Three Spots Still Open

After looking at video from his team's second intra-squad scrimmage Saturday afternoon, Pitt football coach Dave Wannstedt said that there are still three position battles that are too close to call.

The left offensive guard spot for Pittsburgh is between senior Joe Thomas and redshirt sophomore Chris Jacobson with Thomas holding an edge. The safety spot alongside junior Dom DeCicco is between sophomore Andrew Taglianetti and redshirt junior Elijah Fields, but Taglianetti is ahead a bit.

And the field-goal kicking spot between redshirt junior Dan Hutchins, who has earned the punting job, and redshirt freshman Kevin Harper. Hutchins has been a little more accurate thus far, but Harper has displayed a stronger leg.

"The field-goal thing, we're going to continue to monitor and make a decision on that the first of next week,'' Wannstedt said. "There's no question that Harper's got the strongest leg, so if we were attempting any 50-plus (yards) field goals he would give us the best chance to make it because his leg's so strong.

"There's no question about that. As we all know, field-goal kickers make their money kicking between the 30s and the 40s. So, we'll determine next week. (But) Harper had two more opportunities (in the scrimmage), and we're trying to put both of them under as much pressure as possible.''

Jacobson and Thomas continue to alternate snaps with the first team, but Wannstedt has noticed a difference thus far.

"I would say that physically, they're very, very close right now,'' Wannstedt said. "Chris is still making some inexperienced mistakes that Joe has not made. So, in my mind, they're a little like Taglianetti and Fields.

"They're both starters, and they're both capable. But if we were playing tonight, Joe Thomas would start. But we still have two weeks before we play. Joe had a good scrimmage, so right now, it's experience versus inexperience.''

Despite their head coach's comments, both have continued to work hard.

"I obviously feel great about it, but there's still a lot of work that needs to be done,'' Thomas said. "We're working real hard on films every day, and I'm still getting adjusted to being a guard again. You need to react a lot quicker to things in the middle of the line, pad level, running with my feet ... there's a lot of work to do. So, I have to keep trucking along.''

Left guard is the third position for Thomas at Pitt. He started out at right guard and then moved to right tackle last season.

"It's not as bad as you might think, because playing next to those guys you can get a feel for what their responsibilities are,'' Thomas said. "So, when you get a position change, you just carry over from that and just build on it.''

Jacobson has had limited experience in his two seasons at Pitt, redshirting that first year after a serious knee injury early in camp, and getting in just three games last fall.

"You can't really look at it that way, that he's been here longer,'' Jacobson said. "He is more experienced ... but I just need to keep improving every day, and I'll get there. My drive blocking had improved. My pad level. So, I just have to keep working on by pass-blocking. I'm definitely more comfortable than I was two weeks ago, and I'm more mentally ready now.

"I'm doing the best I can every day (to) prove myself to the coaches. We're in a competition right now, but that's how it goes in camp. I'm just pushing as hard as I can to win the starting job. I feel like I'm progressing everyday, going against Mick and Gus, so they do a lot to help me get better.''

Pitt has two practices Monday and Wednesday, with the third and final scrimmage Wednesday afternoon.

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