Press Conference Recap

Media day is the day where Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt steps to the podium to address the state of the program, while giving the most in depth preview of any press conference he'll hold all season. Instead, before taking his usual stance at the podium, he gave way to Jabaal Sheard.

Jabaal Sheard was introduced, where he read the following prepared statement.

"I am proud to be a student and football player at the University of Pittsburgh," Sheard opened with. "I know the high standards we have at the University of Pittsburgh. It is an honor to call myself a Panther.

"Last month, I made a huge mistake that reflected poorly upon my school and my family. I am deeply sorry for that, and I want to sincerely apologize to my coaches, my teammates as well as my family for my actions. I told them I'd work hard, to gain their respect, and also to be a leader on and off the field. I thank you for your time."

On the heels of that, Wannstedt opened his media day press conference. He maintained that any form of discipline Sheard will receive from here on, will all be in house. He wouldn't get specific with it, and any questions towards Sheard or about Sheard, were to only be football-related.

"Hear me loud and clear, please," Wannstedt said. "After gathering all the information and the legal system took its course, I'm very comfortable--we're very comfortable--with the decision we made concerning Jabaal. You all know we have had players in the past, as every school does, on the field, off the field, reasons, when it hasn't worked. My responsibility to the University, and to these kids, is to be persistent and fair with the facts, and handle it accordingly. That‘s really all I have to say about that."

After reading his statement, Sheard was not to field questions. He did participate in player interviews and was available to the media just as any other player was. He did have a member of Pitt's media relations staff with him at all times to deflect any questions deemed to be too specific about his off-the-field altercation.

Regarding personnel, a number of incoming freshmen will be out of training camp injury, while another two players will be limited in camp. Jon Taglianetti is limited with a back injury, while incoming freshman receiver Todd Thomas will be limited with an elbow injury.

The following players are out for training camp; Derrick Burns (broken fibula), Arthur Doakes (shoulder), Jeff Knox (shoulder) and T.J. Peeler (knee) are all out. Wannstedt added that all injuries sustained, were prior to when the players arrived in campus.

"We got two or three of the freshmen, who got banged up in all-star games, and actually before they came here," Wannstedt added. "There were some surgeries before they came here. Jeff Knox had shoulder surgery from a basketball injury. Arthur Doakes had something that he had done right after the season from an old shoulder injury. Derrick Burns hurt his leg up at the Big 33 game. He came in here, he was training, and all of the sudden, he couldn't participate. We found out there was a slight crack in (the leg).

In addition to these players who are either limited or out for camp, two other players are out.

"Two players who will be on the medical list, and will not be participating, will be Aundre Wright--he had the bad knee injury in camp, and Aaron Smith," Wannstedt said. "Neither of those guys will be out there participating because of medical reasons."

One of the incoming freshmen is heading the prep school route, while another redshirt freshmen is making another position switch. Kevin Adams signed with Pitt as a defensive back, went to fullback last year in his redshirt year, and is now back on defense again.

"Andre Givens will not be joining us," Wannstedt said. "He's working on final arrangements to attend a prep school. Position changes, we're going to have Kevin Adams who really came in here as a freshman defensive player. We had him at fullback in the spring, he'll be starting off on defense this fall. As of now, that will be the only position change."

After the first part of the press conference was devoted to personnel--which covered a variety of areas, Wannstedt addressed how the team is handling being as the favorite to win the Big East.

"The most exciting thing to me, is how our players have handled it," Wannstedt said. "We took more players (to Big East media day) this year.

"Different coaches have different philosophy on how much exposure they want to give their players. Some guys won't let a freshman or sophomore do an interview. I've always looked at each individual situation. I believe we got a group of kids that deserve some recognition. We took five guys with us to Big East media event. All the talk was about preseason and where you're ranked. I thought our kids did well from the standpoint, that they understand that it's nice, but the most important thing that we can do, is have a great training camp. It starts tomorrow."

From some of the positions up for grabs, two of the more wide-open jobs are on the offensive line and at corner. When talking about that right guard spot, Wannstedt has a couple guys battling out for the starting job, but isn't fully convinced yet at that right guard spot.

"We have (Greg) Gaskins and (Ryan) Turnley, we have some good competition there," Wannstedt said. "I don't think we really walked away (in the spring), thinking we're really locked in at any of the three (interior line) positions."

Wannstedt clarified, when asked, that Chris Jacobson is on target to seal up the left guard spot.

"(Jacobson) did start in the bowl game last year, against North Carolina," Wannstedt added. "That's as good a defensive line as we faced all year. Chris is right where he needs to be. I expect him to have a very good training camp. It's his job to lose."

Back to Gaskins, and Turnley--though he knows right guard is one of the spots that is an unknown for this team right now, he compared it other positions in the past that have also been unknowns.

"I believe that these guys will step up," Wannstedt said. "I think it's funny when you look back at a position. If you were to look back at the beginning of last season, and ask what was going to be the weakness of this team? What are the concerns? I think at the end of the season, you look back and say that quarterbacks were a strength for us; Bill Stull had a great year, even though it may have been a concern earlier on. You don't know, you just hope that you've recruited good kids, their opportunities come and they take advantage of it.

"Greg Gaskins will be in the first group tomorrow when we line up. Ryan Turnley is at a little more of a disadvantage because he had a broken wrist (during spring football). All spring he was playing right guard, but he couldn't put his hand down which placed him in an unfair position. But I expect to see the competition placed between the two of them. I don't know if any of the young kids will step up, but we'll see."

Wannstedt did sound more convinced about the corner position, especially Antwuan Reed, who was the defensive recipient of the Ed Conway Award, which is given annually to the team's most improved player following spring drills.

"I think that Antwuan (Reed) is going to be a great player for us," Wannstedt said. "We got Saheed (Imoru), who is a junior-college transfer. We got Ricky Gary, who has experience. Buddy Jackson has been around here for three or four years. Hopefully, the light goes on with him. Then, we got a couple young freshmen that will hopefully be able to make the transition, and jump into the mix."

It now sounds that Reed has one of the corner positions locked up. The battle for the other spot might still be open, but it sounds like Saheed Imoru is the guy to beat out. Wannstedt couldn't talk enough about what he likes of Reed.

"We're talking about a guy that has matured both on the field and off the field," Wannstedt said. "He has always been a very talented player. The thing that has happened with Antwuan in the last year or two is that he's become very coachable. He's watched Aaron Berry and some of these guys in front of him, he's learned from what he's heard the coaches say and what he's watched on tape. He had a great performance last spring. I think it's just that maturing process when the light goes on and a young man realizes that it is his opportunity."

Training camp opens Saturday with a morning practice and an afternoon practice. These first four days will be just helmets. Players line up in full pads on Wednesday.


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