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March 17, 2012

Spring Camp Insider

Pitt Spring Drills -- Day 2 Practice Notebook & Quote Sheet

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Spring has Sprung: Pitt held its second spring practice with a two-hour workout at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex. The Panthers took advantage of temperatures approaching 70 degrees by using their outdoor fields. Per NCAA guidelines, Pitt wore helmets and shorts for practice.

Tomlin-Hueber Connection: The Steelers' Mike Tomlin and Pitt offensive line coach Jim Hueber are back under the same roof again. They worked on the same Minnesota Vikings staff in 2006, when Tomlin was the defensive coordinator and Hueber assisted with the offensive line. Tomlin would go on, of course, to succeed Bill Cowher at Pittsburgh in January 2007.

While Tomlin and Hueber no longer share a locker room, they do arrive at the same office building each morning as the Panthers and Steelers both call the UPMC Sports Performance Complex home.

"We haven't had much of a chance to sit down and talk but I'm sure somewhere along the line we will," Hueber said. "He's class guy. He demands a lot and we're using one of his (sayings), `Put it on tape.' You don't have to explain much. If it's on tape, we'll see it."

Jacobson Eager: Jim Hueber is grateful that senior guard Chris Jacobson was awarded a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA. Jacobson suffered a season-ending knee injury in the third game at Iowa last year.

While Hueber is looking forward to Jacobson's contributions, he isn't quite ready to see the Keystone Oaks product in the lineup this spring. Especially since Jacobson isn't cleared to practice at full-speed yet.

"He's not supposed to do anything, but he comes out here and jumps into drills," Hueber said. "He can't wait to get out there. I keep trying to tell him, `Don't get me in trouble. Don't jump in when you're not supposed to.'"

Ryan Responding: Senior Ryan Turnley is back after starting all 13 games at center a year ago. That experience alone makes Turnley a valuable asset on and off the field for Pitt this spring. "He knows I'm counting on him," Jim Hueber said. "I'm counting on him to make line calls, to be a leader in the film room and on the field. He knows that and he's not struggling with that role at all."

Turnley is embracing his role as a senior leader. "I feel like I can take control out there and really help the other guys and be a leader out there," Turnley said. "I think the other guys look to me and Chris Jacobson for help with grasping this system and trying to pick it up quickly."

Getting Physical: Even though the Panthers won't put on full gear until Sunday's workout, the 11-on-11 drills this morning had a physical intensity to it. Coach Paul Chryst was asked about his feelings on scuffles in practice. 

"I understand it and am no stranger to it, but our job is to teach," Chryst said. "There are teachable moments and you can't let your emotions get ahead of the team. If you fight in a game then you put yourself and the team at a risk if you can't play in it. So there are teachable moments but yet you understand the physical nature of it and the toughness."

Never Too Old to Learn: Even though Hubie Graham is a fifth-year senior, he recognizes spring practice can provide even the most experienced veterans with the opportunity to learn. Graham says that is especially true this year working with his new positional coach, Joe Rudolph.

"We've really taken to Coach Rudolph well," Graham said. "He is an outstanding coach who is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. He has a great track record working with NFL guys like Lance Kendricks (St. Louis Rams) and Garrett Graham (Houston Texans). He's coached every style of tight end, too, whether it is a player like me or more like Drew Carswell. We're all really benefiting from working with him."

Big Opportunities to Contribute: In addition to his positional responsibilities, Joe Rudolph also serves as Pitt's offensive coordinator. The Panthers' tight ends are very cognizant of their opportunities in the new system given their regular meeting and film sessions with Rudolph.

"It is a unique situation that our tight ends coach is also our offensive coordinator," Hubie Graham said. "The tight ends are such a big part of our offense. It's a great responsibility and opportunity for us to contribute to the offense's success."

On Wisconsin's 2010 Rose Bowl team, the leading receiver was tight end Lance Kendricks (43 catches for 663 yards and five TDs). The year prior, tight end Garrett Graham was second for the Badgers with 51 receptions -- just three catches behind wide receiver Nick Toon's team-best 54.

Paul Chryst's offensive schemes at Wisconsin produced two first-team All-Americans at tight end (Travis Beckum and Kendricks) and three consecutive NFL Draft picks from 2009-11 at the position.

Beano on Spring Football: Before he became known as the "Pope of College Football," Beano Cook was Pitt's sports information director from 1956-66. He recently shared his thoughts on what spring ball was like during his time as a sports publicist on the Oakland campus.

"In my day spring ball was done in secrecy - not by design but because it just wasn't a big deal," Cook said. "We had three newspapers in town. They came out once at the beginning, once at the end for the spring game and, maybe, once in between. TVs never came out because the equipment was too heavy. You needed the U.S. Army to transport the equipment back then. TVs had more equipment than the army did at Normandy. There wasn't any Internet. There weren't any 24-hour sports talk stations, and for that I am eternally grateful.

"I'm shocked that SIDs actually have to go to practice every day. It's more of a business now. People don't have as much fun."

Visiting VIPs: Among the special guests at practice today were freshmen signees Adam Bisnowaty (Fox Chapel), Chris and Demitrious Davis (Austintown Fitch, Ohio) and Tyrique Jarrett (Taylor Allderdice). One of the greatest specialists in Pitt history, placekicker Conor Lee (2006-08), was also in attendance. Lee holds numerous school records, including field goals made in a career (50) and game (five vs. Notre Dame, 2008). His career field goal percentage (83%) is also tops at Pitt.

Next Up: Pitt will hold its third spring practice on Sunday, March 18. The Panthers will be in full gear for workout No. 3.


Pitt Spring Football Media Quote Sheet 

Quoting Head Coach Paul Chryst

Observations on today's practice:

"I like the guys' intentions. They are coming out and working. I thought the guys were flying around and there were some things that were cleaned up from the first practice. It should be a good film. There's still a lot of work to do."

On whether the quarterbacks and receivers improved today:

"Yeah, I think there were some moments where they did. They better, right? They better keep improving. Tomorrow we'll be going full pads. You'll always have some good and you can build on that. And then there are a lot of things you still have got to clean up."

On putting on full gear Sunday:

"It gives us a more accurate picture of things. Guys are certainly working pretty well and will need to work together with pads on. With linemen in particular, it gives you a better gauge across the board because it's more like football."

On Chris Jacobson's eagerness to practice:

"Yeah, we've got to be smart with a lot of those guys. He's played a lot of football. He's anxious. You get 15 practices for coaches and players to be together and work on these things. Football is important to him and guys want to be out there working. So we've got to balance that and be smart because there is also the big picture down the road and that's the fall. 

"It is spring practice for a fall sport."

Quoting Offensive Line Coach Jim Hueber

On his philosophy for the offensive line:

"You have to like football to be around us. We're going to coach them hard and make sure they prepare. We're not going to accept mistakes, we're going to expect nothing but excellence and if we don't get it we're going to try and get it the next time. We've got a lot of good players here and you've got just what you thought when you come to Pitt -- guys who like football."

Quoting Center Ryan Turnley

On adjusting to a new system:

"There's been a lot of hard work and mental preparation. This is a more complex system in terms of making pre-snap adjustments, shifts, motions and everything like that. I really like it."

On Offensive Line Coach Jim Hueber:

"Coach Hueber is a great coach and we're all excited to work with him. He has a lot of experience and he's coached a lot of great players. For an offensive lineman, that's all you can really ask for. You know that he knows what he's doing and that helps a lot."


Spring Practice Insider: Day 2

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