Pitt Training Camp: Notes From Second Scrimmage

Pitt's football season may hinge on the success of its offensive line.

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Training Camp Breaks With Questions Unanswered

Pitt’s training camp officially broke this weekend, even though the team still has another day of practice on Monday. From there, the team will be off Tuesday and begin focusing on Utah starting on Wednesday.

Dave Wannstedt seemed pleased with the camp when he addressed the media:

“It’s been a good camp; I thought it was a very physical camp. I think that every coach likes to stand there and say that this is the most physical camp that we’ve had, and players like to say that too. I don’t know, I just know that the faster that you get, and the stronger that you get, for some reason practices become more physical. We banged it around pretty good. I thought that we really got a good feel for our younger players. We did some things to really look at our incoming freshmen.

Some good news for Pitt is that assuming Greg Romeus’ and Ray Graham’s injuries are not serious, the team escaped relatively unscathed. The injury to freshman DE Bryan Murphy was unfortunate as he would have been up for some playing time. But Pitt has capable starters at defensive end and the team should be okay.

Questions still abound including injuries to key parts Romeus and Graham. Romeus only managed to participate in full pads one day of the camp and while Wannstedt thinks he’ll be ready for the opener, he’s not so sure about Graham:

“There’s nothing really new to report on Ray Graham and Greg Romeus except to say that they’re making great improvement, and day-to-day, they’re getting closer and closer. I expect Greg to be fine for opening day. Ray is running straight ahead right now, tomorrow will be the first day that he’ll start making cuts so we’ll see where he’s at there. He’s coming along, we just don’t want to do anything faster than what we need to.”

If Graham isn’t ready, Pitt, of course, still has All-American Dion Lewis. But if Graham is out for any extended period of time, Pitt can ill-afford an injury to Lewis.

All in all, Pitt used this camp to do what they needed to do – get in good, hard work and sort out position battles. It also helped that QB Tino Sunseri was named the starter in the Spring and had all of camp to work with the first-team offense. The team now has a little over a week to prepare for its opening game against Utah.


Dave Wannstedt Sees Areas To Improve After Second Scrimmage

Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt was pleased with the team’s second scrimmage of training camp, but thinks there are some areas in which the team needs to improve:

“As I told the players earlier, we were really good in one area, and we can win some games that way. We’ve got some strength, but we also have some areas of much needed improvement. That would probably be the best way to put it.

“I told the players that we’ve been on teams where we’ve led the NFL in rushing, and we couldn’t win a lot of games, we couldn’t win a Super Bowl. We led the league in sacks, but we didn’t stop the run well. So, it’s not one phase that wins you a championship. Right now, we need these next four or five days. They’re very, very important to us.

One note was that Greg Romeus again did not participate. He had been getting back to practice over the past few days, but was again held out of the scrimmage. This is disappointing news as time is running out for him to get work in. RB Ray Graham also was held out again with his sprained ankle.

And backup QB Pat Bostick came back to earth a bit from the first scrimmage. He finished 5-15 for 48 yards and a TD. Starter Tino Sunseri was only 6-17 for 36 yards. Neither QB threw an interception despite being hurried quite a bit – the pair was sacked a combined five times.


Greg Romeus Returns To Camp For Pitt

After being held out of camp activities for the first nine days, DE Greg Romeus finally returned and fully participated for the first time this Fall:

“It was very encouraging this morning with Greg,” Wannstedt said Monday night before his team took the field for a rare night workout during camp. “He came out and took every snap in full pads, inside run, team, pass rush. He did everything from start to finish and felt good afterward. We’re headed down the right road there.”

The team still has players fighting through various minor injuries, including Dion Lewis, Ray Graham, and Dom DeCicco. Still, it’s good to have Romeus back and hopefully he can get a few weeks of good, hard practice in before the Utah game.

Pitt will hold another scrimmage on Wednesday.


Injury Updates Following First Scrimmage

Pitt was back at it today after Saturday’s scrimmage. While Greg Romeus didn’t do everything at practice, he was apparently much more active and in full pads:

“It was good to get Greg Romeus back today, and to see him working. He didn’t do everything, but he came out in pads and worked. He got back in the middle of things, which was good. We expect to do more with him every day, getting him ready to go.

