Pitt Defense Has Four Interceptions

After two practices in just helmets and shorts, the Pitt football team picked up the pace a bit by when full pads were added to the mix for Tuesday's spring practice at the UPMC Sports Complex.

The nearly three-hour workout was held indoors due to the inclement weather, but that didn't diminish the action, especially during several live-hitting periods.

Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt, who spoke to the media prior to practice, always looks forward to this day as opposed to the initial practices in shorts.

"Today's the first day of pads, and it's always an exciting day because there will always be one or two guys that no one mentioned their name when we were in helmets and shorts,'' Wannstedt said. "But all of a sudden they could become the focal point of conversation after we put the pads on.

"Then, there's probably 2-3 guys that we were excited about the first couple days in shorts, but they could disappear today. This, obviously, is what football is all about. So, I'm excited just to get out here and get our guys working on fundamentals to get everybody better.''

Even though redshirt sophomore Tino Sunseri started a third straight practice exclusively with the first team, redshirt junior Pat Bostick clearly out-performed him. Sunseri was a victim of some poor decisions, as well as excellent plays by Pitt's secondary and was intercepted four times. Bostick did not throw a pick.

Junior cornerbacks Antwuan Reed and Saheed Imoru provided solid hits and especially tight coverage throughout the day, as each picked off Sunseri. Imoru stayed with Devin Street and collected Sunseri's attempt to connect with the redshirt freshman wideout. Reed also blitzed successfully on two occasions.

The other two interceptions were in 7-on-7 drills by cornerback Jeremiah Davis and outside linebacker Max Gruder, who stepped into the lane on Sunseri's attempt to squeeze a short pass to tight end Mike Cruz.

Sunseri did have the prettiest-thrown pass on the day, a 60-yard bomb to wideout Jonathan Baldwin that the junior superstar couldn't pull in due to tight coverage from walk-on safety Todd Gilchrist. While there was no referee available to throw a flag, Baldwin couldn't get his right arm up to pull in the well-thrown pass, so he could have benefited from a call there.

"(Bostick and Sunseri) are very similar, but until you start getting the pass rush it's difficult to get any separation with the quarterbacks,'' Wannstedt said. "They know the offense, and they know where to go with the ball.

"But once we start turning guys loose, they should separate themselves, as they start making plays under pressure. So, this will be a good start today.''

The biggest difference between workouts the opening two days and after the Panthers put on pads should be noticed among the linemen.

"After graduating both defensive tackles and the center and two guards, the interior spots on both (offensive and defensive) lines are wide open,'' Wannstedt said. "There's a lot of opportunity there.

"And I think we're going to have some real healthy competition. Nothing will be determined from a lineman standpoint without pads on, so we need these workouts starting today.''

According to Pitt offensive line coach Tony Wise, despite playing with three new starters (the interior O-line), the Panthers should have no problem pounding the ball with sophomore running backs Dion Lewis and Ray Graham. And if Tuesday's practice is an indication, that's certainly correct.

While the defense clearly was ahead in many facets Tuesday, Lewis and Graham ripped off several big runs each. Graham had a two long scores, including a 65-yard burst where he nearly was untouched. Lewis was tough to bring down during 9-on-7 inside-running drills and got outside with similar ease.

"Damn, he's fast,'' Pitt sophomore middle linebacker Dan Mason said when he returned to the sideline. Mason didn't get a good angle on Lewis during one play that the former freshman All-American broke loose for a huge gain. Mason redeemed himself a short time later by filling a hole and drilling Lewis for a loss.

Notes: Fifth-year senior WR Greg Cross started opposite Baldwin today. ... Redshirt frosh DT Tyrone Ezell forced a recovered a fumble. ... After changing from QB to safety, redshirt freshman Kolby Gray changed his jersey as well from No. 16 to 43. ... Redshirt freshman WR Ed Tinker joined the walking wounded with a brace on his left thumb and wrist. ... The Panthers practice Thursday at 2:45 p.m. Thursday and have a scrimmage Saturday at 10 a.m.

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