March 28, 2007

Rooting Interests

Filed under: Football,Players,Practice — Chas @ 2:07 pm

I have to admit, I’m rooting for Kevin Collier to succeed at Pitt as a primary running back. Yes, he was one of the bigger offensive recruits Pitt was able to get in Wannstedt’s first recruiting class. Yes, he’s got a younger brother who could be an even bigger blue chip player, and I’d love to see him commit as well. What I really like about Collier, though, is that he is smart and one of those solid team players. He came to Pitt as soon as he graduated (yeah, I was dead wrong about that prediction of him playing early). And he wants the team to succeed.

“I call LeSean all the time and tell him to get in his playbook,” Collier said. “I’m excited because I think all of us are getting so much better and we’re pushing each other. This is the right place for me because we run the ball. We’re all going to get a shot.

“Coaches have just been telling us — take advantage of every opportunity you get and that’s where my focus is. I want to help us win, that’s all.”

Collier wanted to redshirt last year, but Brandon Mason transferred and Stephens-Howling got hurt, so the Panthers were left with only two healthy tailbacks for several weeks.

He learned quickly that he didn’t know nearly as much about the position as he thought and he also realized he needed to work on the other duties of a running back such as blocking and catching passes.

I’m not that opposed to having more then one RB. The whole feature back approach seems overblown. Auburn did pretty well with two backs. The NFL has teams increasingly going to not relying on just one back. It’s part of the trend unless one RB is just so much better than the others — or the coach’s preference. As for Pitt and the idea that the opposition will know what or where the run is coming. Given Pitt’s running game and O-line the last few years, I can’t say Pitt should even be concerned about that problem.

With Mike McGlynn’s shoulder surgery sidelining him until at least the fall practices, Jason Pinkston has slid into his spot at right tackle.

The coaching staff is intrigued by Pinkston, an athletic, 6-foot-4, 310-pound sophomore from Baldwin. He converted from defensive tackle last season when John Bachman was lost to a broken leg and backed up both tackle positions.

“It’s going to be a real big step, to step in as a sophomore and start at right tackle,” Pinkston said. “I’m not 100 percent on my assignments, but I’m working on it to get them right.”

Although Dunn said Pinkston is “light years” away from being where Pitt needs him to be, he has the qualities the Panthers are looking for. Pinkston has shown an eagerness to learn, a willingness to work and, most importantly, the athleticism to play the position.

Um, uh. Get well quickly Mike McGlynn.

Coach Wannstedt was giving love to the linebackers.

Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt praised the play of linebackers Dorin Dickerson and Shane Murray in Saturday’s scrimmage as a “positive,” then made some changes in the linebacker corps Tuesday. Murray moved ahead of Nate Nix as first-team weak-side linebacker, while Dickerson switched to second-team weak-side linebacker with Nix moving to the strong side.

“What showed up with both of them, they’re probably 25 percent of where they need to be mentally as far as learning the defense,” Wannstedt said. “But the most important qualities, the toughness and the way they run to the ball and chase the ball and the effort they give, showed they’re going to be good players.”

Boy, it’s a good thing this is the spring practices. A guy on the OL is “light years” from where he needs to be and the converted linebackers are at 25%. That’s roughly about where my optimism and expectations are right now.

Other things to note. Elijah Fields was back practicing with the team after his suspension. Some players went at each other — as the scrimmages got heated at time. That seems normal. Aaron Berry was tossed off of the field when he got into it a bit with DC Paul Rhoads. Berry apparently wanted to make a non-contact drill into a contact one. A real problem with Rhoads, since we all know how much he hates the corners having any contact.

I basically agree about the backs. It’s not that I think there should only be one guy out there at all times, I just hate feeling like we’re seeing running back tryouts for half the season or more. At any rate, it’s nice to have some good backs competing for a job. Can’t wait to see what happens. By the way, on Junker & Crow today Wannstadt said the spring game will be around 1PM, though they didnt set the time yet for sure- and it’s at Heinz field for those who didn’t know.

Comment by Danster 03.28.07 @ 4:41 pm

This is the most sickening thing about our lines: We had a 6’4″, 310lb DT, and in the opinion of our coaches, he was needed more on the OL than the DL. Ouch!

Comment by HbgFrank 03.28.07 @ 10:58 pm

Gee I wonder when Dave Wannstedt would have developed an aversion to having one feature tailback…

Comment by bill 03.28.07 @ 11:34 pm

HbgFrank, good point, I never thought of it that way. What a fuckin joke.

Comment by Chris 03.29.07 @ 7:48 am

Did Pinkston play on the DL last year….no. He is athletic and being an OT he will be able to use his athleticism and be able to move to the second level and block people down field. If he had stayed on the D line, he would have been relegated to DT. We have enough players coming back who played there last year, and they gained experience. Something that JP did not get.

Because of last season’s collapse I am as skeptical of DW as anyone else on this board, but I will reserve judgement until a few games are played, especially a game against an equal or superior opponent.

Comment by Kenny 03.29.07 @ 9:09 am

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