Two pieces of fairly big news today. Ray Graham’s injury, suffered yesterday, appears to be nothing more than a sprained ankle. With the recent questions about Romeus’ injury, I’m not sure everyone will believe that. But it’s what Wannstedt’s reporting at this time.

Also, freshman Bryan Murphy was stepped on and broke his foot. He’ll be out for 6-8 weeks. The situation is a bad one, but will likely make Dave Wannstedt’s decision about redshirting him a lot easier. Even if he can get back after six weeks, his first game back would be October 2nd against FIU. Yes, Murphy would have a week of practice before that game, but that is already Pitt’s fourth contest of the season. Factor in all the practices, scrimmages, and games missed, and he’s going to be way behind. And that’s a best-case scenario.

I think Murphy redshirts this season unless injuries force him into the line of duty.


Pat Bostick Plays Well, Ray Graham Injured In Pitt's First Scrimmage

Pitt held its first scrimmage on Saturday and several defensive stars sat out due to injury. Among those were Greg Romeus, who has yet to practice with the team this Fall.

Also out were Myles Caragein, Tristan Roberts, Dom DeCicco, and Andrew Taglianetti. But despite all the injuries, Dave Wannstedt said all could have played in a regular season game:

Wannstedt, however, insisted that if the Panthers were lining up to play Utah Saturday, all the players — including Romeus — would have had no problem.

“He would have played today,” Wannstedt said. “Dom would have played, they all would have played.”

The biggest injury on the field came when backup Ray Graham was carted off after colliding with Jared Holley:

“Ray went back into the huddle but we jerked him out and took him in to put ice on it,” Wannstedt said. “I don’t know [how bad it is]. Hopefully it is nothing serious.”

Pat Bostick was the story of the game offensively. After relieving Tino Sunseri (5-11 for 61 yards / 0 TDs), he completed 9-15 passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns. Those numbers came against a severely depleted defense, but Bostick was only working with the second team offense. This scrimmage will hardly open up a full-blown QB competition, but it will be nice if Bostick can get progressively better in case he’s needed during the season.

Freshmen QBs Mark Myers and Anthony Gonzalez also got into the game, combining for three touchdowns and one interception. And on the defensive side of the ball, Dave Wannstedt thinks several freshman could all play roles this season:

“There are some freshmen that I would mention. One, Bryan Murphy, we have to take a look and see if he can help us. Then there’s K’Waun Williams, a cornerback, he’s made plays every day he’s been out here. I like what those two guys are doing. Those two guys on defense have a chance. Aaron Donald possibly too, we just have more depth at the defensive end position.

That should be no surprise to anyone. All three have been regularly mentioned as having excellent camps and Wannstedt may be in the position of using all three this season rather than redshirting them.


Day Six Of Training Camp

Stop me if you’ve heard this one from Dave Wannstedt before:

“He was out a little bit this morning. It’s muscle spasms. I’m hoping that he’ll be out here soon. He’ll be fine; it’s just a matter of making sure that he’s 100 percent before we get him going. He didn’t re-aggravate it, we’re just trying to get it right. I’m not worried about him. He’ll be back in enough time. He came out today with full intentions, and he went through some individual work this morning. He’s fine, we’ll just take it a day at a time.”

Frankly, I’m glad that Wannstedt has stopped projecting him to play the following day. I understand holding Romeus out for precautionary reasons, but now his injury has gone from simply ‘stiffness’ to muscle spasms. No, it doesn’t sound all that serious, but I guess Wannstedt figured that if he kept calling it stiffness, the media would get more suspicious than they already are.

Also backup DE Shayne Hale suffered a minor ankle injury yesterday and was held out of today’s two sessions.

And Wannstedt confirmed that Chris Jacobson has virtually secured the starting spot at LG. The first scrimmage of training camp will take place Saturday. Some actual game action should help decide some of the other available spots. Though, according to Senior Associate AD, E.J. Borghetti's Twitter account, Wannstedt says it will take two scrimmages before the O-Line becomes more solidified.


Pitt Has First Day In Full Pads

Tuesday marked the first day of training camp in full pads for Pitt’s players. While most players were outside practicing, DE Greg Romeus was inside apparently working out and making some progress:

Greg Romeus is much improved. He was active today, he worked out hard inside and I expect him to be out there tomorrow practicing.

That’s good to hear, but until further clarification is out (if it ever is) on how much Romeus was able to do, I don’t know how accurate a statement like that is.

