March 27, 2012
Spring Camp Insider (Interviews, Photo Galleries and More)
Pitt Spring Drills -- Day 8 Practice Notebook & Quote Sheet
Halfway Home: Coach Paul Chryst oversaw Pitt's eighth practice of spring drills this morning at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex. With temperatures hovering in the lower 40s when practice started, the Panthers held their two-and-a-half hour workout in the indoor facility wearing helmets, shoulder pads and shorts.
Progress Report: With spring drills more than halfway complete, Paul Chryst was asked to evaluate the team's progress to this point.
"We're working and going in the right direction," Chryst said. "You always want to be further along, but I'm not at all discouraged. All the guys are trying and putting forth the effort.
"I think they are where they should be. Sometimes you take a step back but it's needed to move forward so you know you're on schedule. The guys are seeing and learning on film and each guy learns differently. It is our job to find a way to teach each one of them. They are moving in the right direction."
Potent Combo: Senior quarterback Tino Sunseri and junior wideout Devin Street teamed up on some nice plays during 7-on-7 drills. The pair had a 60-yard connection on a stop-and-go route. Later in the period, Sunseri threw a 10-yard bullet to Street, who slipped a defender and gained an extra 25 yards.
Hooray for Ray: Sophomore safety Ray Vinopal continues to make a strong impression with an active spring. During 7-on-7 work, Vinopal picked off a deep pass down the right sideline and returned it 25 yards before a whistle blew the play dead. Later on, he had his second interception of the day during an 11-on-11 period.
Whether it has been in pass or run support, the Youngstown, Ohio native has displayed a knack for always being around the football. As a senior all-state performer at Cardinal Mooney High, Vinopal had 84 tackles, 16 pass breakups, four interceptions, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. His play helped the Cardinals to a 15-0 record and the state title.
City League Pride: Junior receiver Ed Tinker had a productive practice on Tuesday, highlighted by a 45-yard touchdown reception from sophomore quarterback Mark Myers. Tinker, who played his high school football at Brashear, made a nice move on a defender to get open and then hauled in the pass behind the secondary. He has been focused on the intricacies of route running and timing this spring.
"This offseason I've been working on it day after day with the quarterbacks," Tinker said. "The most important thing is having the same timing with each other and the same contact. It's going good. As the practices go forward I just keep working hard and continue doing what I'm doing."
"Tink is flashing some good things," Paul Chryst said. "Coach (Bobby) Engram has great knowledge that he is passing on to Tink. Bobby is doing a great job of teaching him and Tink is responding to it."
Ifill at Receiver: Prior to spring drills, sophomore Brandon Ifill asked the coaching staff for a positional move to wide receiver. He made the request despite lettering in the secondary last year after playing in all 13 games. Wide receiver play isn't completely foreign to him. During his final two seasons at nearby Penn Hills High School, Ifill compiled 56 catches for 755 yards while also starring at defensive back.
"It's been fun," said Ifill when asked about his transition. "It's a lot of learning and a lot of details that I wasn't used to but it's getting better each practice.
"I talk to Coach (Bobby) Engram every day and he says I'm getting better every day just with the details and getting used to catching the ball again on a regular daily basis. Sometimes in the secondary you can go days or weeks without touching the ball."
Mean and Nasty: Defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield said earlier this spring one of his goals was to increase sophomore T.J. Clemmings' "nastiness." So how's the process going? "I'm getting nastier, I'm getting there," Clemmings said with a smile.
But more goes into a game-changing defensive end than just demeanor.
"A lot of times you take away the hesitancy by doing fundamentals," Paul Chryst said. "Fundamentals help in getting more physical. Knowing it and trusting in the system gets guys to play fast and with good technique. When they're confident, they become more physical and they can cut it loose."
"I have to have better focus and play a lot tougher," Clemmings said. "Just know my assignment and make sure I know what I'm doing. At the beginning of the play I need to just know where I'm supposed to be. Coach (Breckterfield) always coaches us to come out of our hips and that's my main thing I need to work on. I'll destroy anybody once I consistently do that. It's more of a mental thing. I'm probably out there thinking a little too much more than I need to be."
Breckterfield recognizes the great potential Clemmings has and is excited to see him develop into an all-star caliber end.
"He is a very nice soft-spoken guy off the field, he's just got to realize he is a 6-foot-5, 285-pound dude," said Breckterfield, a former All-America end himself at Oregon State. "Just getting him to realize that and realize his potential and how strong he is, and then it will translate out there. It's a process we have to go through but it's something we're working at every day. It's about him finding that inner-animal in him and bringing it out every day. He's got it in him. I've seen it on snaps and I'll replay it for him when it did come out. It's about him consistently showing it on tape."
D-Line Competition: Inoke Breckterfield likes the competition he sees at defensive end and across his front four. He singled out a pair of local products, senior end Shayne Hale (Gateway) and junior tackle Tyrone Ezell (Steel Valley).
"Shayne Hale's played physical out here," Breckterfield said. "I really like what Shayne's doing. Shayne is definitely pushing T.J. (Clemmings) and the competition at that position is good. It's right where I want it. I want those guys pushing each other. Shayne is doing everything I've asked of him and today he was getting some reps with the ones (first unit). I think he's deserved some reps. So did Tyrone (Ezell). Tyrone got some reps with the ones at the nose spot. This is day eight of camp and halfway through they're starting to close that gap so I think they deserved some reps with the ones."
Hale, a former linebacker, is relishing his opportunity at defensive end.
"I definitely do (like it)," Hale said. "It's a physical system and it's an attack defense. I definitely enjoy playing in it.
"You've got to be able to be a speed guy (at end) and also a physical guy at the same time. I definitely feel I can do both."
Welcome Alumni: Pitt once again welcomed a strong contingent of visitors to practice on Tuesday. Former players in attendance included Troy Benson, Myles Caragein, Mark Kasperowicz and Andrew Janocko. Janocko, incidentally, recently accepted a coaching assistant post with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Coaching Fraternity: High school head coaches who attended practice were Tim Janocko (Clearfield), Mike King (Knoch) and Art Tragesser (Norwin). Additionally, Duquesne University head coach Jerry Schmitt was on hand.
Next Up: Pitt will hold its ninth spring practice on Thursday, March 29, at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex.
Pitt Spring Football Media Quote Sheet
On building a depth chart during the spring:
"There is some depth chart, but it's more about getting reps. The spring is more about installing the system and helping guys understanding it and being better players. Some guys will make a big jump over the summer. In spring, it's about giving yourself a chance to be a starter in the fall."
On junior linebacker Shane Gordon's progress:
"He's doing everything the coaches are asking him to do and you appreciate that. He keeps getting reps and is responding and taking advantage of those reps. I like how he's going in the right direction and hope he will provide depth."
On instilling discipline:
"You've got to talk to them and remind them and sometimes make them a little uncomfortable, just so they can be the best they can be on and off the field. Just like your kids, sometimes you hug them and sometimes you have to get your message across in other ways."
Quoting redshirt freshman cornerback Lafayette Pitts
On the cornerbacks playing on more of "an island" this season:
"We have to make sure we're well conditioned. There's a lot of running to do in covering. So that's the big thing."
On learning the new system:
"We're starting to settle in. We're still making minor mistakes on some stuff but once we get all that cleaned up everything should be good to go."
On cornerback K'Waun Williams acting as a leader among the cornerbacks:
"K'Waun is a junior, the oldest of the class on the corner's side. He's doing a lot of helping, showing us what to do and making sure we're focused and getting everything in the meeting room and film."
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