PITTSBURGH -— With two weeks of practice remaining before the season opener against Albany, Pitt still has ongoing position battles at several spots.
But there others that are largely wrapped up.
Darrin Hall and Qadree Ollison will platoon at running back, and there will likely be a large group of contributors at wide receiver and cornerback. Dewayne Hendrix and Rashad Weaver have stood out at defensive end.
Kenny Pickett, of course, will be the starting quarterback, and the five-man offensive line of Stefano Millin, Mike Herndon, Jim Morrissey, Conor Dintino and Alex Bookser has been mostly solid all camp.
“I think we’ve got them identified,” Narduzzi said. “Are we where we want to be? No. Every day, it’s a battle. I feel comfortable, very comfortable. I want to run the ball better. I think they’re doing a great job of protecting Kenny in the pocket.”
Here’s the offensive line working at practice to lead off Tuesday’s sights and sounds, along with comments from Narduzzi, Dintino and Hendrix.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
Pitt took practice to Heinz Field on Sunday night, serving as a follow-up to the Steelers fan fest. Head coach Pat Narduzzi said the players were excited about getting to practice in their game-day venue.
“We got some great work in there,” Narduzzi said. “The kids were obviously energetic. Any time you can get in Heinz Field, which it isn’t easy, it’s a great atmosphere for the game of football and our kids need to be in that atmosphere.”
Pitt chancellor Dr. Patrick Gallagher and athletic director Heather Lyke took in practice. For Lyke, it was at least the second time in as many weeks that she visited Pitt’s practice facility on the South Side.
Since her hire, Lyke has been more visible at the football facility than her predecessors, and the events around the college football world that have resulted in the suspensions of Urban Meyer at Ohio State and D.J. Durkin at Maryland have shown exactly how critical it is that an athletic director know exactly what’s going on in her football program.
Gallagher and Lyke weren’t the only celebrities on Pitt’s sideline Tuesday. They were joined by Pitt alum and reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, who still hasn’t reached an agreement with the Los Angeles Rams.
JUST FOR KICKS
As a freshman, kicker Alex Kessman tied Pitt’s all-time record with a 56-yard field goal at Syracuse. The Michigan native has always had a strong leg, and when give then opportunity, he chose to try a 58-yarder in practice last week. It had the leg (Narduzzi said it would have been good from 64), but it hit the right upright.
While that was fun for Kessman, the real work of this offseason has been to improve his consistency from a year ago. Kessman hit just 57.9 percent of his field goals in 2017. Special teams coordinator Andre Powell said his team’s goal is 80 percent.
Kessman has also had to deal with a new holder after the graduation of punter Ryan Winslow. The job has fallen to his backup, walk-on kicker Jake Scarton. Here’s more from Kessman on his 2018 camp and meshing with Scarton.