Meanwhile, the only other injury reported was backup guard Ryan Turnley. It doesn’t sound serious, though (I know, let me know if you’ve heard this before). That’s good news for Pitt as they can ill afford serious injuries to any of the offensive linemen at this point.

And from looking at incoming freshman, Anthony Gonzalez, Paul Zeise of the Post-Gazette thinks a position switch could happen. Pitt still has two more years out of Sunseri after this season (not to mention pro-style QB Mark Myers), and if he plays well enough, does Dave Wannstedt really want to get potentially nothing out of Gonzalez for two seasons? If he wasn’t capable of playing another position, then keeping him as a backup for a few seasons would make perfect sense. But if he’s really a world-class athlete, that makes the decision a bit more difficult.


Interior Line Solidifying A Bit

The inside of Pitt’s offensive line is getting a little steadier with Chris Jacobson solidifying his position as the starter at left guard according to Paul Zeise of the Post-Gazette:

If there is good news along the interior it is that redshirt junior Chris Jacobson has progressed nicely and solidified himself as the starter at left guard. Wannstedt said that development means the Panthers are solid at three of the five starting line positions, which is a good start considering how early it is in camp.

Zeise also mentions that while Greg Gaskins and Alex Karabin are the current starters at RG and C respectively, that those positions are still up for grabs. That makes three of the five positions on the line now off the board. It would be nice to get the other two starters named fairly quickly so they can get as much work in as possible with the first unit.


Day Four Of Training Camp Comes To A Close - Greg Romeus Update

Greg Romeus, despite feeling much better by Dave Wannstedt’s account, is still injured and did not participate in practice again.

Wannstedt again provided us with the company line:

“He’s fine. He’s just stiff. Hopefully tomorrow he’ll start doing something.”

This is getting, if nothing else, a big curious. I was a little skeptical about how injured Romeus might be over at Cardiac Hill yesterday, but now seeing yet another absence, it sounds like more than stiffness to me. I can’t imagine one of the most fearsome players in college football would be out for several days with only stiffness. While I still am not sure this is a serious injury, it looks more and more like it could be more than is being reported by the team.

Meanwhile, Andrew Taglianetti, recovering from knee surgery, did return and got in some work today.

The other major story making its rounds in various formats is the dramatic difference putting the pads on this week has made. Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes the effect it’s having on the quarterback play:

Monday was the first day in pads — well, at least shoulder pads — at Pitt camp which meant it was the first day that the quarterbacks got a chance to play against a live rush.

And not surprisingly, it was the first day the quarterbacks, and in particular starter Tino Sunseri, struggled a bit as he threw two interceptions and was not nearly as accurate as he had been the first two days of camp when the players were in T-shirts and shorts.

That’s to be expected. It’s still incredibly early and Sunseri is essentially a first-year quarterback. Still, that begs the question: If he struggles throughout camp, will Wannstedt give Bostick a look?

Hard to tell.

On one hand, he wants to give Sunseri a chance without having to look over his shoulder to ensure he’s still the starter. But on the other hand, Wannstedt knows it’s now or never with this team to a degree. The team’s top two offensive weapons in Jonathan Baldwin and Dion Lewis and its best defensive player in Greg Romeus could all be gone after this season. Wannstedt will want to capitalize this year and knows that Pitt should be able to win even by just limiting its mistakes. So even if he has unspectacular QB play, he may be willing to make a switch if Sunseri is unable to avoid mistakes.


Wide Receivers Todd Thomas And Greg Cross Battle Through Injuries

Greg Romeus isn’t the only one dealing with an injury.

Two new receivers, freshman Todd Thomas and converted QB Greg Cross, are both less than 100%:

Freshman Todd Thomas has some stitches in his elbow and he’s been limited to non-contact drills. Wannstedt said after practice that he will get them out tomorrow (Tuesday) and if that is the case then he should be cleared and ready for full contact tomorrow…

…One other receiver who is banged up is Greg Cross, who has a minor ankle injury and has been somewhat limited.

As Paul Zeise correctly points out later in the article, Cross’ injury really hurts him. He’s playing the position for the first time this season and needs all the work he can get in. With the glut of receivers Pitt has, he could easily slide down the depth chart in a hurry.


