Pitt Wednesday Afternoon Practice

By some player accounts, freshman tailback Jason Douglas is the fastest Pitt football player right now, and that speed was on display throughout the Wednesday afternoon practice session.

Whether he was returning kicks, running out of the I-formation or catching passes out of the backfield, Jason Douglas was easy to find. And at 5-foot-7, 170 pounds, it's not due to his stature. It's something else.

"(He's) fast, really fast,'' Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt said. "When he came out here, someone said that he looked like LaRod Stephens-Howling, but when LaRod came in as a freshman he was the fastest guy on the team. Now, we've got about three guys who are as fast as Jason.

"So, the competition is better. But they have to do three things to contribute to this football team, like I told LeSean McCoy when he got here a couple years ago. (They have to) hold onto football, prove to their teammates that you're a tough guy and go out and execute the game plan.''

And that's the status of some of the younger tailbacks, according to Wannstedt, who didn't want to evaluate the running backs until after Pitt does some hitting. And Wannstedt noted that the Panthers are a step closer now that these first two days have ended.

We're a step closer to playing real football,'' Wannstedt said. "Tomorrow, the shoulder pads go on. That's not full pads, but we are making progress toward being able to block and tackle for real. Today's practices were good from the standpoint that everyone got some quality reps.

"The older guys did a good job not getting too antsy about putting the pads on. ... They stayed with the plan and stayed with the program. The focus was good. We were clean the past two mornings, as far as turnovers go, and that tells me that they are focused. They're concentrating and executing.''

There was some light rain less than an hour into the afternoon practice, but then there was thunder and eventually lightning chased the Panthers indoors for the second half of practice. The managers and equipment crew quickly moved the operations indoors, and little time was wasted.

"That gave us an opportunity to evaluate these guys from a focus standpoint and can they handle distractions,'' Wannstedt said. "And we came in, and on the first two or three plays we had two guys go the wrong way and another guy fumbled. So, it was a great lesson to illustrate about not being distracted.''

Freshman Ray Graham struggled a bit in the afternoon, especially indoors, as he had some problems getting out of the backfield with freshman defensive tackle Tyrone Ezell clogging up the middle and redshirt freshman Shayne Hale and redshirt sophomore Brandon Lindsey on the ends. Graham also was the player who fumbled that Wannstedt mentioned.

"The move of Brandon Lindsey and Shayne Hale to defensive end is going to pay dividends down the road,'' Wannstedt said. "And some of the other young guys ... Brock DeCicco did some good things. Jarred Holley is a corner who's making some progress. He's come a long way.''

Holley showed good ball skills, knocking passes away from receiver Greg Cross and Cam Saddler on successive plays. Saddler came back later in practice and laid out for two slick grabs. And after them, he bounced right back up and re-entered the huddle. It appears that he has no ill effects from his knee surgery.

"I like what Manny Williams did the past couple days at linebacker,'' Wannstedt added. "Dan Mason is all about serious, winning football, 24-7. (He) does everything with an aggressive attitude to be the best. (And) Chris Burns had a good morning. We've got to get him back to where he was last year in camp.''

Freshman Juantez Hollins, listed at 6-5, 270, looks like he has the frame to put on another 30 pounds and be a massive tackle. He's clearly strong enough right now, as displayed on one sweep to his side. Hollins locked up with 6-2, 235-pound freshman D-lineman Bernardo Nunez and easily spun him out of the way.

Redshirt sophomore wideout Aaron Smith had a solid afternoon as well. On one route, Smith drove the corner off the line and then came charging back for a first-down catch from quarterback Pat Bostick. It was a good throw, to a spot and away from the coverage, but Smith sold the route and made the catch.

Pitt practices just once Thursday and Friday, from 2-4:30 p.m.

Panther More Top Stories