Pitt's Sunday Afternoon Practice

The Pitt football team played without three defensive tackles Sunday afternoon, but that doesn't mean the group didn't pack a punch.

Fifth-year senior Gus Mustakas was given the day off for Pittsburgh. Redshirt sophomore Myles Caragein missed a second straight day with a twisted ankle, and redshirt junior Ty Tkach is out for an extended period with a foot injury.

Enter Justin Hargrove, a 6-foot-4, 265-pound redshirt sophomore who played defensive end in the spring, as a starter next to fifth-year senior Mick Williams.

"(Hargrove) was playing nose guard today, and he ended up working in with the first group because we ended up resting Gus and Myles was out. And he's making plays, so I'm excited.

"Justin Hargrove will help us this year, and he's playing defensive tackle. He's got great leverage and great strength, and he's doing a good job. (And) he definitely will stay at defensive tackle.''

The D-line depth is just amazing that this can happen now. And Hargrove won't be missed at end, because the starters -- Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard -- and backups Tony Tucker, Shayne Hale and Brandon Lindsey have played exceptionally through one week.

"Jabaal Sheard, the biggest improvement was that he understands the importance of working hard,'' Wannstedt said. "And he understands the importance of practicing good to get better.

"(Also), he's done a great job in the offseason. He's a real product of what Buddy Morris can do for you if you commit yourself. ... I don't even think he lifted weights when he got here.''

While the first-team receiving trio of Jonathan Baldwin, Oderick Turner and Cedric McGee have been solid this past week, redshirt freshman Mike Shanahan has had to strong days in a row. And Wannstedt cited his play.

"Mike Shanahan, he's earned the respect of that receiver group and the whole offense, and I don't think he's dropped a pass in six days here. But I don't want to jinx him. He also went after Elijah Fields today. They got after it pretty good on the sideline there. I'm not saying that's what you do to earn respect, but when he walked back to the huddle it sent a message to the rest of the guys.''

Shanahan talked about his situation.

"I feel like I had a pretty good first week, but I know it's a long camp and I have a lot of work to do to keep improving,'' Shanahan said. "My goals were just to learn the offensive playbook the best that I can and learn every position to make myself more valuable to the team.

"So, I just want to get on the field wherever I can, special teams or as a blocker or whatever. I just want to help the team. (And) even if that means sticking up for myself and my teammates. Scoot came in there and was doing some talking. And I let him know I didn't appreciate it.''

Pitt's tight end position took a hit Sunday, as redshirt freshman Mike Cruz wasn't the only player missing in action. Seniors Nate Byham (headache) and Dorin Dickerson (leg) both sat out the afternoon.

"Nate took a hit in the morning practice, and Dorin had a hamstring strain,'' Wannstedt said. "I don't expect either guy to be out too long.''

Redshirt freshman Justin Virbitsky, frosh Brock DeCicco and walk-on Jon Tisak were the only tight ends available.

While redshirt sophomore Chris Jacobson continues to get the majority of reps as the first-team left offensive guard, Wannstedt refuses to acknowledge it.

"Joe Thomas is a starting guard for us, and that's working out,'' Wannstedt said. "We have reasons why we're juggling some people around. But we aren't close to setting a lineup for Youngstown State just yet. If Joe keeps doing what he's doing, then he'll be in the lineup. He's having a good camp.''

Freshman Dan Mason took the majority of reps with the second team at middle linebacker and appears to have moved ahead of fifth-year senior Steve Dell.

And unless a change happened quickly, it appeared that sophomore Andrew Taglianetti had every first-team rep at free safety ahead of Elijah Fields.

Pitt practices once Monday and twice Tuesday, with the first intra-squad scrimmage from 3-5:15 in the afternoon.

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