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March 27, 2007

Around the Offense

Filed under: Football,Practice — Chas @ 10:08 am

Good news, the O-line is feeling confident and they think they’ve got something vital.

“We really only lost (center Joe) Villani and Simo (guard John Simonitis), but Joe stepped in when he was injured,” [C.J.] Davis said. “So, we’re not too bad off. We’ve got a lot of leadership in place right now. We have to keep working at it.

“With (strength coach) Buddy (Morris) here now, we all feel stronger already. It’s not going to fall together in a day, but the more we work together the more we’ll develop the cohesiveness that’s needed.”

Yes, leadership. That’s what the O-line needs to have. Personally, I’d prefer the ability to protect the QB and/or open holes for the running backs but that’s just me.

Davis noted that while it might take a little time to develop a solid rapport with Vangas, he had no doubt that the entire offensive line would be running smoothly when training camp got under way in August.

“We just have to get more used to playing with each other,” Davis said. “We’re getting all the kinks out right now, but that’s what the spring is for. When we come back for training camp, we’ll just be fine-tuning things for the season. And Vangas, he’s very similar to Villani in a lot of ways.

“Vangas is very smart, and he’s a very solid center. But we’re just a little rusty right now. We’re getting better, though, and once everything gets flowing at a good pace, we can worry about the physical part of it. So, basically, we’re working hard right now to gain consistency.”

Keep in mind that the first scrimmage the Collier was able to go 65 yards on 11 carries and the QBs were live but able to go 30-34. Even the O-line has to discount their performance against the Pitt defense.

As for the running game, RB Coach David Walker seems very content with running back by committee and situational use.

“Sure, we’d like to ride a guy, if he can handle a lot of carries,” Walker said. “But our only concern is moving the sticks on offense. Whichever running back carries the load, it really doesn’t matter to me. Right now, I think we’ll probably use all of our tailbacks and even our fullback, Conredge Collins, but we’ll see what happens when the season rolls around.”

Yeah, we haven’t heard much about Collins yet. Of course Paul Zeise hasn’t started his Q&A for spring practices to tell everyone that Collins is the big bruising kind of guy Pitt needs to use yet.

That Horrible Blend

Filed under: Football,Practice — Chas @ 8:01 am

of experience and inexperience on defense.

We all know that the team is practically starting from scratch with the linebacking corp. Given the inexperience, position changes and huge, glaring question marks at that spot it is not unreasonable to wonder if it will even be the same kids starting come the season opener. The linebacker depth chart seems to be the ripest area for some of the incoming freshmen to have a chance and really impact in the fall. I’m not wishing or hoping for anyone’s failure. I’d love to see Justin Hargrove come all the way back from his injury and the position change, not to mention Dorin Dickerson turn out to be a linebacker savant. It’s just the questions at that area — and being coached directly by Paul Rhoads — make it terrifying.

Not that I should worry with the experienced D-line up front to help.

That’s part of what makes DE Greg Romeus so intriguing. His shear athleticism and potential as he is still learning the game with only one year of high school football makes him a project with so much “upside.”

“He has the ability to make plays, and you can’t teach that,” Gattuso said. “You can’t teach a kid to jump and intercept a pass or knock it down, or to recover and run the quarterback down on a bootleg. He’s got some really good abilities that God gave him. It’s just kind of refining him with what we can give him with what was naturally there.”

Where Romeus has flashed his athleticism through the first three practices, batting down several passes and chasing down plays in the backfield, he also has struggled to adapt to the nuances of the game. Pitt’s quarterbacks used long snap counts to draw him to jump before the snap Tuesday, and he had difficulty using his hands to shed blocks.

“It’s still all new to me,” Romeus said. “Learning the plays and trying to do the basics, all the footwork, is something that’s hard for me. I’m getting used to it the more and more we practice.”

Scary with the learning curve, but intriguing nonetheless.

Then there’s the secondary. Beyond the obvious question of how much of a drop-off will there be without Darrelle Revis. The early signs are that it’s Aaron Berry’s  job to  lose  and Kennard Cox will be back on the other side. It will be interesting to see if new Secondary Coach Chris Ball does anything noticeably different with getting them ready. It’s hard to imagine the actual schemes and the kind of coverage changing with the same guy still running the full defense.

The biggest question mark is whether Mike Phillips is all the way back from his horrific ankle injury of 2005. The senior has been a team leader and very much one of the stand-up guys on the team. Last year, though, his on the field performance wasn’t there. He was a couple steps slow and looked very tentative about making cuts. Assuming Elijah Fields keeps things together off-the-field and makes his workouts, Fields will be pushing for starting time.

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