Got a chance to check out Pitt's first scrimmage today. This goes without saying, but thanks again to Senior Associate A.D. E.J. Borghetti for inviting us down this year.
Onto the fun.
Fairly big news is that Dorian Johnson was at Pitt's practice. It's not huge, considering he recently decommitted from Penn State and that we already know he has some interest in Pitt. But, well, there it is.
The first thing everyone always wants to know is about the quarterbacks. We mostly only saw Tino Sunseri and Trey Anderson in the scrimmage. Chad Voytik got in for a series early on (a few incompletions, and a nice scramble) but we didn't see much of him other than the drills and, as fully expected, Trey Anderson appears to be firmly entrenched as the backup right now. Before the scrimmage began, Voytik and transfer Tom Savage did participate in some drills. The more experienced Savage looked pretty solid and throws a nice ball. Barring something unforeseen, he'll be in the mix to start next year when he's eligible.
In the game, Sunseri looked about how I'd expect. He was more comfortable than last year (though, this was of course, only a scrimmage). Not a lot of deep balls, but he found Cam Saddler on one (probably about 30 yards or so) down the sideline early on. He also connected on a few 20+ passes in a row later on. Trey Anderson looked fine and made a few nice throws, but of Pitt's options this season, Sunseri is still clearly the best one. One disturbing trend for both quarterbacks was that quite a few balls were knocked down. Each had three by my count and while part of that's due to their size, they need to find a way around it.
With the Juantez Hollins suspension and the Tom Ricketts injury, we already know the team is thin on the offensive line. The unit played okay, but the defense broke through fairly easy on more than one occasion. The second team featured plenty of newcomers, including true freshman Adam Bisnowaty, who looks like he's going to see significant action this year. Another guy to pay attention to is redshirt freshman Artie Rowell, the backup center. Rowell will be in line to start next season as only a redshirt sophomore and Pitt will be relying on him heavily for the next few years.
Ray Graham played only briefly early on before taking the rest of the day off, so Isaac Bennett did most of the heavy lifting. He broke two big runs of 30+ yards by my count and if Pitt needs to lean on him a lot this year, he'll be a good option. Rushel Shell will contribute as well, but didn't have a great day. He was bottled up and kept in check for the most part and also had a fumble and a few rushes for losses. He did have a nice touchdown to cap off a drive early, but he's clearly significantly behind Bennett right now.
The receivers had a decent day. There were drops of course, and Mike Shanahan sat out with an injury - he missed Friday's practice as well. But Cam Saddler was pretty impressive, including that deep ball I mentioned early on. The big thing about the receivers was the use of the tight ends. Hubie Graham and JP Holtz made some nice catches in the middle of the field and I think that's something we'll see consistently in Chryst's offense this season and beyond.
More on the scrimmage and a few guys to watch for after the jump.
On defense, there's been a lot of concern about the fairly new defensive line. Hard to put together a great analysis on them because the offensive line clearly needs work. But they did put good pressure on the quarterback - especially as the game wore on. They also looked really sharp in goal-line drills, repeatedly shutting down the running game.
The breakout guy, without question (to me, anyway), was cornerback Lafayette Pitts. I hate to hype someone up so much after seeing them in a single scrimmage, but he looked like a flat out star today. He had an interception and great pass coverage, breaking up a few plays. Pitts had a huge hit on Ronald Jones that drew the first big reaction from the small crowd watching. He also had a lot of first team reps and while it's early, I'm guessing he's got the inside track to a starting spot. If that weren't enough, he broke back a long kickoff return, too.
One guy that jumped out a bit on offense was wide receiver Josh Brinson. He's very athletic and made some great plays. He had a drop in the end zone for what should have been a touchdown, but he's definitely one to watch out for on offense. He was hard to stop and transfer Cullen Christian picked up a pass interference while trying to cover him on a catch near the end zone.
A third guy you might not hear that much about this season but is one to watch for next year is Bam Bradley. He played a lot in the scrimmage with the second team and absolutely blew Rushel Shell up - probably the biggest hit of the day. Also got in on a few tackles and I expect him to play a big role down the line.
Also, special teams doesn't get a lot of mention, but Kevin Harper's got some leg. He missed a mid-range field in the scrimmage, but hit on a few others. I watched him a bit working out while the scrimmage was going on, and he hit a few kicks of nearly 50 yards and had about 10-15 yards to spare.
Will have more with some quotes from head coach Paul Chryst a bit later. Cardiac Hill will also be at practices later next week.