I had a chance to watch the Panthers practice today. This is a long report on what I saw and heard so I’m going to split it into two different articles. In this one I’ll talk about the practice in general, the offense and the offensive players.
First off, let’s talk about the general atmosphere at the Southside facilities…
I got down there about 45 minutes earlier than scheduled and had a chance to stand around in the parking lot and watch the players file past on their way into the indoor practice field. The OLs were first out of the gate and they are big guys, Lumpy Jacobson actually looks to be the smallest of all of them. The players were joking around and looked ready to get it underway. 8:00 a.m. and they were bouncing around and grab-assing. I did get a lot of strange looks as I was unfamiliar to the football staff but as soon as I whipped out my PITT Blather credentials everyone backed off in fear.
The practice atmosphere is really night and day from last year. We visitors had free rein of the sidelines to move as the drills and scrimmage plays progressed up and down the field. Last year visitors had to stand in a blocked off corner way down by the entry doors and we couldn’t see down field at all. Chryst has thrown the visitation wide open and hasn’t put any restrictions on the SID regarding who or how many may visit. E. J. Borghetti is pleased in many ways, big time.
In the past, Todd Graham had the media and any visitors stay for only the first 45 minutes of each practice then he closed it off. Chryst does the exact opposite and allows people stay for the whole practice session so the media doesn’t have to sit around for two hours waiting until they can do interviews after the practice is over. Today’s session was scheduled for 2 hours and 15 minutes and went to almost three hours, open all the time
Before the practice started I had a chance to talk about PITT and HS football with the HC from Norwin HS, Art Tragesser and he was very candid in his thoughts about PITT and WPA football. He’s a great guy, very personable and gave me some insights into recruiting and HS coaching that I didn’t have before. Let’s just say that he and the other HS coaches he was with are pretty happy about Paul Chryst being here.
Also, I met Aaron Felder, Brandon Felder’s father and watched about 90 minutes of practice with him. He’s a proud dad, funny as hell and I’m very much looking forward to seeing his son out on the field this year. Brandon Felder had a slight hamstring on Saturday so they kept him out of today’s practice, but he’ll be back on Tuesday. He’s the talk of the camp with his good works at WR.
The players looked like they were having a blast and the coaches were way more active than I saw last year. There were a lot of detailed coaching moments, one on one teaching and lots of praise for kids when they did well. These coaches are not screamers except when necessary. I heard Chryst bust out only once when Sunseri held the ball too long on a play where the receiver was open.
So, that said, breaking down what I saw out on the field today…
Overall – the defense won the day against the offense. The passing game, as detailed below, was inconsistent at best with the two principal QBs throwing an equal amount of treasure and trash. The running game was held in check by the DL for the most part also but more positive in play than the passing game.
RBs – Bennett and Davis got the bulk of the carries during the scrimmage drills. Bennett looked in control out there and drove forward with a good interior push. Davis ran with the 2nd string and did alright also but his yards were hard to get. Crockett didn’t get much time at all with the 1s & 2s and he looks to be dropping down the depth chart but it is still early. Davis is very fast and made some nice runs for positive yardage. The best running playoff the day was when Des Brown broke an end around where he used his speed and went for a TD. Ray Graham followed him downfield yelling encouragement which was nice to see.
OL – The line looked OK to me as the QBs had some time to throw on some plays and not so much on others. There were some nice inside runs that got 5+ yards. Turnley looks to have very good command calling the defenses as they shift pre-snap. It is hard to tell but I think we’ll see a set five guys, Hollins, King, Turnley, Jacobson or Schlieper, and Rotheram come out of the spring as starters and the staff will concentrate on that lineup during summer camp.
FBs – Mark Giubalito has been having a good spring and did well today also. He’s not as big all around as The Hyno was but he’s quick and can stand people up when he hits them. Giubalito is 6’2”, 230 and can move. He’s a converted QB who played at the heralded Milford Academy and is a rsSO going into this year. Expect him to be around for some time and doing good things. He ran the bulk of the 1st team reps today with Chris Burns getting the rest. We’ll see the FB playing a much bigger role than we did last season.
TEs – Not much to say here as Hubie Graham, Brendan Carozzoni and Drew Carswell rotated in at that spot(s). What was interesting is that they ran a lot of two TE sets with Graham and Carswell on the same side and then Carswell would then break out as a WR. There was lots of motion with the TEs also.
WRs – They are a question mark past Shanahan and Street as starters but Ed Tinker and Salath Williams made some great plays, when they weren’t dropping balls that is. Justin Jackson rounded out the WRs getting reps. Which leads us to Cam Saddler, he was taking a lot of reps with the 1st team and had some nice receptions that he turned into positive yardage. It looks like he’ll play a big part in the offense this season also as Ronald Jones wasn’t in the mix much as I could see.
Granted I only watched them out there for about three hours but what I saw, and others have seen, is that both Myers and Sunseri have “opposites” in strengths and weaknesses. Sunseri took the lion’s share of QB1 snaps and looked OK on the short & intermediate passes. His decision making is much quicker than Myers is. Myers takes a long time to pull the trigger and his motion is surprisingly slow which gives the coverage time to tighten up. Myers’ has some problems with shorter route passing game in so far as accuracy and timing.
But can Myers throw the deep ball! I’m not kidding… he is strong and accurate as hell with those long throws and the ball just kind of floats down to the WR’s hands when they are hauling ass down field. He threw one deep corner pass where he dropped back to the 50 yard line and hit Ed Tinker at the five. A 45 yarder in the air; easily and perfectly thrown. I’d say he hit 3/4s of his deep throws today and looked good doing it.
Sunseri showed the opposite and as before his deep ball is a problem. He did hit one nice pass for about 40 yards total but he’s inconsistent with them. I have to say though that Sunseri looked OK out there in general. He’ll be the starter IMO; I don’t think there will be any doubt about that. He’s better at the regular, short and intermediate, passing game than Myers is, it seemed that his passes had more snap to them than in the past and he has a better command of the offense.
But Trey Anderson, taking 3rd string snaps, had some of the prettiest throws out there. He can pass the ball and threw as well as either of the two principals today. He’ll be a solid 3rd string QB for us this year. Gonzalez was almost non-existent and I only saw three plays run by him and nothing stood out. I think he’s the odd man out with the QB competition and should be moved again. His passing just isn’t D1 caliber.
Next up: Defense