April 8, 2007

Running Struggles

Filed under: Football,Practice — Chas @ 8:37 pm

Remember, this is spring practice. A lot of what happens and what the coaches say don’t mean a lot. So, after a week plus of reading about the running game looking a lot better, there were complaints about its performance.

Although the offensive line got a big push on that play, the running game struggled overall. LaRod Stephens-Howling, Kevin Collier, Shane Brooks and Conredge Collins combined for 39 carries for 116 yards, a 2.97 yards-per-carry average.

“The thing I’m disappointed in is we’re not running the ball like we’re capable,” Wannstedt said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do with running the football on offense. I thought we threw the ball fairly well, we protected fairly well but we did not run the ball like we need to to become a good football team.”

It’s actual meaning.  Very little. If, as believed the QB competition doesn’t start until Pat Bostick arrives. It is safe to say that the RB competition doesn’t start until LeSean McCoy gets to Pitt in August.

I Keep Coming Back to the O-line

Filed under: Football,Practice — Chas @ 4:32 pm

If Pitt is going to have any success this year on offense, the O-line will decide it. That’s even with the unknown of the running game. The Pitt receivers have everyone liking the talent and depth.

“That’s definitely a good feeling to know that you’ve got five guys capable of going in and playing,” Hill said. “Coach Spurrier always said, ‘If a guy doesn’t want to play, the greatest ally is the bench.’ ”

It has caused a fierce competition, as Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said Pestano and Porter are pushing Turner for the starting job at split end.

Through the first two scrimmages, Porter is tied with Kinder for the lead with eight catches apiece, but Pestano’s big-play ability has shined brightest.

Once perceived as fragile, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Pestano has repeatedly proved his toughness. The redshirt junior has seven receptions for 142 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown pass from Kevan Smith that was the longest play of the first scrimmage. He caught a 32-yard pass from Bill Stull in double coverage Saturday.

“I think I can be the guy, but I’m not the only one with ability,” Pestano said. “We’ve all got talent. We’ve all got different qualities.”

Porter admits he struggled adjusting last year to college and practice as a freshman. Meanwhile Oderick Turner got a jolt about assuming he would hold onto the #2 receiver spot without having to try when he got demoted in spring drills. Pestano has looked good, and it got Turner’s attention. He had his best day of practice.

“It was good to have Oderick Turner join the team for the first day of spring,” Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said with a sly smile. “I’m halfway kidding, but it was nice to have him show up and play like he’s capable. I reinforce that our receiver position is going to be pretty good.”

This still goes back to the O-line, though. Pitt’s QB (who ever it will be) won’t be able to get the ball to the receivers and the tight ends if the line doesn’t give the QB time to throw. We saw it in the second half of numerous games last year. The defenses started bringing more pressure up front and go straight after Palko to keep him from having time to hit a receiver. It was a lot easier to stop the ball at the source rather than try and cover all the possible targets.
Regardless of who the starter is at QB, bringing the rush and pressure at a rookie QB should be standard for any opposing team’s game plan. Especially with the depth at WR and TE for Pitt that makes the passing game potentially excellent. So, it will be up to the O-line to give the QB a chance to get the ball to someone. You have to expect seeing a fair amount of max protection for the QB this fall. Or at least, there should be.

John Bachman is struggling to learn to play center. He admits that it still a thought process with snapping and assignments. Not instinct and natural for him. Still, he doesn’t want to go back to tackle. He seems determined to make the change and become very good at it. O-line Coach Paul Dunn thinks coming back from injury is also an effect in the back of Bachman’s mind.

“I think, for him, the hardest thing is to overcome the fear of getting hurt again,” Dunn said. “He’s battling that more than he’s battling assignments, technique and those things. What John doesn’t know as a football player, he sometimes compensates with his athletic ability. The more he works at it, the better he’s going to be at it.”

That fear came to fruition Saturday in Pitt’s third scrimmage, when Bachman sprained his right ankle and had to be helped off the field. The injury doesn’t appear to be serious, but Bachman is likely done practicing for the remainder of spring drills.

While the O-line has plenty of questions, at least there seems to be depth. Corson is now the back-up and he has some potential as well.

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