March 31, 2012
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Pitt Spring Drills — Day 10 Practice Notebook & Quote Sheet
Saturday, March 31, 2012
Scrimmage Saturday: Pitt held its second major spring scrimmage on Saturday morning. The Panthers worked out for more than two hours, initially doing individual and group drills before moving into full-contact 11-on-11 work.
Pitt now has four practices and the April 14 Blue-Gold Game remaining this spring.
“There was a lot to learn from,” Coach Paul Chryst said in assessing the day’s workout. “Some great examples of you can’t shoot yourself in the foot before the play even starts. It’s good if we learn from it. If not, then we keep going until we do learn from it.”
Asked what the goals are for the final two weeks of spring drills, Chryst responded, “To keep getting better.”
“We’ve had a pretty good grind if you look at the whole spring,” he said. “Through the first 10 practices there wasn’t a lot of time off for them. We’ve got to come back Monday and have good meetings.”
I Like Ike: Tailback Isaac Bennett had his second long touchdown run of the spring on a 50-yard burst today. Bennett later had a five-yard scoring run, one play after he converted a 4th-and-short inside the 10.
In last week’s scrimmage, Bennett had a 70-yard touchdown jaunt.
“I was really proud of the linemen, fullbacks and wide receivers out there blocking,” Bennett said of his long run on Saturday. “I was running behind them. It made it easier for me.”
“Blocking-wise, a guy like Isaac Bennett makes it real easy for you,” sophomore fullback Mark Giubilato said. “There were a couple times when the line of scrimmage was clogged up and Isaac breaks it for 30 yards. He’s a special back.”
Smash-mouth Football: The fullback is fashionable again at Pitt.
After a one-year hiatus, the Panthers are prominently utilizing a fullback in their pro-style offensive sets under new coach Paul Chryst. One of the players competing for the starting assignment is sophomore Mark Giubilato.
Giubilato saw backfield time in only a handful of plays last year, mostly in short-yardage or goal-line situations. His biggest contributions came on special teams, where he made five tackles on kick coverage units.
Giubilato distinguished himself in today’s scrimmage, catching two swing passes for 30 yards and helping to convert a 4th-and-short with tough lead blocking.
“Compared to last season, it’s a whole different dynamic,” Giubilato said. “It’s a lot of blocking obviously. This is really the first time that I’m getting involved in the passing game, which is awesome.”
“He’s a guy that comes to work and you appreciate that,” Chryst said of Giubilato. “We’re looking for a guy that can give us some plays at that position. If a guy comes to work and it’s important to him, I think you have a chance to get better.”
Pick by Pitts: Redshirt freshman Lafayette Pitts is working to earn increased repetitions at cornerback. The Woodland Hills graduate was responsible for the day’s lone interception when he jumped high in the air to snare an errant pass on the initial play of the scrimmage’s second series.
TD Strikes: Senior quarterback Tino Sunseri threw two touchdown passes on Saturday. The first was a 40-yarder to sophomore Brandon Ifill, who made a nice grab while drawing a pass interference penalty. Sunseri later lofted a 15-yard rainbow to senior Cameron Saddler for a score on the final play of the day.
“Coach Chryst is the man,” Saddler said. “He’s so laid back, but at the same time you saw him jump me when I celebrated (after scoring a touchdown) so you won’t see any more of that from me the rest of this camp. He’s changing the culture around here. It’s more laid back, but at the same time it’s about getting business done. It’s about you doing your job and that’s the main thing, holding each other accountable. That’s Coach Chryst’s main thing – make sure you’re doing what you need to do and be where you need to be and if you’re doing that then the rest will come.”
Special Teams Demon: Safety Andrew Taglianetti is not only a lynchpin in Pitt’s secondary but also one of the country’s top special teams players.
Entering his senior year, Taglianetti is already the Panthers’ career leader with six blocked punts. The national record for punt blocks is 10 set by Central Michigan’s James King from 2001-04.
