PITTSBURGH — Perhaps the most surprising news of Monday was the status of Pitt’s depth chart at cornerback, where senior Phillipie Motley was listed as a co-starter at one corner along with incumbent Dane Jackson, and sophomore Damarri Mathis at the other.
Some speculated that it was simply a nod to Motley’s senior status on the team with a weak opponent in Albany coming up, but Motley has earned heavy praise for his work all training camp.
He was working with the first team Tuesday morning, alongside field safety Damar Hamlin as the Panthers worked out their calls for crossing routes that call for switches in between the cornerback and safety.
It’s easy to dismiss a player that’s been on the team for four years without making much of a contribution, but Motley had seemed to be well ahead of Jackson before his injury in training camp last year, and he certainly was not 100 percent when he returned toward the end of the season.
The biggest takeaway from the three potential starters is probably going to be that Pitt is comfortable playing all three guys, which means they may be less hesitant to use their nickel package when the offense’s personnel set calls for it. That’s probably the best possible news.
OPTION, SHOVEL, DRAW
Most Pitt fans are probably familiar with the team’s proclivity for using a short-yardage shovel pass, which former offensive coordinator Matt Canada introduced with a heavy emphasis two years ago.
Tuesday, the Panthers quarterbacks and running backs were working on their timing for their shovel passes, option pitches and draw handoffs.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
Here’s Pitt’s defensive backs, including Motley, practicing a tackling drill to lead off the sights and sounds of Pitt’s practice leading up to Albany.
NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
Pitt had a new quarterback at practice on Tuesday, as head coach Pat Narduzzi grabbed the ball and decided to work out some wide receivers own. Some of the receivers complained that Narduzzi’s sidearm action made it tough to pick up the ball.
In addition to Narduzzi’s audition, Pitt actually did have a new quarterback at practice on Tuesday. Quarterback Jeff George, Jr. has officially joined the team and will wear No. 3, though he was wearing No. 14 on Tuesday as part of his new role as scout team quarterback. That’s the number of Albany starter Vincent Testaverde. Here’s George throwing his first passes as a member of the Panthers.
His arrival has coincided with fellow walk-on Jake Zilinskas (Indiana) moving from quarterback to tight end.
ON THE LINEUP CARD
Three Pitt players changed their numbers at the end of training camp. Quarterback Nick Patti from 12 to 19, safety Jazzee Stocker will change from 43 to 7 and long snapper Cal Adomitis will swap 61 for 94.