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April 10, 2012

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Web Link: Pitt Spring Football Insider 


Pitt Spring Drills — Day 13 Practice Notebook & Quote Sheet

Tuesday, April 10, 2012                                                     

Final Week: Pitt began its final week of spring drills with a Tuesday morning practice at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex. The Panthers dressed in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts for the 2 -hour session that was held in the indoor facility.

Pitt will have one more conventional practice on Thursday before concluding drills with Saturday’s Blue-Gold Scrimmage at North Hills’ Martorelli Stadium.

Center of Attention: As Pitt’s starting center, senior Ryan Turnley has more responsibilities than just the exchange with the quarterback. He is also responsible for a wide array of defensive recognitions and calls that affect the entire offense. 

According to junior guard Ryan Schlieper, it is a challenge Turnley is well equipped to handle.

“He’s a great center,” Schlieper said. “He’s got to be the smartest guy on the field, maybe in this whole arena. He is a bright kid in school but he just has so much football sense. He’s the quarterback of the offensive line, making all these calls. He’s seeing all over the field, looking at the safeties. It’s really nice having someone as experienced as him right next to you.”

Sunseri Shines: During 11-on-11 work to close practice, senior quarterback Tino Sunseri connected with junior receiver Joshua Brinson on a deep pass for 45 yards to the 15-yard line. On the next play, Sunseri perfectly executed a bootleg and ran into the end zone untouched. The sequence was reflective of many standout plays on Tuesday for Sunseri, who also threw several nice passes during 7-on-7 drills.

Asked if Sunseri has separated himself from the other quarterbacks, Coach Paul Chryst replied, “I think he has. I think he has made some strides but I still think there are areas where he can get better and that’s a good thing.”

Sunseri says he isn’t concerned about jockeying for the starting job.

“I wasn’t even worried about that. I’m worried about being the best player I can possibly be,” Sunseri said. “Whatever happens, happens and I’ll let the tape show for that. All I can do is get better each day and whatever Coach Chryst decides is what goes.”

It’s a Snap: A year ago, Pitt faced the challenge of auditioning new faces at each of its three major specialist positions. The reliable and versatile Dan Hutchins had graduated after attempting every punt and kick in 2010.

The Panthers also had a hole at long snapper, an often overlooked and underappreciated function. Until something goes wrong, that is.

Fast forward 12 months and the Panthers are fortified at punter, placekicker and, with the return of junior Kevin Barthelemy, long snapper. 

Barthelemy handled snaps for field goals, extra points and punts last year. He admits he had to grow up on the job but, with few exceptions, the operations of those units played at a winning level. Kevin Harper ranked 11th nationally in field goals (1.62 made per game) and Matt Yoklic’s 41.2-yard punting average was second in the Big East.

All three players are back in 2012 and the experience is showing this spring.

“Last year it took us the first few games to settle in,” said Barthelemy, who played his high school ball at Moon Area. “Now, we have familiarity with each other and that helps us.”

That familiarity is helping the specialists adjust to new schemes and responsibilities.

“We are working on a new punt this year,” Barthelemy said. “It is more pro-style for me in that I have blocking assignments. Before, I just released after the snap and ran down the field to make the tackle. I’m also working on my own fundamentals and footwork this spring.”

Between the Uprights: The Panthers began Tuesday’s practice with special teams work. Senior placekicker Kevin Harper displayed outstanding form by nailing five of his six attempts. Harper converted a PAT followed by field goals of 25, 30, 40 and 48 yards. His lone miss, from 53 yards, had more than enough distance but floated just left of the mark.

Strong in the Secondary: Defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable spoke optimistically about Pitt’s secondary following Tuesday’s practice.

“We’ve got a lot of depth at the safety position and I really like the players that we have there,” Huxtable said. “They’re a smart group, they’re good football players and they really enjoy the game. At the corners, we took a little hit for the spring with K’Waun Williams (knee injury) but we get him back (in August) and I think we’ll have good depth there. I’m very excited about that whole secondary group. I think they’re going to give us some good play this fall.”

The Panthers are especially deep at the safety positions. Choosing a starting tandem from the likes of Jarred Holley, Andrew Taglianetti, Jason Hendricks and Ray Vinopal would appear to be a difficult process. Huxtable sees it as a luxury.

