Pitt Camp Leftovers

There are several starting positions still undetermined, according to Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt, as training camp ended Wednesday with a May Day scramble where the field-goal kicking unit has to set up quickly.

Dan Hutchins, a redshirt junior for Pittsburgh, nailed a long one to end camp.

"I was very pleased with Hutch kicking that 47-yard field goal as time ran out,'' Wannstedt said. "That was a big confidence boost, I think, for him.''

Hutchins, who won the starting punter job with a solid performance during the spring and training camp, is battling redshirt freshman Kevin Harper for the Panthers field-goal kicking duties.

Hutchins has been solid, while Harper has missed a couple long field goals here and there in practice, even though he supposedly has the stronger leg. So, Hutchins nailing a 47-yarder might have secured the starting kicker job as well.

"We'll see how the offensive line played today,'' Wannstedt added. "We're still working through the left-guard position. That would be the No. 1 position. The rest of them we feel good about.

"(That's) even though we have Elijah Fields and Andrew Taglianetti working together, and Oderick Turner and Cedric McGee as well. We feel good about all those guys so we look at that as a positive. They'll all play and help us.''

Redshirt sophomore Chris Jacobson started the past two days at left guard, while senior Joe Thomas was the backup. Taglianetti, a sophomore, also has been starting ahead of redshirt junior Fields. Fifth-year seniors Turner and McGee likely will join sophomore wideout Jonathan Baldwin when the Panthers go to a three-wide set.

Wannstedt also discussed Pitt's situation at tailback.

"Dion is the starter, but we could play Ray and we could play Chris Burns,'' Wannstedt said. "He came out of the spring as the starter, and he did nothing to say that he doesn't deserve that today. We thought Chris Burns was always a good player, but during the course of camp that we solidified that Ray Graham can play. And he's going to play a lot this year.''

The punt- and kickoff-return groups are also being set, and redshirt freshman Cameron Saddler will play a large role in both spots.

"I thought we started off the season doing a poor job with our return game in general,'' Wannstedt said. "We ended up first in the Big East in punt returns, but we started off not very good.

"So, we did spend more time with that and we tried to create more situations where they would have to make decisions and handle the ball under pressure, and they're both doing a good job. Right now we probably have four or five guys that can do it, Aaron Smith and Cam Saddler would be the top two.''

Along with Saddler, Wannstedt said that redshirt sophomore Aundre Wright, Lewis and sophomore Antwuan Reed are the kick-return candidates. Saddler and Wright are the best two options for big returns.

Wannstedt noted that the Panthers went into camp with several objectives.

"No. 1, to come out conditioned,'' Wannstedt said. "I don't know if we've had a 70-degree day in three weeks. It's been hot, and we conditioned them hard and they worked hard. Second, we wanted to practice physical. This was the most physical camp I think we've had since I've been here.

"We did some type of live contact every day full speed, ones against ones. So we got the physical work in that we needed. From an execution standpoint, we're not there yet. We made progress. That's what we need to clean up, and we're going to need every day we can between now and game day to get comfortable with what we're doing.''

After the FanFest today, Pitt begins game-planning for its first game.

"We've been beating up on ourselves for couple weeks now, and you can tell that the guys are looking to turn their focus onto another opponent,'' Wannstedt said. "Friday we'll start working on some basic things for Youngstown State.''

The Panthers face Youngstown State Sept. 5 at 1 p.m. at Heinz Field.

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