Last season, Taglianetti smothered a Utah punt that was picked up by Antwuan Reed and returned for a 20-yard score. It was the Panthers’ first touchdown off a blocked punt in 20 years.
So what goes into the art of the block? Three key things according to “Tags.”
“The scheme has to be good,” Taglianetti said. “Over the years, the coaches have put me in good position to make blocks. Secondly, there has to be all-out effort and motivation. Before the snap you have to believe ‘I’m going to get this’ and not let anything stop you.”
“You can’t be afraid to get hit in the face with the ball.”
Tags Talks Pens: Andrew Taglianetti is the son of Peter Taglianetti, the hardnosed defenseman for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Stanley Cup teams of the early 1990s.
Andrew spent plenty of time in the Pens’ locker room growing up, and even interned in the team’s front office this past year. With the Stanley Cup playoffs looming, Andrew was asked about the Penguins’ title chances.
“They have all the necessary talent to win the Cup,” he said. “It is a matter of them playing a complete team game. They are capable of an eight-goal game any night. Coach (Dan) Bylsma always puts them in a great position to be successful, and anytime your goalie is Marc-Andre Fleury you’ve got a chance to go far.”
Carrington Competing: Although he is one of the most athletic players on Pitt’s roster, sophomore Lloyd Carrington is still a newbie to the game of football.
A native of Dallas, Texas, Carrington did not go out for varsity football until his senior year at Lincoln High School. He was actually “discovered” by Lincoln’s football staff on the basketball court. Carrington earned Texas all-district honors as a defensive back and impressed enough major-college recruiters that he had as many as 15 Division I scholarship offers before choosing Pitt in February 2011.
As a true freshman, Carrington played in seven games to letter as a reserve corner. He admits he is still a work in progress, but the 6-foot Carrington says he enjoys working through the process of becoming “a complete cornerback.”
“I’ve been really focused on my technique and learning the small things that go into the position,” said Carrington, who flashed impressive speed earlier this spring when he returned a fumble 60 yards for a TD.
“I like playing in this system,” Carrington said. “It is a pro-style defense when it comes to cornerbacks. We’re responsible for not only our own coverage but also communicating and helping make adjustments with the safeties.”
The Wisconsin Connection: Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas visited Pitt’s practice facility on Saturday. Thomas was tutored by current Pitt offensive line coach Jim Hueber as a collegian at Wisconsin. He was a first team All-American and winner of the Outland Trophy for the Badgers.
Thomas was the Browns’ first-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft (third player taken overall) and has been voted to five consecutive Pro Bowls. He is the first Browns player since legendary running back Jim Brown to make it to the Pro Bowl in each of his first five seasons.
Blue & Gold Alumni: A large contingent of former Pitt players was on hand today. Attending alumni included Nick Bolkovac, Dave Bucklew, Walt Bielich, Mike Bosnic, Emil Boures, Dean Caliguire, Lou “Bimbo” Cecconi, Lou Cimarolli, Andrew Devlin, Nick DeRosa, Tyrone Gilliard, Dave Havern, Buddy Jackson, Ralph Jelic, Matt Maiers, Rudy Mattioli, Pete Neft, Tom Ricketts, Ray Tarasi and Greg Williams.
Eager to Arrive: Four members of Pitt’s incoming freshman class returned to watch spring practice on Saturday: Adam Bisnowaty (Fox Chapel), J.P. Holtz (Shaler Area) and twins Chris and Demitrious Davis (Ohio’s Austintown Fitch).
Coaching Fraternity: Former Pitt head coach Walt Harris visited practice on Saturday. Harris led a resurgent period for Pitt football from 1997-2004, taking the Panthers to six bowls in eight seasons.