Greg Romeus Again Misses Practice

Pitt DE Greg Romeus sat out again today, missing practice in training camp for the second time. Wannstedt said yesterday that he expected Romeus to participate today, but that wasn’t the case.

No further word yet on the status of his injury.


Host Of Walk-Ons Join Pitt's Training Camp

Seven walk-ons have joined Pitt’s football training camp over the weekend and many of them are local kids. Included are:

- FB Adam Lazenga (2010 Trib-Review Male Athlete of the Year)
- WR Jake Delmonico (Transfer from Geneva College)
- DB Joe Lopez
- DB Phil Peckish
- DB Steve Valenza
- WR Brett Zuck
- P Drake Greer

Even though none of these guys may ever end up playing, it’s interesting that nearly half of them are DBs – perhaps Pitt’s weakest position in terms of depth.


Greg Romeus And Andrew Taglianetti Out

Greg Romeus left practice today with a minor ankle injury. It’s not believed to be serious even though Romeus was carted off. Dave Wannstedt didn’t think it was anything to worry about:

“He’s fine,” head coach Dave Wannstedt said. “He was just stiff, nothing serious. We’re going to have some of that stuff. If we have any serious injuries, we’ll talk about it but not bumps and bruises of camp.”

Andrew Taglianetti is still recovering from knee surgery and was out as well.


Camp Opens With Minor Roster Moves

Training camp opened today and while there were no major developments, there were several minor roster moves announced by coach Dave Wannstedt:

- DB Aundre Wright and WR/PR Aaron Smith are out for the season due to injury. It’s unknown how long they may be out. Wright played in 24 games over the past two seasons, but made a position switch this Spring to CB, so it’s unclear how much he would have contributed anyway. Smith contributed a bit as a punt returner last season, but the Panthers should hopefully be okay at that position with Cam Saddler.

- With several FBs on the roster including redshirt Junior Henry Hynoski, Kevin Adams has moved to LB.

- Incoming freshman RB Andre Givens will not be playing at Pitt this season as he’ll be attending prep school. He was a fairly talented back rated as a three-star prospect and recruited by Michigan, Michigan State, Cincinnati, and Wisconsin among others. With Pitt’s depth at RB, he likely wouldn’t have played this season anyway.


Pitt Training Camp: The Panthers Begin Camp Amidst Strong Expectations

Dave Wannstedt opened Pitt's training camp addressing a variety of topics.

Wannstedt of course spoke about the expectations and talked about it being the most exciting preseason during his time at Pitt. There were fairly high hopes in 2005 after Pitt won the conference and was subsequently squashed by Utah in the Fiesta Bowl, but they were nothing like these. Wannstedt did his best to downplay the hype leading up to camp, but that doesn't mean he doesn't think it's an exciting time:

"This is probably the most exciting preseason we’ve had for our football team. What is really exciting to me is obviously all the preseason rankings and predictions. While it’s exciting, the greatest part of it is how the players have handled all the attention. Different coaches have different philosophies on how much exposure they want to give their players at different ages. Some guys won’t let a freshman or sophomore give an interview. I’ve always looked at each individual situation, but I believe that we have a group of kids that are getting some recognition, and they deserve to enjoy that experience and everything that goes along with it."

He also addressed some minor transfers, individual players, the status of some players graduating, and perhaps most importantly, the interior offensive line:

"We have some issues on our team we need to address, football-wise, right off the bat," Wannstedt said. "In the spring, Jack Lippert moved to center, we had Chris Jacobson working at left guard and Greg Gaskinsworking along with Ryan Turnley at right guard, so there is some good competition going there.

"But I don't think any of us really walked away from the spring and said we are locked in at any one of the three positions, so that is a good thing because it means we will have competition and so we need to get that solidified."

The good news for Pitt is that it has quality tackles in Lucas Nix and one of the Big East's best linemen, Jason Pinkston. But the inside of the line is going to need some work and training camp is just the place for that.

And as was previously covered in our Jabaal Sheard stream, Wannstedt explained his decision not to suspend the DE for any games. Whether you agree with the move or not, having Sheard is a big boost to Pitt's defensive line.

Pitt will need to take full advantage of this training camp to not only get in shape, but get better as a team. The team begins with a tough test right off the bat playing at 24th-ranked Utah in its opener. If the offensive line struggles, it could be a long night and an opening loss could seriously derail momentum built during the offseason.

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