August 23, 2012

The End of Camp

Filed under: Football,Players,Practice — Chas @ 1:44 pm

Well, yesterday was the last practice for training camp. It’s FanFest tonight. Then all practices are geared towards getting ready for games.

The big news is that right after reports surfaced that Ray Graham would be “unlikely” for the season opener, it was learned that he actually practiced for a series without the “do not touch” jersey.

He ran one series in the blue jersey, taking four carries. He then put his green, no-contact jersey back on, but said it felt good to take live hits.

“Just really fly around and actually be live, it kind of felt good to see where I was at,” he said. “I put a couple of moves on people. Even getting hit, just to see what was going on, it kind of felt good.”

Graham came to Chryst with the idea of going live, and Chryst was receptive to it. With just over a week to go until Pitt’s opener, Graham remained optimistic that he would be ready to go Sept. 1.

“It’s looking good,” he said. “We’ve got a week and some change before the game, and it’s feeling good. I’ve been taking it one day at a time and, as the days go on, I feel much better and that much more confident.”

Kind of hard to see that as a sign he will play against YSU. It’s another step, but it doesn’t seem like something that should be treated as meaning he is back. It is more like clearing another hurdle.

At best, it suggests that he might see the same kind of action next Saturday. One series might be the extent of Graham’s play versus Youngstown State, late in the game. If for no other reason than to give him a chance to run against an actual opposing team — but not against one that is 1-A — in a low pressure situation.

Ronald Jones has done really well in camp. Finding opportunities and making the most of them.

During this preseason, with senior starters Devin Street and Mike Shanahan slowed by injuries, Jones is fueling a healthy competition for playing time with seniors Cam Saddler and Josh Brinson.

“I love the way that Ronald’s competed and kind of attacked the camp,” coach Paul Chryst said. “He’s a guy who continues to grow. He’s got good football intelligence, and he likes playing the game. I think he’s put himself in a position where we’ve got to be able to count on him.”

Regarding his old position, Jones said, “I pretty much forgot about quarterback (last year) until we did the wildcat.”

There was that, too. During Todd Graham’s abbreviated tenure as coach, Jones occasionally lined up as a wildcat quarterback. Running from there as well as receiver, he had 14 carries for 67 yards, including a 19-yard run. As a passer, he threw just three times. He completed all three attempts — two from the wildcat — for 51 yards and two touchdowns.

“That was pretty amazing,” he said. “But I can’t dwell on that.”

Asked whether he is considering using Jones in the wildcat in his pro-style offense (as opposed to Graham’s spread attack), Chryst uttered a definitive “No.” He did not elaborate.

“You have only so many plays you can practice in a given week,” offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said. “You have only so many opportunities to get better at something. I think you stick to what you know.”

Coaches have been known to put a lid on anything strategic, and Rudolph, knowingly or not, did say the wildcat has not been considered “to this point.” Jones has enough to think about, including taking a shot at returning kicks.

Jones was also coached in high school by the dad of Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen.

Sticking with the receivers who have stepped up while players are injured, one of the good stories coming out of camp has been the performance of walk-on freshman Chris Wuestner.

While that may have been his first touchdown of training camp, Wuestner has made his presence felt over the past week. With Mike Shanahan and Devin Street, the Panthers’ top two receivers, battling injuries, Wuestner has seen extensive work with the first- and second-team offenses.

“For a young guy, he’s in the books, he’s working hard, he’s learning and he’s competitive,” receivers coach Bobby Engram said. “Especially in the one-on-one drills, the blocking drills. He’s fighting hard as all of these guys are, trying to earn some time.”

Wuestner admitted that, if you had told him even a few months ago that he would be playing this big a role in Pitt’s final preseason scrimmage, he wouldn’t have believed it.

Despite being a walk-on, Coach Chryst and the coaching staff went to see him as a group in Carlisle to offer him the opportunity. The odds are that Wuestner won’t see the field by next week, but the kid is okay with it.

Wuestner (pronounced Ween-ster) still may get redshirted and his opportunities might diminish as the season approaches. Shanahan, in fact, is expected to return next week from a hamstring injury.

But Wuestner said redshirting won’t bother him. There is also a chance (no promises) that he will be awarded a scholarship.

“It’s just an extra year to get my education, an extra year to learn and get bigger and stronger.”

I guess the proper way to describe Wuestner now, is “former walk-on.”

Speaking of injuries. Something to scare the hell out of us.