WPIAL Flavor: High school head coaches in attendance included Clair Altemus (Pine-Richland), Mike Bosnic (Washington), Muzzy Colosimo (Greensburg Central Catholic), Dave Havern (Shady Side Academy), Aaron Krepps (Belle Vernon), Ed Jenkins (Charleroi), Dom Pecora (Southmoreland), Rod Steele (Steel Valley) and Jim Ward (McKeesport).
Next Up: Pitt will hold its 11th spring practice on Tuesday, April 3, at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex.
Pitt Spring Football Media Quote Sheet
On whether the offense showed improvement today:
“Yeah, I think there was some better execution. Some of it is just that, they are executing. That’s what’s great about football. Everyone has to do their job on each play. Success is because they are doing what they are supposed to do. So there was better execution, but still a lot of things that we’ve got to clean up and learn from.”
On the passing game showing improvement:
“There were some things that were positive out of it, but could have been a lot better. We missed three or four for sure to overthrown balls. There’s good stuff to build on and like I said we’ve got to keep going and get a lot better.”
On teaching quarterbacks to not hold onto the ball too long:
“It’s like anything. You’ve got to make sure they understand what it is you’re trying to do. There are times when it’s unnatural but there may not be a throw and you just have got to put it somewhere safe.”
On the defense today:
“We put them in situations – ball in the red zone to begin with – and I thought they did a good job, they shut them down. Then they also gave up big plays. That’s the one thing about defense. You can do a lot of things right but one play can get you. So you’ve just got to learn from that. There are different reasons, but it’s a good day if we learn from it.”
Quoting sophomore fullback Mark Giubilato
On the offense having success today:
“Everything really started clicking today. We’ve been working really hard and watching a lot of tape. Comparing it to the past, me personally and some others have been in there (watching film) and really breaking it down. It’s tough with a new offense. It took a couple weeks to sink in but today up front the offensive line played unbelievable. Even from a running backs standpoint, when we get movement up front it makes the reads so much easier. Having a guy like Isaac Bennett in the backfield, you saw him, he just went off today.”
On competing with sophomore Derrick Burns at fullback:
“We’re kind of going back and forth. He’s a great back too. Both of us have been working really hard and we’ve been getting in here watching film a lot together. He’s another guy who is real tough. He can run with the ball. He was a high school running back so he knows what to look for and everything. I played quarterback in high school which kind of makes it a lot easier to read defenses too.”
Quoting sophomore running back Isaac Bennett:
On competition among the running backs:
“I’m not really worried about it. I’m looking forward to playing beside everybody, all the running backs. We have a nice, strong group.”
Quoting senior quarterback Tino Sunseri:
On the offense’s performance today:
“I would say that the offense is just working each and every day to make sure that we’re getting better. We’re starting to understand up front how to really run the football downhill. That’s a different thing coming from last year being in a zone scheme. Whenever you’re able to run the ball downhill effectively, and Isaac is able to do that, then you’re able to create those play-action plays and be able to throw the ball vertically.”
On running back Isaac Bennett:
“He’s taking advantage of the opportunity. That’s the only thing he can do. Coach Chryst keeps on harping to us that you only have so many opportunities. We have 15 opportunities (this spring) to get better and that’s what we’re going to keep on doing each day. Isaac’s one of those guys that’s coming in each day, trying to make sure that he does his job and the offensive line is doing a good job opening up holes for him. Those big boys up front get a lot of credit.”
Quoting senior receiver Cameron Saddler
On what injured receiver Mike Shanahan’s return will mean to the offense:
“That’s going to be such a big help. That’s what I’m waiting for because not only is Shanahan one of our better receivers, he also is the smartest guy in our room. So if I ever break the huddle and I don’t know what’s going on, I’m looking right for 87 and 87 lets me know what’s going on. Once he gets back he’s going to make things way easier.”
On if he enjoys when the offense runs the football:
“Whatever we have to do to win games, that’s what we need to do. If we have to run the ball 40 times and I have to keep landing on a linebacker, that’s what I have to do. I’m just trying to get some wins. I don’t want to be 6-7 (record-wise).”
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