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Pitt held its fourth practice on Tuesday.

March 20, 2012

Spring Camp Insider (Interviews, Photo Galleries and More)

Pitt Spring Drills -- Day 4 Practice Notebook & Quote Sheet

Practice Number 4: Coach Paul Chryst held a Tuesday morning workout at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex. The Panthers were dressed in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts for the two-hour, 15-minute practice held outdoors in temperatures that reached over 70 degrees.

Ifill at Receiver: Sophomore Brandon Ifill is working at receiver this spring after lettering in the secondary last year. The speedy Penn Hills product last played the position in high school when he was one of the WPIAL's top skill athletes. Ifill showed some impressive form at wideout today when he hauled in a 60-yard pass from Tino Sunseri following a nifty double move.

Another INT: Junior cornerback K'Waun Williams had his second interception of the spring when he picked off a deep ball today. Williams made the grab and spun up field for a 30-yard return before a whistle cut the play short. Later he made a nice breakup on a deep sideline route.

Coach "Hux": One of Paul Chryst's initial staff appointments was Dave Huxtable as defensive coordinator. Huxtable brings an impressive 30-year coaching resume and a fiery coaching style to Pitt. His approach has made an immediate positive impression on Pitt's players.

"I love Coach Huxtable," linebacker Dan Mason said. "He loves the game as much as me."

Huxtable has been candid about his expectations and approach to the game. "I've told them, `I'm going to give you tough love and don't wear it on your shoulders and wipe it off,'" he said. "That's who I am and I can't go out there and be something that I'm not.

"I hold a very high standard for them and I think they're understanding that. We want to be good on defense and there's no other way we want to be. We're not accepting anything than the best every day. We're in the performance business. That's what we do. Our job is to perform and I'm going to hold them accountable for their performance every play, just as the other defensive coaches are. We're going to try and raise that bar."

Tags Talks Defense: Senior Andrew Taglianetti says he can figure on more action in coordinator Dave Huxtable's new defensive system at Pitt.

"The thing I like about it is the safeties get really involved, especially with the run," Taglianetti said. "A lot of times we're down in the box. Compared to last year, there were times when I was 15 or 20 yards deep and it seemed like I was out of the play a little bit. Now we're pretty much considered a linebacker. It's a lot more exciting and I really think this scheme is going to do good things for us."

From Mt. Lebo to Pitt: Chris Haering was one of the WPIAL's most respected football coaches while at Mt. Lebanon High School from 1995-2011. In January he jumped at the opportunity to join Paul Chryst's Pitt staff as linebackers coach. Haering played the position at an All-America level during his collegiate career at West Virginia (1986-89) and it was in Morgantown that he first met Chryst, who was a graduate assistant under Don Nehlen.

Reflecting on the differences between coaching at Pitt and Mt. Lebanon, Haering said "Obviously you have a lot more time with them (on the college level). That's probably the biggest adjustment. There's a lot more meeting time, a lot more film work and scheme work. The speed of the game at this level is a lot different.

"But players are players and they want to be coached, they want to please the coach and want to become successful. I think that's at any level."

Elder Statesman: Jarred Holley brings quantity and quality to Pitt's secondary. The standout safety is the only player on Pitt's roster to play in every single game the past three seasons (39), making a team-high 34 starts during that span. Moreover, he is a two-time All-Big East selection and should be considered one of the country's best defensive backs heading into 2012.

Even though he has been at less than 100% to open spring ball due to offseason knee surgery, Holley has been active in drills and the meeting room. As a fifth-year senior, he is taking his leadership cue from the example of a former teammate.

"It's weird because it seems like just yesterday when I came in as a freshman and all of us were looking up to (former Pitt safety) Eric Thatcher for guidance," Holley said. "He was always there for us and now it's time for me to be that person to set the example. Even though I can't do everything on the field right now (due to his recovery from surgery) I'm working to be as active as possible to help the younger guys learn the schemes."

Cap and Gown: Jarred Holley provides the ideal example for his teammates well beyond the football field. He graduated in just three-and-a-half years with a bachelor's degree in communications and is currently pursuing a second degree in administration of justice. In addition to his two All-Big East honors, he was named to the league's All-Academic Football Team in 2011.

A Champion's Return: Former Pitt fullback Henry Hynoski, now a member of the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, visited practice this morning. Once an undrafted free agent, Hynoski went on to sign with the Giants in late July following the NFL lockout. He not only made the roster but emerged as a vital contributor to the team's run to the Lombardi Trophy.

Hynoski was joined at practice by a pair of former Pitt teammates, departing seniors Myles Caragein and Greg Williams.

WPIAL Flavor: Three area high school head coaches attended practice today: Jacque DeMatteo (Hampton), Jim Render (Upper St. Clair) and Art Tragesser (Norwin).

Next Up: Pitt will hold its fifth spring practice on Thursday, March 22.


Pitt Spring Football Media Quote Sheet 

Quoting Head Coach Paul Chryst

Observations on today's practice:

"It is looking good. I thought there was better energy today and I thought some work got done."

On if the defense is ahead of the offense in practice:

"I don't think anyone is ahead of anyone just yet. There are guys that learn at different speeds, but it's way too early to say who is ahead of who."

On whether he is surprised by the progress of linebacker Dan Mason, who suffered a serious knee injury in 2010:

"Honestly, I'm less shocked than you guys, or anybody that knows the program. In my time with Dan, he is doing everything in the workouts and comes out and does everything in practice. I know what he is working through and I really appreciate that, but it's hard for me to say I'm surprised."

On teaching fundamentals during the spring:

"I teach fundamentals all the time and that's what you should be doing."

On his film evaluation of Sunday's practice in pads:

"Thank God we have more practices (smiles). But it was good. It's a long way away from where you want it to be. I think the guys worked at it and gave themselves a chance to get better. It's spring ball for a fall season, and you know that as a coach and you just want to see guys getting better."

Quoting Defensive Coordinator Dave Huxtable

On what he has enjoyed at Pitt so far:

"What I really enjoy is being in that room with the group of coaches I have with me. They're great guys and are a lot of fun to work with. More than that, I love being with these players. They've got heart and they've got a lot of `want.' They're giving themselves to us as defensive coaches and what more can you ask for as a coach than having a group of players that have that `coach-me-coach' attitude? It's important to them and they want to do things right and I'm seeing that from these kids. It's a lot of fun."

Quoting Linebacker Coach Chris Haering

On the defensive players adjusting to the new system:

"I think each day they're getting better at it. I don't know that we can put a timetable on it. I just think that if each day they come to work and learn the scheme they'll get better at it and more confident."

Quoting Running Back Isaac Bennett

On a potential running back-by-committee approach next season:

"I'm not really worried about it. I'm just trying to play the game and I like to play alongside Ray (Graham), Corey (Davis), Malcolm (Crockett) and Rushel Shell who's coming in. I remember Coach Chryst saying a while back that they rotated a lot of running backs at Wisconsin. I'm looking to share time with all the other running backs."

On if running backs coach Desmond Robinson talks to his players about his playing time at Pitt and the 1976 national championship team:

"He hasn't really talked much to us about his past history yet, but I'm looking forward to hearing the stories."

Quoting Defensive End T.J. Clemmings

On defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield's goal to make him a `tight end killer':

"I like it. He's helped me grow into being a real tight end killer and is helping me develop. That's what he wants me to become and that's what I want to become myself and mainly just do my job so everyone else can make plays."



Spring Practice Insider: Day 4

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