PITTSBURGH — With only a six practices remaining before the Panthers break camp for the 2018 season, the depth chart is starting to come into focus and battles are starting to solidify as players figure out what kind of role they’re likely to have in 2018.
One of the big jumps for a number of players is making the two-deep roster. Players on the two-deep don’t typically get sent to the scout team, they travel to every road game and for walk-ons, a spot on the two-deep is the best, first step toward securing a scholarship.
“Two-deeps are starting to materialize, for sure,” head coach Pat Narduzzi said before practice on Wednesday. “We’re starting to narrow it down. That’s kind of where we are, but there’s still a lot of work to do. They’ll be — I don’t want to say solidified — but we’ll have a pretty good idea where it is after Saturday’s scrimmage. That’ll be the last, big scrimmage before the end of camp.”
Based on practice observations, here are some players that could be new entries on Pitt’s two-deep, starting with the offense today and the defense tomorrow.
QB Ricky Town
Town was brought in to be Kenny Pickett’s backup, and that’s exactly what he’s done so far. Nick Patti has also impressed, making all the throws he’s been asked to in drills. But it’s been Town with the second team and that should hold through the end of camp.
TE Will Gragg
The graduate transfer from Arkansas doesn’t necessarily have a starting spot locked down, but will surely be on the two-deep and getting some playing time. Gragg could be seen as the most offensive threat of Pitt’s trio of tight ends, with Grant Carrigan the ace blocker and Tyler Sear more of a Swiss Army knife.
WR Dontavius Butler-Jenkins
Butler-Jenkins probably would have played in 2017 if not for an injury late in camp. He’s now back to that level and beyond, and seems to have an inside track on a starting position as the wide receiver corps attempts to replace the outside contributions of graduated Jester Weah.
WR Shocky Jacques-Louis
Narduzzi has already said that Jacques-Louis will be on the two-deep and will play as a freshmen. He’s been bouncing around between the first and second team in practice, depending on the number of wide receivers in a particular set.
WR Kellen McAlone
A three-year letterman on special teams, McAlone is getting significant reps on offense for the first time in his career. It’s a good sign that the walk-on from Texas has an inside track on one of Pitt’s two available scholarships.
LT Stefano Millin
The big, strong, Kent State transfer has seemingly locked down the left tackle spot. He’ll be tested throughout the season as he moves to a higher level of football, but the early returns have been positive.
C Owen Drexel
With Connor Dintino now the starting left guard and Alex Officer graduated, Drexel is now the primary backup to Jimmy Morrissey at the center spot.
Here’s more from Narduzzi’s pre-camp briefing on Wednesday:
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
It may or may not be a coincidence, but after Pickett talked about his camp-long streak without an interception on Tuesday, defensive backs coach Archie Collins was throwing fades and slants at his charges on Wednesday, working on their hands, as well as the usual slate of DB drills.
More in Wednesday’s training camp sights and sounds:
GETTING A PUSH
Pitt hasn’t done a ton of cut blocking with offensive linemen over the years, but it appears that it’s a technique new line coach Dave Borbely would like to instill is his unit. Pitt’s linemen practiced cutting on Wednesday, along with more traditional drive and combo blocking drills.
After one pro team scouted practice on Tuesday, a half-dozen NFL teams were present on Wednesday, including the Arizona Cardinals’ Luke Palko, brother of former Pitt quarterback Tyler. The Pittsburgh Steelers, back from camp at Latrobe, will also be present at Pitt’s practices the rest of the way.