March 25, 2012
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Pitt Spring Drills — Day 7 Practice Notebook & Quote Sheet
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Nearing the Mid-Point: Pitt went through a light practice on Sunday morning following yesterday’s lengthy scrimmage work. The Panthers held a 90-minute workout in helmets and shorts on the outdoor fields, primarily focusing on offensive and defensive walk-throughs with some 7-on-7, 11-on-11 and special teams drills as well.
Sunday’s workout marked the seventh of Pitt’s 15 scheduled practices.
Adjusting to New Role: Paul Chryst has been coaching football for nearly 25 years. That doesn’t mean Pitt’s new head coach isn’t learning himself this spring. Chryst was asked about what it is like to be responsible for “the entire field” in practice as opposed to having a more specific focus on the offense as he did in the past.
“I’m a work in progress, but I think I’m getting a feel for it,” Chryst said. “It’s fun because in coaching you just want to help guys be the best player they can be. I’ve enjoyed that and I think we can do that.”
Is it predetermined what his regimen is during practice?
“I don’t script it,” he said. “I just go where I feel I’m needed. I’m lucky because personally I feel I have great coaches. I can add to it, but I never feel like a group is not getting coached and I’d have to cover for that. You just try to take it all in and try to go how the situation says.”
Position Switch: Junior E.J. Banks took repetitions at running back today after previously working at quarterback. The Montour High graduate was getting limited snaps under center so the staff decided to make a switch.
“With not enough reps (at quarterback) to go around we knew we had to find him a spot,” Chryst said. “We just want to find a niche for him.”
Air Defense: Junior linebacker Shane Gordon had an interception return for a touchdown in 7-on-7 drills today. During 11-on-11 work, sophomore safety Ray Vinopal picked off a pass following a deflection by sophomore cornerback Cullen Christian.
Salath Shines: Sophomore receiver Salath Williams, who was limited to only five games last year due to a shoulder injury, hauled in a long touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Trey Anderson during 7-on-7 work today.
Shell Game: Incoming freshman Rushel Shell visited Pitt’s practice on Sunday. Shell signed with Pitt in February after being one of the country’s most heavily recruited running backs. A product of nearby Hopewell High – the same school that produced legendary Pitt tailback Tony Dorsett – Shell finished his high school career as Pennsylvania’s all-time leading rusher with 9,078 yards.
Visiting VIPs: In addition to Rushel Shell, other noteworthy visitors at today’s practice included South Park High head coach Tom Loughran, former West Virginia University head coach Bill Stewart and the longtime head of Metro Index Scouting Joe Butler.
Next Up: Pitt will hold its eighth spring practice on Tuesday, March 27, at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex.
Pitt Spring Football Media Quote Sheet
On evaluating yesterday’s scrimmage:
“Offensively we have a long, long way to go. Defensively we had some good things that we can build on, but I think as the execution gets better on offense, we’ll get a better indication of the defense. I thought there was some effort that we have to correct, but big picture as a whole it was not bad.”
On the play of running back Isaac Bennett in the scrimmage:
“He was part of some plays that were good plays and did some things, but I think he was exactly what the offense was indicative of. He also had some misses in protection. It all just needs to be cleaned up. That’s every guy and that’s spring ball. It’s not a panic mode by any means. Isaac did some really good things and things that can get you beat, but he knows that. They don’t need a coach to tell them that, they know when it’s happening.”
On the wide receivers:
“There is a good mix of some older guys and it’s a little bit easier for them to learn just because a lot of time in the passing games it’s about how you fit in with knowing some coverage and not having to learn many new things. I think they’re progressing as a group pretty well.”
On the coaching staff emphasizing film work:
“The guys learn a different number of ways. You learn by taking notes, kind of a classroom lecture-type situation. We’re just passing along the information. You learn by watching, you learn by doing, learn by walking and running through it. There’s a lot of different ways that players learn and you have to use every one of them. You have to make sure you’re touching the whole group. Also, you can’t go out and practice for too long because you won’t be getting anything down. You’ll be getting diminishing returns. You just have to maximize all the different ways you can teach them things.”
On wide receiver Cameron Saddler:
“He’s come out and he’s into it. I’m not in the meeting room with him all the time, but he knows what we’re doing. I think he’s working and your seniors should. It’s your last go-around and it also means you have more years of experience and learning. You’ve learned the best way you can practice. I think he’s doing a good job, but every guy can get better.”
On the possibility of a position change for Anthony Gonzalez:
“Yeah, he’s not getting as many reps (at quarterback), but he’s showed some things, so we’ll take that as it comes. Not saying it won’t happen, but we having nothing imminent planned to move Gonzo.”
Quoting Wide Receivers Coach Bobby Engram
On injured wide receiver Mike Shanahan:
“Mike’s in there every day. He’s in every meeting, he’s at every practice so although he’s not participating (this spring) he’s still a big part of what we’re trying to do. That’s how it should be. You want your older guys, your veteran guys, who’ve been in there, who’ve been battle-tested, you want those guys to lead by example.”
On Engram’s approach this spring:
“We’re trying to lay the foundation. All these guys have not been in this offense, they’ve not been around us as a staff and vice versa. So a big part of that is really getting to know each other, building that trust, but really laying the foundation and building on the fundamentals of what we’re doing. I tell them, ‘These are the things we will come back to in our first game, in our second game, when we really need a play.’ So learning the fundamentals and the details of this offense right now in the spring is what’s going to carry us over into the fall.”
Quoting Secondary Coach Matt House
On the depth in the secondary:
“We have some great competition going on and it’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out over spring, summer and fall camp.”
On goals for the secondary this spring:
“This time of year in college football everybody is trying to master their schemes and also develop their own fundamentals and just be able to play faster.
“They are all working hard and everyone is embracing what we are doing. We’re just working to become a better team.”
On the secondary’s philosophy on how to play:
“Our philosophy is read your keys and play fast.”
Quoting sophomore fullback Derrick Burns
On the fullback’s role in the offense:
“It’s kind of different from last year’s spread offense. This year we actually get to run some pass patterns and actually get the ball. I think this is a good offense for us.”
On the fullback’s increased role in the offense opposed to last season:
“It’s definitely a bigger role, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. I like it a lot. I think it’s (his role) definitely a big part because they use the fullback a lot. You’re supposed to be mentally and physically tough because the fullback is a guy who’s supposed to hold the offense down. I’m going to be playing a big part in this offense and I’m ready for it.”
On learning from former Pitt fullback and Super Bowl champion Henry Hynoski:
“He just said never give up and study a lot of film. You’ve got to get the mental reps. That’s 90% of the game. He was just here last year and already he has a Super Bowl ring so he’s definitely a guy I look up to.”
Quoting senior wide receiver Cameron Saddler
On spring drills thus far:
“I’m having fun. This is the first time I’ve been having fun since my freshman year. I feel like we get the freedom to go play football and not worry about the stuff that doesn’t pertain to football. I feel like everyone in the locker room thinks it’s changed for the better. We’re trying to get better every day and that’s the goal.”
On taking more of a leadership role:
“I definitely have caught myself becoming more serious. I feel like that’s the way I have to be, because for me it’s now or never. I refuse to be 6-7 again and that is the mindset. I feel like a lot of the guys in my class feel the same way.”
On if the better feel in the locker room carries over to the field:
“Definitely, we have so much more fun and it’s so much more competitive. There is a lot more trash talk going on (during practice), but we all know we’re still a team.
“I feel like Coach Chryst is doing a great job of making guys believe. I thought it was going to be hard, but it really isn’t. We all love him (Coach Chryst).”
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