Ray Graham is back, if only just a little bit. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
We didn't have a representative at the opening of camp today, so today's observations are courtesy of Pitt's first-rate beatwriters with the commentary by me. Greg will be at practice tomorrow to bring you the next post.
The first bit of news to leak out of camp was that guard Cory King is the new left tackle in the wake of Juantez Hollins' year-long suspension. King clearly has the size at 6'6", 335 lbs, but does he have the footwork and agility needed to play the most important position on the line?
"Right now I have to focus on myself because not only is it a new position, it is a big position," King said after practice. "I have to do the best I can to make improvements every day, just pick one thing out every day to improve on. But this is a really big opportunity for me and I hope to take advantage of it.
"It is a little different playing tackle. But even today, it all started coming back to me. There is a lot of pressure on me obviously, but I think that is the best way for me to get better, to have that sense of urgency and do the best I can do."
Chryst said that King, because he does have some game experience, was the best option at left tackle at this point because the Panthers have so few offensive linemen with experience. He said the Panthers' depth at offensive line, especially at tackle, will be challenged this year but he believes that some of the younger linemen will be ready to step up.
King playing a bit out of position isn't ideal, but little about Pitt's offensive line going forward will be. The coaching turnover has really decimated offensive line recruiting and it seems as if it'll be piecemeal going forward for the next few years. But if there's one thing I feel good about this coaching staff with, it's the offensive line. Whether coaching is enough to get the most out of these guys remains to be seen.
Also pretty surprising, Tyrone Ezell is playing at defensive end instead of tackle:
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.
That's quite surprising as Ezell has always been projected as a tackle, but obviously the coaches feel that he can make a difference at end. He's a big boy at 6'4" and 300 lbs, so I'm not sure if he's going to put the "rush" in "pass rush"
Shane Gordon is reportedly starting off camp at middle linebacker, which is probably for the best since Dan Mason is still unlikely 100% recovered. He's joined by Eric Williams and Nick Grigsby, with the recovering Todd Thomas and Ejuan Price behind them. I wouldn't expect the depth to stay that way for long - Thomas seems destined for stardom and Price was pretty solid playing last season. I'd expect one or both to displace the current OLBs and seize a starting spot.
Of course, one of the biggest stories of the day is the return of two guys who will likely be Pitt's best offensive players - Chris Jacobson and Ray Graham. Both players participated in today's camp, but Graham is understandably (and smartly) taking it slow:
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.
We'll have more tomorrow as more and more reports come out about camp. We're also expecting to be at camp tomorrow, but for now, welcome back football and Hail To Pitt.
Pitt Training Camp - Are You Ready? (via PittLiveWire)