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Panthers Take Advantage of Beautiful Day in Birmingham

Mike Shanahan looks to reel in a pass.

Mike Shanahan looks to reel in a pass.

Jan. 5, 2012

Children's Hospital Visit | Hoover HS Special Needs Class Visits the Pitt Players | Taglianetti Interview | Bennett Interview | Coach Patterson Interview | Photo Gallery

by Pat Bostick

After a couple of chilly days here in Birmingham, the Panthers were greeted by mild temperatures and a cloudless sky for practice today. The practice was of the shortened variety as the Panthers polished up their game plan for Saturday's BBVA Compass Bowl matchup against SMU. Though the length and physicality of practice was decreased, the emphasis of today's workout was primarily mental. It was the Panthers' last full practice, as they will only hold a walk-through tomorrow. The next time they put on the pads, it will count.

Pitt went through each phase of special teams to kick off the practice session. Each special team tallied only a few repetitions, but the situational importance of each phase was emphasized as the coaching staff made sure alignments, assignments and techniques were precise.

Both the offense and defense got their final looks at SMU's offensive and defensive tendencies as they went exclusively against scout team personnel. As was the case in special teams, assignment recognition and technique execution were the focus. Each situation - base downs (first and second down), third down, red zone, coming out (from your own end), short yardage and goal line - was detailed on both sides of the ball, giving players a full review of the comprehensive game plan.

The practice ran crisp and smooth. The players were focused as the anticipation of game day begins to build. They were still able to have a little fun, though. This was the last full practice for this senior class and, towards the end of practice after business was taken care of, the coaches treated a few of them. One of them, defensive tackle Myles Caragein, was even given a few reps at scout team quarterback.

All in all, it was a very productive practice for the Panthers. The team met with a group of Hoover High School's special needs students after practice. The look of excitement on each of those young peoples' faces was only matched by the expressions on those of the Pitt players. Among the many activities that surround this bowl game, those that allow players to give back always seem to be the most memorable.

A group of select players got another opportunity to give back when they visited Children's Hospital in Birmingham this afternoon. They got the chance to meet and talk with numerous children, positively impacting the lives of those they talked to and leaving with a new perspective on life.

Upon their return from the hospital, the team will bus to Vestavia Lanes, where they will enjoy a little bowling competition and southern barbeque. It is their last real team activity of bowl week before things really start getting down to business. Tomorrow marks the last day prior to game day. The Panthers will head to Legion Field for a brief walkthrough and team photo. When they pack up the busses and head back to the team hotel afterwards, the countdown to kickoff will show less than 24 hours.