Several players missed practice, including safety Jarred Holley, who had a boot on his right leg. Cornerback K’Waun Williams had his left arm in a sling. “I don’t know anybody’s status,” Chryst said. Senior receiver Mike Shanahan (hamstring) was more active than he was Tuesday.

The college game has no mandatory injury report. So a boot on Holley could just be something minor. Still, not the sort of thing you want on the team’s best safety.

Chad Voytik has continued to improve and look steadier as camp draws to a close.

There is no current quarterback controversy at Pitt, with fifth-year senior Tino Sunseri entrenched as the starter. But Voytik has seized the No. 2 job after an injury slowed sophomore Trey Anderson, and he is getting a firm grip on an offense that was foreign to him only a few months ago.

“He’s getting better with repetition,” coach Paul Chryst said. “Not that every rep is always right or what you want it to be. But I think he is learning. He is taking advantage of the work he is getting.”

Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph offered high praise of Voytik when he said, “It’s important to him. He has a lot to continue to learn, but I like his approach.”

I’m going to assume Paul Zeise has taken Sam Werner aside and showed him some old chats and Q&A from the Palko era where the continual drumbeat of questions were about getting Bill Stull at least some reps in preparation for the future. Expect a lot of that this year, only with a little more urgency, angst and desire to see Sunseri not on the field.

And finally since it is the topic of heralded freshmen starting to find their mojo, Rushel Shell appears to be heading in that direction.

Sticking with the running backs, I may have to revise some stuff I wrote yesterday. Given his work in the scrimmage today and increased reps over the past week, it looks like Rushel Shell will be ready to see the field this year. With Graham out and Isaac Bennett still nursing an injury, Shell got plenty of first-team reps. Chryst wouldn’t commit to whether or not Shell would definitely play this year or not, but noted his improvement with increased reps this week.

“Last week he missed a lot of stuff,” Chryst said. “He’s been able to go and every player learns by doing. I think some things are starting to click for him.”

I’m still assuming playing time for Shell this year. He may struggle to get carries at time, but considering the overall situation of the Pitt O-line, a lot of backs might be the only way to really keep the fresh legs going out there.

i see it the exact opposite. if ray is healthy enough to play at least some, i would start him and give him the rest of the night off after a few series or 1 quarter.

Comment by scott 08.23.12 @ 2:20 pm

Nice post Chas. From the sound of things, both Voytik and Shell are coming around and beginning to progress. Nice to hear. It’s also good to hear about guys like Chris Wuestner and Ronald Jones surprising people. Despite the optimism about Ray Graham playing in the opener, I would rather they bring him along slowly. I’m looking forward to seeing all these guys play.

Comment by Justinian 08.23.12 @ 2:26 pm

Justinian and most others:

Please stop talking about Graham playing as if it is Pitt’s choice. He is his own man and he wants to play in the NFL, so he will take the necessary time to heal.

In fact, He told Chryst yesterday that he was ready to lose the red jersey…they don’t call the shots with an All American RB.

He will return when he feels ready.

Just. Stop.

Comment by H.LandPitt 08.23.12 @ 2:41 pm

Tough news re Carrington. Seems like a good kid and I wish him well. Still sucks that he leaves this late in camp, especially since he was the primary back-up to Williams at the boundary (who apparently had his arm in a sling today!?). ANyone have more details about that?

Comment by JAM 05 Pitt 08.23.12 @ 2:48 pm

wouldn’t be surprised to see Shell and Jones returning kicks.

The only time I saw Shell live in HS was when he was a soph, and returned the opening kickoff for a TD.

Comment by wbb 08.23.12 @ 2:51 pm

Shell was running 1st string only because of injuries – Crockett turned out two big runs in the last two nights of practice but he’s fumbled some so that might open the door for Shell as that 2/3 back also.

I had heard Carrington may transfer at the 1st scrimmage then promptly forgot about it until I read the post above. That was from a player’s parent so he must have been discussing it in the clubhouse for some time.

You would have thought a few other kids recruited by Graham may leave but that really didn’t happen.

Regardless, Jahmahl Pardner fleets up so we have Pardner and Ryan Lewis, two true FR, in the mix.

H.LandPitt – that just isn’t true. First off, Graham is an All-BE never an All-American. Second it is a joint decision. Players certainly can hold out against the coaches wishes but then they impact their NFL attractiveness.

Honest to God – what do you think Todd Graham told the NFL teams calling and asking about Lucas Nix’s attitude at the end of last season? That he was a warrior and a team player? Of course not and presto change – not drafted.

But very good players can’t blatantly tell the staff to f*ck off any time they want to.