“I see all of them having a role playing in the defense,” Huxtable said. “They’re all great competitors and I feel very comfortable putting any of them on the football field. Obviously we’re going to have to pick a starting group, but they’re all of equal talent and ability and we’ll feel very comfortable putting any one of them out on the field.”

Former and Future Panthers: Former Pitt players seen at today’s practice included Shawn Robinson, John Malecki, Jerry Olsavsky and Darrell McMurray. A future Panther was also on hand, incoming freshman linebacker Mike Caprara, who finished his prep career as the all-time leading tackler at Woodland Hills High School with more than 350 stops.

Coaching Fraternity: Visiting high school head coaches at Pitt’s practice facility on Tuesday included Aaron Krepps (Belle Vernon), Terry Totten (Pittsburgh Central Catholic), Frank Fabian (Kittanning) and Tim Keefer (formerly of Oliver).

Next Up: Pitt will hold its 14th spring practice on Thursday, April 12, at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex.      


Pitt Spring Football Media Quote Sheet 

Quoting Head Coach Paul Chryst

On the passing game making progress:

“I think we’re making progress in a lot of areas and I think that certainly has been one of them.  We have a chance to see things and then learn from it so I definitely think it has been improving.

“I think we are making some strides going forward, but I think we have quite a ways to go still.”

On moving players around to different positions:

“One thing spring allows you to do is get a feel for the best positions — the right side, the left side, front or back — so it’s good to get a look at all the players on the field.  We’re just trying to find a way to fit guys in where we have the best chance to win.”


Quoting quarterbacks coach Brooks Bollinger

On quarterback play thus far:

“We’re seeing a bunch of different coverages and we have a bunch of plays in.  So now it’s just a matter of getting consistency. We have times where it looks good and think we have concepts we feel really good about, and there is some stuff we still need to work on. It’s a process and the thing I’m pushing from all of them is I need to know what I can expect from them every day. I think as a group we have too much of the ups and downs going on. I think we need to control the ‘controllables,’ meaning we need to do the things we know we can control every day. We need to be a leader, control the huddle, control the line of scrimmage and then the consistency will follow.”

On if Tino Sunseri has separated himself from the other quarterbacks:

“I would say that is one where you have to ask the head ball coach. I’m just out there trying to coach each one and evaluate every rep. My biggest thing is as a group we need to be more consistent.”


Quoting senior quarterback Tino Sunseri

On if he has settled in and found his stride this spring:

“Every time you go into a new system you have to get the terminology down and as a receiving corps you have to make sure everyone is on the same page. You want to make sure you are understanding each other as far as route depths and other stuff.  You can tell over spring that the receivers have been doing a great job understanding their route depth and understanding what the defense is giving them. Up front, those guys are getting better every day with picking up blitzes. I mean you can’t give those guys enough credit with how hard they have worked this spring.”

On if playing against this defense is helping the offense progress:

“The thing about our defense is they run a 4-3, but they run so many different looks out of that with different coverages. It allows you to work as an offensive unit in that you aren’t seeing the same looks over and over again.”

On if he feels he has progressed this spring:

“Yeah, I feel that from the beginning of spring ball till now I’m a totally different player.  I understand what is expected of me to make sure I’m studying the tape and to know where to go with the ball on the field. We are definitely getting better as a unit.”


Quoting junior receiver Devin Street

On what the offense needs to do for success:

“It’s staying consistent, that’s what we have to do as an offense. We can’t be up, we can’t be down. We just have to stay at one level. Just be consistent, that’s what a winning offense does.”

On the improvement of the passing game:

“I think we’re getting more comfortable with it. Coach (Chryst) is helping us along with it. We’re still installing so there’s still some stuff that’s new. But the stuff we installed previously, I think we’re a lot more comfortable with that and we’re honing in on it.”


Quoting junior offensive guard Cory King

On playing in the new system:

“I’m definitely a lot more comfortable in this system. It feels a lot more natural. It feels more like what I’m supposed to be doing.”

On having to hold his blocks longer in this system:

“That’s the biggest change but that’s why I think I was recruited here. That’s the type of football I think I was built for.”


Spring Football Insider: Day 13

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