Pitt Saturday Practice

Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt has said time and time again that the defense should always be ahead of the offense early in training camp, and the Panthers' blue shirts clearly dominated Saturday afternoon.

Pittsburgh put on full pads for the first time in camp and had a live, inside running drill to begin practice and a red-zone session to wrap it.

Fifth-year senior middle linebacker Steve Dell racked redshirt sophomore running back Shariff Harris during his initial burst to open the inside run drill, and on the second carry by Harris Dell nailed him again. Fifth-year senior Shane Murray added the finishing touches on the tackle.

With freshman Dion Lewis in the backfield, the defense tightened at the line and got penetration. However, redshirt sophomore Tristan Roberts missed a tackle in the backfield, Lewis spun away from right to left and outran everybody else into the end zone.

Not to be outdone, frosh Ray Graham broke off left tackle and took it the distance. It by far was his best run in camp. He had another nice gain later in the team drills, but it wasn't as good as the TD run, which displayed a nice burst to hit the hole and another gear to pull away from the pursuit.

Redshirt freshman Chris Burns tried to do the same thing, but redshirt sophomore strong-side linebacker Greg Williams made sure he didn't gain more than a yard. Burns tried to explode through a hole, and Williams quickly filled it.

As expected Pitt's defensive line had its way with the Panthers' offensive front. During the inside run drills, tackles Mick Williams and Gus Mustakas took turns spending time in the backfield, and ends Jabaal Sheard and Greg Romeus practically lived that. That made it difficult for starting quarterback Bill Stull and backups Pat Bostick and Tino Sunseri.

On three consecutive plays, Mustakas hammered his way in to drop Harris for a two-yard loss. Sheard went wide to stop Lewis for a three-yard loss, and Greg Williams blitzed to stuff Lewis behind the line. It was quite a defensive surge.

The domination continued for the defensive front during its one-on-one session with the offensive line. The success rate for the defense getting to the quarterback was high in the 90-percent range.

Mustakas blasted past center Robb Houser to open things, but OG Chris Jacobson did a nice job on DT Chas Alecxih. And in the rematch, Alecxih did a little better, but Jacobson's strength held him at bay long enough.

But redshirt junior OT Jason Pinkston really had no chance against Romeus, as the 6-6, 270-pounder can get an arm on the QB even if Pinston locks him up.

Redshirt sophomore Greg Gaskins did a nice job on DE Shayne Hale, as the OT has the strength and athleticism to stay with Hayle. Gaskins also got the jump on him, which was a key to the stalemate.

Redshirt freshman OG Ryan Turnley handled redshirt sophomore DT Justin Hargrove pretty well, as Turnley was able to push him away even though he appeared to be beaten. He stayed with the play.

Fifth-year senior DT Craig Bokor pounded past redshirt junior center Alex Karabin, and the veteran did the same thing to redshirt junior center Jared Martin a little later in the drill.

Redshirt sophomore DE Tony Tucker was able to use his quickness to beat redshirt sophomore OT Jordan Gibbs, while Mick Williams was a little too strong and a little too fast for senior OG Joe Thomas.

Sophomore OT Lucas Nix actually did pretty well against junior DE Jabaal Sheard, but he still was able to loop around and get a hand on the quarterback.

Hargrove just beat up Houser on one play, and Mick Williams fired past Thomas on another. Freshman DT Tyrone Ezell did a nice job in the middle against classmate Fernando Diaz.

Redshirt sophomore Brandon Lindsey easily beat Gaskins, and Bernardo Nunez did the best he's done against fellow frosh Juantez Hollins.

In the red-zone drill, the first-team defense was nearly impossible to penetrate. Lewis was stuffed on first down, and quarterback Bill Stull threw it away on second down. Sheard didn't take a fake pitch on third down and sacked Stull, and fourth down was incomplete on a good play in the end zone. Corner Jovani Chappel had position on Oderick Turner and knocked it away.

After repeated tries, Stull spread out the offense -- and the defense as well -- and when the middle opened up he ran it in from the 5.

Pat Bostick had a solid series when he took over, as he connected with Mike Shanahan for one touchdown and lobbed one to Nate Byham for a beautiful score in the corner of the end zone. Byham was tough for Chappel and safety Elijah Fields to handle, just too big and too strong.

After an interference call on Ricky Gary, Tino Sunseri found Lewis in the front of the end zone. Shane Murray was close, but a step late. There was another penalty a couple plays later, as Dom DeCicco face-guarded Cedric McGee. Sunseri couldn't take advantage, however, as Greg Williams blitzed up the middle and sacked him. Sunseri got that one back, as he hit McGee in the middle of the end zone with Williams trailing the play.

Stull connected with freshman tight end Brock DeCicco after he took over and found Shanahan on the second play. Stull and Brock hooked up again, as Marco Pecora couldn't handle him. On for the fourth touchdown in four plays, Harris hammered up the middle for the score from the 5.

Pitt commit Derrick Burns watched practice Saturday and appeared to be a lot bigger than the 5-10, 201 pounds he's listed at and the 205 pounds that he says he weighs. Either way, it appears that the safety prospect could easily grow into a linebacker at some point with the Panthers.

And a 2001 recruit from Scranton Prep, OL Kevin Reihner, watched practice with his father.

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