Aug. 6, 2012
Pitt Training Camp — Day 1 Practice Notebook & Quote Sheet
Monday, August 6, 2012
Welcome to Camp: On Monday afternoon the Pitt football team opened 2012 training camp, its first under the leadership of Coach Paul Chryst. The Panthers practiced in helmets and shorts per NCAA guidelines. Under bright sunny skies and temperatures reaching into the 80s, Pitt practiced for nearly three hours on the UPMC Sports Performance Complex’s outdoor fields. The practice was divided into 33 periods. The Panthers focused primarily on individual and group drills, while also doing some limited 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work.
“You hope that the players take a lot of the stuff that we did in the spring and carry it over into the fall,” Chryst said. “I thought that the coaches did a nice job teaching and the guys were into it. For the first day we got a lot done, but you’re not going to be able to make too many predictions off of today’s practice.”
Ezell at End: Junior Tyrone Ezell, who had been working at defensive tackle, opened camp today working at defensive end. Ezell lettered the past two seasons playing on the inside.
“I think that he is a talented player,” Chryst said. “He’s got to get comfortable with what we are asking him to do so that he can turn it loose. He’s big enough and athletic enough, and it’ll be fun to see in camp how he progresses and if that’s truly a good fit for him.”
Pitt’s Quiet Storm: Paul Chryst likes to point out that junior Aaron Donald isn’t a man of many words. Chryst likes that the defensive lineman from Penn Hills simply lets his play speak for him.
Donald was an All-Big East selection last year, collecting 16 tackles for loss and 11 quarterback sacks. He ranked seventh nationally in sacks per game (0.85 avg.) while playing every down-lineman position in the 3-4 scheme. With Pitt switching back to a 4-3 alignment this year, he is slated to play defensive tackle.
Donald is embracing his role on this year’s defense, which is retooling after losing seven starters. And he doesn’t feel like he needs to yell and scream to make an impact from a leadership standpoint.
"I feel a higher level of responsibility this year since our defense will be younger than in the past," said Donald. "It will be important to set a tone when camp starts with my work ethic. I've got to lead by example, go 100 miles an hour and let my teammates feed off my energy."
Seasoned Signal Caller: Senior quarterback Tino Sunseri has started 26 consecutive games dating back to the 2010 season opener at Utah. Sunseri's starting streak is the longest by a Pitt quarterback since Tyler Palko made 35 consecutive starts from 2004-06. Palko started every single game for the Panthers during those three seasons.
Alex Van Pelt holds the school record for consecutive games started and total starting assignments by a Pitt quarterback. Van Pelt started every game during his four-year career (46 starts from 1989-92). He also is the school's career leader in passing yards (11,267) and total offense (11,148).
Sunseri ranks sixth at Pitt in career passing yards (5,302) and seventh in total offense (5,494).
“It was one of the best and most crisp first days we have ever had,” Sunseri said in assessing the opening workout. “It went really well. You can tell the guys worked hard during the offseason because they were even doing the little things right. Devin Street and I put in a lot of time over the summer and it paid dividends today. But we have to keep getting better.”
Trick-Shot Artist: Pitt’s placekicking duties are in good hands with the return of senior Kevin Harper, who led the Panthers in scoring last season with 95 points. Harper has proven to be reliable on Heinz Field’s notoriously treacherous kicking turf. Last year Harper nailed a 52-yarder in a home game against Cincinnati, tying the stadium record established by former Steelers kicker Jeff Reed (vs. Atlanta in 2010).
Not only can he be an effective kicker on Heinz Field’s grass, but he can also make field goals in other ways – like barefoot, through hoops and even using a soccer-type backwards bicycle kick. That was proven this past month when Harper became a YouTube sensation with a 5-minute trick-shot video that he made at Pitt’s practice facility. Through August 6, the video had been watched more than 22,000 times. The number of views continues to grow daily.
“It would not have been as fun or entertaining if I was just doing regular kicks,’ Harper said. “It has gotten a lot of views and everyone seems to like it. It took about four hours to make but I didn’t get everything on the first try. The bicycle kick was the hardest for me to get.”
Big East Darkhorse?: According to the annual Big East media poll, Pitt was picked to finish fifth in this year's conference race. Interestingly, the two preseason favorites — Louisville (24 first-place votes) and USF (four first-place votes) — each lost to the Panthers last year.
Not everyone thinks the Panthers are a middle-of-the-pack team. Ralph Russo, the Associated Press’ lead college football writer, tweeted the following from Big East media day: “One Big East coach I talked to thinks Pitt is the sleeper team in the conference this season.”
Said senior running back Ray Graham: "Whether you are the team picked to finish first or the team picked to finish last, you have to earn your respect on the field. We understand that and know we need to work hard during training camp to have a chance to achieve our goals this season. The goal is always to win the Big East. That hasn't changed, but you've got to work hard as a team to make your goals a reality. Our first focus will be having a great training camp and then we'll take it week-by-week, one game at a time."