Comment by Reed 08.23.12 @ 4:18 pm

it appears that true freshman jahmahl pardner will take carringtons spot as williams’ backup. hes been one of the best freshman at camp (other offers: temple, bowling green, buffalo) and i remember this staff loving him when they were first hired.

as for k’waun williams, its clearly nothing to worry about. if it was a serious injury or one that would force him out of a game, the coach would know about it and so would we. if your the hc, you dont just NOT know what injury one of the cuntry’s best corners has if its serious. he probably just got a stinger

Comment by pk 08.23.12 @ 4:23 pm

Reed, It sounds like the Panthers are in good shape at running back with a lot of options. I know, if I was a college age running back, I would would to play in his offence. The likes to run the ball, he’s creative, and he likes to use more of his backs, than a lot of other coaches.

Comment by Justinian 08.23.12 @ 5:19 pm

A player calls the shots on a college football team??? All-American potential or not, he calls the shots??? Really?? Interesting.

Comment by Dan 08.23.12 @ 6:00 pm

per twitter, juan price says hes taking a medical redshirt this year. that sucks for depth purposes this year but big picture pitt will have him for 3 years in the acc

Comment by pk 08.23.12 @ 6:40 pm

Pitt is starting to catchup to PSU with all these transfers…
I believe PSU is at 10… Pitt at 5..

Comment by Joe D 08.23.12 @ 7:06 pm

Yes, Ray Graham calls his own shots in regards to playing on a surgically repaied knee. Sorry guys.

Comment by HLandPitt 08.23.12 @ 7:32 pm

In reality, this is the depth chart at tailback.

1. Bennet

2. Shell

3. Graham (Subject to Change)

Comment by PittofDreams 08.23.12 @ 8:16 pm

Also, wisconsin wide reciever monessah garner is transferring TO pitt. Wisconsin coach bret beilema apparently pushed garner towards pitt (thank you) and also raved about his athleticism. Chris dokish also called garner a “physical specimen”. He has 2 years of eligibility

Comment by Pk 08.23.12 @ 8:20 pm

Ejuan going for medical redshirt? I think that the goal is to make a push for next year and the ones following. Can anyone confirm?

Comment by dhuffdaddy 08.23.12 @ 9:06 pm

Comment by Pitt's Golden Age 08.23.12 @ 10:08 pm

Of course Graham CAN refuse to play. Anyone can do that. I can also refuse to pay my taxes. Of course, there will be consequences.

The bottom line is that if the staff feels the Graham can play and he refuses to there would be problems.

I don’t see that happening as this staff would probably rather he redshirt than play injured and impact the team. As a matter of fact I believe this staff wants to keep Graham out of action as long as they can so that he’s in the right shape to produce to his best level.

Comment by Reed 08.24.12 @ 7:01 am

If for some reason, Graham doesn’t want to play, all he has to say is that he feels some pain and soreness … ala Lucas Nix last year.

Comment by wbb 08.24.12 @ 7:27 am

Well of course he calls the shot letting them know when he feels ok. I thought that was given, players letting coaches know how they feel.

The coaches may call the shot that he is NOT ready and needs a week or two or more before he can go.

The coaches may call the shots that he only gets a few carries per game.

The coaches may call the shots that Crockett and Bennett give the team a better chance to win and get most of the carries this year.

The way the post sounded with the “he’s his own man”, “all-american RB calls the shots”,

I thought maybe he was gonna tell them when to put him in, how many carries a game he wants, what plays he will or will not run, and when the coaches can go home at night.

My fault. LOL

Comment by Dan 08.24.12 @ 8:29 am

Why is Garner even transferring to Pitt if Beilema likes him so much?

Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Digdug 08.24.12 @ 2:33 pm


Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Digdug 08.24.12 @ 2:42 pm

Hey Dan and Reed…

No, big time RB’s dont call their own shots..but i feel when it comes to returning from a ACL injury, I believe the player(Graham) has more leverage than in some other instances or injuries.

Besides, I feel this is a class act staff and i have complete confidence in them…even though they havent coached one live snap yet.

Soo freeking excited..

Comment by H.LandPitt 08.24.12 @ 2:47 pm

I was just having fun H.LandPitt. I’m ready to roll too. I am on board with Chryst and Co.

As to Graham, ya, he’s got to be the one who feels he’s ready to go, no question on that.

I’m cheering for him, seeing him crying on the field, then coming back for the second half on crutches, smiling, and waving to the fans, how could anyone not cheer for this guy!!!

Comment by Dan 08.24.12 @ 3:18 pm

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