Aug. 7, 2012
Pitt Training Camp — Day 2 Practice Notebook & Quote Sheet
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Temperatures Rising on Second Day: Pitt held its second practice of training camp on Tuesday afternoon. Coach Paul Chryst held a three-hour workout on the outdoor fields. The Panthers ran through 33 periods of drills that included individual, group, 7-on-7 and limited 11-on-11 work.
The temperature reached 87 degrees but Chryst would not allow the lengthy workout or hot sun be an excuse, especially later in practice when there were several penalties and mental errors.
“You have to be mentally tougher than that,” Chryst said. “We have to grow out of that. We will continue to talk to them about it.”
Putting on the Pads: After going in shorts and helmets the first two days, the Panthers will don shoulder pads on Wednesday. The physical intensity figures to increase significantly.
“I’m sick of these helmets-only practices because I’m ready to hit somebody,” senior tight end Hubie Graham said.
Taking off the Green Shirt: On the first day of practice, senior tailback Ray Graham, still recovering from last season’s right knee injury, wore a green jersey, a color reserved for injured players and quarterbacks. Today Graham hit the field wearing a blue jersey like the rest of his teammates on offense.
In addition to his jersey change, Graham also stood out in drills, running and making cuts with confidence.
“I think that’s what it is…gaining confidence in what you can do,” Paul Chryst said. “If (Ray) can just keep moving forward that would be good.”
Graham has called his injury “a minor setback that will become a major comeback.”
“I just went out there (today) and played, and I didn’t think about it as much,” Graham said. “I guess the first day was just a test day just to see how it felt. I feel like I am progressing as the days go on. Day three will be better than day two and day four will be better than day three.
“I definitely felt better today. I did every period today and it felt good. I’m starting to feel like I’m back. We were doing one-on-ones earlier and I was tripped up. They weren’t really trying to hit me but it was an accident, and I ended up falling on my knee. It didn’t hurt at all, so this is starting to become a confidence thing and a mental thing. The more I don’t think about it and the more I just play, the more confident I get and the better I feel.”
Respecting Your Elders: Freshman running back Rushel Shell comes to Pitt with big credentials. He finished his Hopewell High career as the all-time leading rusher in Pennsylvania history with more than 9,000 yards. He enters his first collegiate training camp, however, with a healthy respect and appreciation for his upperclassmen teammates at running back, especially Ray Graham.
“Ray (Graham) has been like an older brother to me on the team,” Shell said. “I listen to everything he tells me and he gives me great advice. It’s not just him at times either —it’s the first guy to the last guy. Everyone is just feeding off of one another and trying to get better.”
Opportunity Knocking: Junior Cory King knows he can be a vital cog on this year’s retooling offensive line. After lettering at guard last year, he is now transitioning to the all-important left tackle position.
“Every day I’ve been focusing on something to improve on,” King said. “This is a big opportunity for me and I’m going to do everything that I can to maximize it. When I first got here I played tackle, but the left side is a bit harder to play. It’s transitioning pretty well and I’m picking some stuff up. I just have to keep focusing on getting better.”
Man in the Middle: A scrutinized position this camp will be linebacker. Pitt lost three seniors from last year’s unit, including All-Big East middle linebacker Max Gruder, who had a team-high 116 tackles and is now a member of the Atlanta Falcons.
Looking to fill Gruder’s shoes from both a production and leadership standpoint is Shane Gordon. The junior from Fort Lauderdale is working to seize the starting middle linebacker assignment after lettering the past two seasons as a reserve.
“I’ve played all three linebacker positions but I love playing the ‘Mike,’” Gordon said. “You’re right in the middle of all the action. There’s nowhere anyone can hide. I definitely feel like I need to step up for this year’s defense. The Mike linebacker controls the huddle and calls the defenses. I’ve got to be a leader by what I say and how I play.”
Excellent Day for Eric: Sophomore outside linebacker Eric Williams had a big day by having a hand in three turnovers during 7-on-7 drills. Williams made two diving interceptions in front of receivers and caused a third pick when he deflected a pass that ricocheted into senior safety Jarred Holley’s hands.
“Q” on the Move: Sophomore LaQuentin Smith — known as “Q” to teammates — joined Pitt last year as a linebacker prospect, worked at defensive end during the spring and is now practicing with the defensive tackles to open training camp.
When he signed with the Panthers in February 2011 out of Florida’s Dr. Phillips High, Smith tipped the scales at 225 pounds. As of this afternoon’s weigh-in, he was 265 without pads. Even with his size increase, Pitt’s coaches like his good feet and athleticism. He also played basketball in high school.
Asked how he feels about the position shuffle, Smith says he does not have a preference. “It doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “I’ll play anywhere. I just want to get on the field and contribute.”
SI.com Says Pitt Has “Sleeper” Potential: SI.com’s Ben Glicksman wrote today that Pitt is one of five unranked teams with BCS sleeper potential. “Pitt could be primed to make one final conference statement before leaving for the ACC,” Glicksman said. In addition to Pitt, he listed NC State, Missouri, Utah and Louisiana Tech among teams with BCS potential.
Big League Scouts: Pitt hosted NFL scouts from the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and San Diego Chargers at practice today.
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 third training camp practice on Wednesday at 2:45 p.m., at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex. The Panthers will wear helmets and shoulder pads for their third workout of camp.
Pitt Training Camp Media Quote Sheet
On how August camp differs from the spring:
“It's a faster pace than spring. We're going back-to-back days now. We can't have sloppiness and we as coaches have to be smart and push them in the right direction. The great thing about camp is that we can focus on football the entire time.”
On sophomore linebacker Todd Thomas’ recovery from a knee injury:
“We have to be smart in how we approach it. He keeps progressing and remains positive every day.”
On the athleticism of the team:
“Tomorrow we’re looking forward to putting pads and helmets on. We want to combine some more of the physical aspects of the game. Hopefully we can say at the end of the year that was a very athletic group.”
On the wide receivers:
“We had some great points today, but they still need to attack. It's really early and they need to grow.”
Quoting senior tight end Hubie Graham
On evaluating the first two practices:
“You know that you’ve got to go out there and give it everything you’ve got. You have to be tough, you have to be physical, and you have to try and get better on every play. That’s what we take away from camp and we’ve been doing a good job so far during these last few practices.”
On increasing the intensity level:
“I think that it is going to be physical. It’s going to be intense and guys are going to be trying to prove themselves. It’s going to be exciting. I’m sick of these helmets-only practices because I’m ready to hit somebody.”
Quoting senior safety Andrew Taglianetti
On the new defensive schemes:
“I think that we have a little more time to try and learn and install these defenses because we’re here all day. We have practices, we have walk-throughs, and probably four or five hours of meetings a day. We’re just in our playbooks all of the time and it gets to the point where it becomes second nature. It’s been a little tough learning the new schemes but the repetition only helps us at practice.”
On the positive notes from practice today:
“I thought that today’s practice was pretty good. I think that we have our calls down pretty well and we installed some new ones. I didn’t really see many mistakes — the effort is there. It’s just really hard to tell when you’re just in helmets how things will go. Tomorrow we’ll get a better taste of our defense once we get the pads on. I’m excited for that.”
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