Training Camp Walk-Ons: Pitt added seven freshman walk-ons for training camp. They include defensive back Ethan Brown (Royersford, PA/The Haverford School), offensive lineman John Guy (Somerville, MA/New Hampton School), placekicker Brad Lukasak (Orwigsburg, PA/Blue Mountain), long snapper Pat Quirin (Pittsburgh, PA/Pittsburgh Central Catholic), fullback Anthony Rippole (McKees Rocks, PA/Montour) and wide receiver Chris Wuestner (Carlisle, PA/Carlisle).
Additionally, junior quarterback Tom Savage (Springfield, PA/Cardinal O’Hara) is a walk-on transfer from Arizona. Savage, who threw for more than 2,700 yards with 16 TDs at Rutgers from 2009-10, will be ineligible this season due to NCAA transfer guidelines. Following this season he will have one year of eligibility remaining.
Two More Panthers Get Their Canton Calls: Canton added more Pitt Blue and Gold this past weekend with the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction of defensive end Chris Doleman and running back Curtis Martin. Doleman was a dominating defensive end for the Panthers from 1981-84 and went on to become one of pro football's all-time leading pass rushers in 15 NFL seasons. Martin played at Pitt from 1991-94 before embarking on a prolific rushing career that spanned 11 active NFL seasons.
It is the second time in three years that Pitt has had two inductees in the same class. In 2010, offensive lineman Russ Grimm and linebacker Rickey Jackson were inducted together. The Panthers now have eight total inductees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Doleman (2012), Martin (2012), Grimm (2010), Jackson (2010), quarterback Dan Marino (2005), running back Tony Dorsett (1994), tight end Mike Ditka (1988) and linebacker Joe Schmidt (1973).
Pitt's total of eight Pro Football Hall of Famers ranks tied for third among all colleges, trailing only Southern California (11) and Notre Dame (10). The Panthers are tied with Ohio State and Michigan.
The enshrinement speeches by Doleman and Martin can be watched on “Pitt Live Wire,” the official blog of Pitt Athletics.
Season Tickets on Sale: Pitt football season-ticket packages are currently on sale for as low as $99 and can be purchased online (PittsburghPanthers.com), by phone (800/643-PITT) or in person at the Petersen Events Center ticket office. All Pitt and UPMC employees are eligible for a 20% discount. To watch Pitt’s season ticket commercial click on this link: My City, My Panthers.
Next Up: Pitt will hold its second training camp practice on Tuesday at 2:45 p.m., at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex.
Pitt Training Camp Media Quote Sheet
On how Ray Graham looked in practice:
“I thought he looked good out there today, but certainly this is quite a process that he’s got to go through. He keeps progressing every day and it’s good to have him out there with us.”
On the goals and expectations for the upcoming season:
“We have a lot of goals. To sum it up, you’ve got to work to improve and guys have got to get better. You’re a better team if each individual player gets better. I’ve never been able to tell what a guy’s ceiling is or how good he can be, but I think that it is enough if you keep working to be the best you can be.”
On depth concerns at offensive tackle:
“Certainly we are thin at tackle and Cory King is one guy that’s got to step up and embrace that role. A big part of it is, can the guys inside such as Ryan Turnley, Chris Jacobson and Ryan Schlieper do it so we don’t have to move someone out there? We have got to stay strong in the areas that we should be strong at. Our guys have to continue to work and get themselves into shape and be accountable. I think that will be one of the stories through camp.”
On Mark Myers transferring:
“It does not really change our situation at quarterback. I think that you have just got to keep going. We wish him well obviously, but we just have to keep going and not miss a beat.”
On whether freshman Chad Voytik will be receiving more meaningful reps due to Myers transferring:
“Absolutely, and we will take advantage of that. It’s certainly easier to rep three quarterbacks than it is to rep four.”
Quoting senior offensive guard Chris Jacobson
On his first full practice since being injured:
“It felt good to be out there as a team. It went well. There was a lot of teaching and a lot of fundamentals. It especially felt good for me to come out and hit. The guys up front are the guys that have to get it done. Everything is going great. We had a good summer program and everyone is buying into Coach Chryst and we all want to work hard for him.”
Quoting junior offensive tackle Cory King
On his move to offensive tackle:
“(Offensive line) coach (Jim) Hueber has been great. He’s getting us into shape. He has been a great motivator and it’s very easy to play for him. I’ve had some experience playing this position and he is helping me prepare every day.”
Quoting senior running back Ray Graham
On how his injured right knee felt today:
“I felt good. As the days go on, I’m going to get better and better. I felt stronger than I thought I would be. This is just the first day so I have to be smart and I want to participate every day. As of now, I plan on playing September 1 against YSU.”
Quoting freshman quarterback Chad Voytik
On his opening practice:
“It’s a learning process. I’m still learning but as the day went on I felt more comfortable with the plays and my reads. It’s a challenge that I look forward to.”
Quoting freshman running back Rushel Shell
On leaning on his veteran teammates:
“Today was a great experience and mostly a learning experience for me. I’m learning from all the other running backs — Isaac (Bennett), Ray (Graham) and Corey (Davis). I want to take their knowledge of the game and combine it with my knowledge of the game and make it work.”
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