

Junior Pat Bostick shared first-team reps with fifth-year senior Bill Stull at quarterback and had another solid performance. He was 9-for-17 for 72 yards with a touchdown pass to tight end Mike Cruz. Stull was 9-for-14 for 54 yards, but no touchdowns and one sack. Tino Sunseri was 9-for-12 for 99 yards with a short TD toss to Cruz, who scored on both his catches. But Sunseri also was sacked three times and fumbled once.

Lewis also had four catches for 15 yards, mostly on dump-offs, while Aundre Wright and Dorin Dickerson had three catches each. However, Dickerson dropped a few as well and just missed making a couple others. It was a rough day, but still a bright future for Dickerson, according to Wannstedt.

"I've got a good feeling about him,'' Wannstedt said. "We've all been waiting for Dorin to make big plays that win us games, and I've got a feeling he's going to have a big year. There's no question he's progressed the past year.''

Pitt works out three times next week, Tuesday and Thursday afternoon with 2:45 p.m. practices, with the annual Blue-Gold scrimmage capping spring drills April 11 at 2 p.m. at Heinz Field.

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