April 3, 2012
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Pitt Spring Drills — Day 11 Practice Notebook & Quote Sheet
The Final Five: Pitt is in the midst of its final five practices of the spring. Coach Paul Chryst oversaw the Panthers’ 11th workout today, an outdoor session that lasted more than two hours and featured individual, group and 11-on-11 drills. Pitt donned helmets, shoulder pads and shorts this morning following Saturday’s lengthy scrimmage day.
Progress up Front: One of the most encouraging storylines during Saturday’s scrimmage was the play of the offensive line. The unit is in the midst of retooling after losing three senior starters from last year.
Following Tuesday’s practice, veteran line coach Jim Hueber acknowledged the progress and effort the group is making this spring.
“I don’t think you can watch us practice right now and not think that somebody hasn’t bought in to what we’re doing,” Hueber said. “I think right now guys are straining to do what we want them to do. It’s never going to be perfect, ever, but we’re really striving to get better every day and I think if you watch you’ll see a little bit of that.”
Business and Pleasure: Defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield is an intense guy on the field. But that doesn’t mean the D-line meeting room is devoid of fun.
“He’s a down to earth guy and we can joke around with him,” senior defensive end Shayne Hale said. “I have fun with him, all the guys have fun with him and we just enjoy playing for him. At this point we’re just trying to play to the level he wants us at and do the things he asks.”
Hale, a former linebacker, has been getting increased repetitions with the first unit and is enjoying a productive spring.
Crockett Competes: Pitt’s depth at tailback increased today with redshirt freshman Malcolm Crockett enjoying his most extensive practice time. Crockett had been hindered through most of spring with a hamstring injury. The Maryland native showed healthy and strong form during inside run drills and 11-on-11 work.
Entering his first active collegiate season, Crockett rushed for nearly 2,000 yards and scored 20 touchdowns over his junior and senior seasons at Friendship Collegiate Academy in Washington D.C.
Red Zone Efficiency: Quarterback Tino Sunseri and receiver Cameron Saddler connected on three consecutive touchdown passes (each covering 20 yards) during red zone drills. One was a spectacular diving effort with Saddler stretching out in the right corner of the end zone. On Saddler’s final grab he got both feet down inside the left pylon.
Long and Short: The longest play of the day was a 60-yard touchdown pass from Tino Sunseri to Devin Street. The pair was also responsible for the shortest scoring play of practice, a two-yard touchdown off a screen pass.
Shanahan Still Active: Despite being limited this spring following back surgery, senior receiver Mike Shanahan is still soaking the most out of meetings and practice.
“I’ve been learning the offense, getting mental reps and watching the film,” Shanahan said. “I still have the opportunity to go out there and do some individual drills and I still try to catch a lot of passes and stay tuned up with that. The biggest thing is mentally being in there and learning the offense.”
A returning two-year starter, Shanahan likes what he sees from the Panthers’ new offensive system. “I think it gives a lot of guys chances to get the ball and different ways to attack the defense with play action,” he said. “With all the skill players we have I think we can utilize all of them.”
Visiting VIPs: Former NFL tight end Christian Fauria, now a college football analyst for ESPN, attended practice this morning. Fauria did the color for Pitt’s ESPN3 game against Maine last season. He spent 13 years in the NFL, winning a pair of Super Bowl rings while with New England from 2002-05. He was also a teammate of current Pitt receivers coach Bobby Engram during the 2001 season when they both were in Seattle.
WPIAL Flavor: Serra Catholic coach Jamie Eckles and Norwin coach Art Tragesser attended Tuesday’s workout. Additionally, George Smith, the former longtime head coach at McKeesport, visited the Panthers.
Next Up: Pitt will hold its 12th spring practice on Thursday, April 5 – a closed workout at Heinz Field.
Pitt Spring Football Media Quote Sheet
On sophomore quarterback Trey Anderson getting more reps:
“I think he has impressed. I think he’s flashed on some things you have seen. I think you just have to get him more reps and give him a chance to see things more and see who he really is.
“At the end of spring, you have to make sure you can look at everyone. I think it was as much that as anything and at the same time I think there are opportunities. When you get that opportunity, it’s all about what you do with it.
“Trey (Anderson) did a couple of things to merit more reps.”
On good execution in the red zone today:
“Guys are starting to get some things. You just have to keep playing and every time you play there is learning. I think that’s where this group is at. You just have to keep learning and hopefully getting better.”
On the defensive backs:
“As a group they’re competing and I think as a whole that group is trying to get better. We were able to run a decent amount of plays so those guys are going to get a lot of work.”
On the improving run game:
“I think it’s gotten better. I think the offensive line is starting to come together a little and understand some things. I like the way that they have been working and we just have to keep going hard at it.”
Quoting junior receiver Devin Street
On wide receivers coach Bobby Engram:
“It’s great to have a coach that we get along with so well and who teaches us so much. We’ve had teachers, but he just knows how to go about it the right way.”
On respect for Bobby Engram’s NFL career:
“There is respect for anyone who has played in the NFL. A guy like that (Engram) who knows what it’s like to play in the NFL, it helps us. He has the experience and it rubs off on us and we go out there and have fun.”
On what the biggest thing is that Street is being asked to do this year that he wasn’t last year:
“Be a leader. Not even just yelling and getting guys going, but guys following my lead in the weight room and off the field. That’s the biggest thing.”
On whether there are differences for the receivers between this year and last year:
“Yes, there are some things. Mentally, physically, there are some things we are asked to do. In the spread, it was just go. Now, we are thinking a lot more. We are understanding why concepts are that way, why routes are that way, so there is a little difference. Football is football.”
Quoting offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph
On senior quarterback Tino Sunseri’s progress:
“Things are starting to come back up, getting a little bit of repetition with things and that’s what you want to see as things become familiar and we’re playing a little faster. Keep working at it, keep learning it. Things are coming out easier, speaking it in the huddle. So I think all those things lead to more confidence that allows you to play a little bit faster.”
On what Tino Sunseri needs to do to get better:
“He’s got to grind on all the film he can watch, grind on just learning it, keep being able to spit it out, keep having unbelievable confidence in it. I think that leads to better and better control of the huddle, more confidence in what the guys are doing. But I think it’s just learning. I think it’s just putting it in the forefront of what you’re doing and keep working at it. I think that’s why you’ve seen him a little bit better the last couple days. I think it’s been there. You can tell the off the field work has helped him in practices.”
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