I like to try to get down to practice once or twice a year to see some of the scrimmages and fortunately was able to get down today to the closed session.
Before I get into my notes, a precautionary piece of advice here. This was a scrimmage in name only. The offense plays against the defense and there were referees calling penalties, but there's still a lot of situational work that is done. Instead of a clock, quarters, etc., it's a somewhat loose format. Pitt had a session of plays, then went to the red zone, then did some goal line stuff, and then the offense started further back.
In addition, the matchups were often first-team offense vs. second-team defense, and vice versa. So that has to be taken into consideration a little, too. Trying to take too much away from stats for these sorts of things is pretty difficult.
Also just a thanks to Pitt's athletics department. I've said it before, but it bears repeating. Everyone I've come into contact with there has been overly welcoming and accommodating. You hear that EJ Borghetti's one of the best in the business and it's easy to see why. Big thanks to them for extending access to us at camp again this year.
With that said, here are some of my notes:
- Tyler Boyd was pretty limited. He came out for some early plays and made a pretty ridiculous catch in coverage before taking a seat the rest of the day. Paul Chryst said the plan was just to get him some extra rest. In addition, freshman Adonis Jennings didn't play. As a result, Ronald Jones filled in for him on the first-team offense for the most part and got a good amount of work.
- On Jennings, Chryst was pretty tight-lipped at the end of practice, only saying that he was still working through some things. He was out earlier in the week, so hopefully it's minor.
- Also limited were the running backs. Isaac Bennett didn't play and James Conner played early, but also came out fairly soon. Conner's style of play is so bruising, though, and he was a part of a lot of physical plays early. The plan all along has been to get those guys some rest, so I think that was part of it. As a result, Rachid Ibrahim, and freshmen Chris James and Qadree Ollison got a good amount of playing time.
- Ibrahim had a really big day and it may be hard to keep him off the field. We've talked before about it being hard for him to factor in and I still think that will be true. But he showed his value, catching several balls out of the backfield and also breaking off a huge play from scrimmage for a long touchdown. Afterwards he talked about not wanting to be just a third-down guy, but also getting on the field for other downs, too. I think that will be difficult this year if everyone stays healthy (huge if, by the way), but could see him factoring in down the road.
- Jameel Poteat, a one-time Pitt recruit, went to Cincinnati, then Stony Brook, and if you remember, ended back up at Pitt. He will sit out the year, but play in 2015. He's another guy that can't be left out of the mix, either. He got in a little bit and had maybe the move of the day, juking a defender practically out of his shoes, drawing a big reaction from the bench.
- James is regarded as the better recruit, but Ollison had a better day IMO. Both had moments, but Ollison had a few more from what I could tell, and also had a nice 20-yard run.
- So the quarterbacks. Alright, here goes. Neither guy in contention for the starting job did all that much today. Both Chad Voytik and Trey Anderson had a few moments, but neither was wildly impressive. I've said all along that the job is almost surely going to Voytik and that's probably the case. But part of the reason for not naming him yet may be that he's just not been all that impressive. He struggled some with accuracy in drills early on and then later in the scrimmage as well. He also had a pass intercepted and was kind of up and down. Same for Trey. Anderson, like Voytik, made a few plays with his feet, but was mostly uninspiring. He also was picked off when a short toss was intercepted by Darryl Render on a really impressive play.
- Freshman quarterback Adam Bertke also got some reps in. First things first - Of the quarterbacks Pitt has, Bertke has the most prototypical look. He's a big kid (6'6") and wearing Tom Savage's No. 7, reminded you a little of him. Trust me, he's nowhere near Savage in ability yet, but he probably has the strongest arm of the group and has 'the look'. He has a ways to go as was proven in the scrimmage work he got, but not a guy that should be counted out in the future.
- I wrote about the offensive line not being settled recently with Jaryd Jones-Smith emerging. Dorian Johnson was starting with the first-team and as I said before, my guess is that he keeps his spot. But Jones-Smith is as big as advertised. He looked every bit the 6'7" 335 pounds he's listed at.
- Like JJS, Alex Bookser is a big, big kid. I really liked what I saw when trying to see how he was doing. He was on the second-team offense and really seemed to have an easy time of things a lot of the time when blocking. I'm not going out on a limb here since he was a highly-touted recruit and today was the first I've seen of him in camp, but if he's not a star in a few years, I'd be surprised.
- Darryl Render said afterwards that the defense 'won' the game today and it was hard to argue with that. As I mentioned, neither quarterback had a huge day and outside of Ibrahim's big run, there weren't many big plays on offense. Chris Wuester dropped a would-be touchdown catch on one series, but overall, the defense was pretty stout.
- The defense was hard to account for and there was a lot of shuffling around. At times, it looked like a mix of first-team and second-team guys out there and some jobs are up for grabs it seems. Troy Douglas spoke to that a little when talking about the secondary afterwards, saying that they're still trying to find the right fits.
- Douglas also made an interesting point in that several guys in the secondary are learning multiple positions within the unit - cornerback, safety, nickel - just because there's not a ton of depth there.
- Douglas was also sort of candid about Trenton Coles, saying he was a work in progress. "He's trying hard", was something he said, but you could tell that he wants to see more out of him. That could be a reason that Maddox gets a good amount of playing time. In addition, he said the most impressive thing today may have been Maddox making two tackles on James Conner in open space.
- The linebackers looked pretty good to me - Todd Thomas and Anthony Gonzalez both made some nice plays.
- The defensive line didn't get a ton of pressure on passing downs, but was pretty solid against the run. Afterwards, Render talked about people sleeping on the team just because Aaron Donald is gone and between that and other quotes from camp, it's pretty clear that they feel they have a lot to prove. They want to show that there's more to the defense than Donald and did some of that today.
- Chris Blewitt got some work and was pretty good on the day. He made all of his shorter attempts and after a penalty on an attempt from about 45 yards, he then made a 50 yarder with probably about ten yards to spare. He missed another 45-yarder, but overall, looked decent.
- A lot of guys got work but the primary guy used was probably Kevin Weatherspoon. He had a few big returns including one that was ended early that may have been a touchdown. One guy being used back there was true freshman Avonte Maddox, who is turning some heads at camp.
Overall, Chryst also said with camp winding down, they'll have to start making some decisions on some guys by next week. Maybe most importantly, he also said the team came out of the scrimmage healthy.
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