Monday night marked my first observation of training camp and while it's a lot to take in all at once, it's hard to miss how good Pitt's secondary could be this season. Even with the coaching turnover that has decimated the recruiting at other positions, Pitt has talent starting in the secondary, talent in the two-deep and young talent waiting in the wings. K'Wuan Williams and Cullen Christian started at center flanked by safeties Ray Vinopal and Jared Holley. The safety battle will like continue with returning starter Jason Hendricks and Andrew Taglianetti competing for time. At corner, young guns Lafayette Pitts, Jahmahl Pardner and Lloyd Carrington should also be in the mix. Pardner and Carrington both stood out Monday night, while Pitts was excused to attend a funeral.
Some observations and comments after the jump.
- The coaching dynamic was pretty interesting to watch. Paul Chryst would walk from drill to drill, observing and interacting with the coaches and players. Occasionally, he'd jump in and show a certain player, but he's very much a "CEO" type of head coach and generally let the assistants do their thing. And that was a stark counterbalance to the fiery approach of guys like defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable and offensive line coach Jim Hueber. Both men are really entertaining to watch coach their guys and really ride their units when necessary.
- Speaking of offensive line, it continues to be a work in progress. The starting five continue to be Cory King, Chris Jacobson, Ryan Turnley, Ryan Schlieper and Matt Rotheram. The group struggled at times, but did show glimpses of what they may be able to do if everyone stays healthy and continues to work all summer. They have the size to compete in conference play and for the most part, they have some live game experience. The key will be whether Hueber can pull it out of them.
- But part of the reason the line struggled was that the defensive line looked pretty solid. More than that even, I'd say that they looked good. Call me crazy, but I'll even go so far as to say that this defensive line could be very, very good this year. And that's despite the switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 hybrid and back to a 4-3 again. Monday night's starters were TJ Clemmings, Jack Lippert, Aaron Donald and Shane Hale. This was my first time seeing Clemmings up close and it's hard not to be impressed - physically, he looks near NFL ready. Ezell played defensive tackle with the second team and did more than hold his own, including swatting down a pass by Trey Anderson. And one more thing - true freshman Darryl Render looks like he could play at a BCS level yesterday.
- I got to the facility early and aside from a defensive line meeting, there was only one player on the field - Tino Sunseri. Sunseri was there exceptionally early warming up and throwing with an assistant. He didn't really stand out in practice, but call me crazy, I'm not willing to write him off just yet. Last year was not good. There's no debating that. But his freshman year was pretty decent and I'm still holding out hope that he could become the second coming of Bill Stull.
- The other quarterbacks are much more of a question mark. Anderson is capable of managing the offense if catastrophe strikes, but he is still very much limited by his stature. Chad Voytik took limited snaps, but was was able to put some zip on the ball. He's clearly still adjusting to the game speed (well, practice speed), but that's something that I'll bet will be worked out in time. Transfer Tom Savage sure looks the part, but it's tough to judge much from him tossing the ball around in warm-ups.
- Ray Graham did not practice today, so that meant that everyone got a bump up. Isaac Bennett was solid if unspectacular with the first team, in no small part to the offensive line's inability to open up holes. Redshirt freshman Malcolm Crockett tends to be the forgotten man in Pitt's future running back rotation, but he had a nice evening against the second team defense. He's a fast runner who can burst through the hole and then be five yards down-field before you know it. Rushel Shell played sparingly Monday night.
Coach Chryst addressed the team after the completion of redzone drills. I wish he would have said "I don't have a five year plan, I got a one year plan" just for kicks.
Coach Chryst Post-Practice Speech (via PittLiveWire)
Finally, we have a montage courtesy of the Pitt Livewire blog. No montage is complete without Joe Esposito's "You're The Best Around," but this will do:
Pitt Football Training Camp Montage (via PittLiveWire)