PITTSBURGH — Pitt center Jimmy Morrissey is looking to bounce back after a season-ending injury halted the progress he made at Pitt.
Morrissey a redshirt junior from near Philadelphia, started at Pitt as a walk-on, but has become a stalwart on Pitt’s offensive line after earning a starting spot and a scholarship as a redshirt freshman. Now a redshirt junior, Morrissey is undoubtedly the leader of the offensive line.
His 2018 season was cut short with a knee injury suffered in Pitt’s ACC Coastal-clinching win at Wake Forest. After Morrissey went out, it was easy to see that the offensive line was not right.
They had to mix players in at positions that they hadn’t played all season and the line could not gel fast enough to deal with the talented defensive fronts of Miami and Clemson.
Conner Dintino was thrust into Morrissey’s center position. Center was Dintino’s natural position, but he’d played all over during his time at Pitt and was a redshirt senior.
This spring, redshirt sophomore Owen Drexel has been Morrissey’s primary backup. Drexel appeared in two games last season, mainly in a clean-up role. Jake Kradel, a Butler High School grad, did not see the field as a true freshman in 2018.
So there is definitely a lack of experienced depth behind Morrissey.
That might be slowly changing, though, as Morrissey, who is still recovering from his knee injury, hasn’t been a full participant during all of Pitt’s spring practices, allowing Drexel and Kradel to get valuable reps with the first team.
Quarterback Kenny Pickett touched on how important Morrissey is to the offensive line at Tuesday’s practice.
“Jimmy’s out and he is really the leader of the (offensive) line, he makes all the calls,” Pickett said. “So now, Owen has to step up and Kradel has to step and those guys are doing a great job. Like I said, it’s the spring, there are going to be some bumps in the road, thats OK, as long as you can work through them.”
IN THE SLOT
Pitt’s running backs have been active in the passing game throughout the drills at practice this spring. On Thursday, the running backs — including A.J. Davis and Todd Sibley — were working on crossing routes out of the slot and flat routes out of the backfield.
Todd Sibley mentioned at Tuesday’s practice that Mark Whipple is utilizing the running backs all over the field.
“We are lining up a wideout, in the slot, we are doing things that we were not normally doing last year,” Sibley said.
Pitt’s tight ends were mostly treated as an afterthought in the passing game, but that’s probably not going to be the case this season, if Whipple’s history at UMass is any guide. Penn State transfer Adam Breneman caught 134 passes for 1,572 yards and 12 touchdowns over two seasons with the Minutemen.
Will Gragg led Pitt’s tight ends with five catches for 31 yards a season ago. But Gragg, Grant Carrigan, Kaymar Mimes and Jim Medure have not only been working on the typical tight end fare of out routes and check downs, but an entire honest-to-goodness route tree, with medium and deep routes a significant part of the repertoire.
Here’s Pitt’s tight ends working on some deeper routes during Thursday’s practice.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
Here are the rest of the sights and sounds from Pitt’s spring practice No. 13 on the South Side on Thursday.