PITTSBURGH — The ACC Network crew descended upon the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex Thursday morning, and Pitt had a bit more than usual going on as Fantasia’s When I See U started practice off.
Fantasia has become sort of the song of the season for Pitt football, and it’s definitely a fan favorite among the players. With the cameras rolling Thursday, there was no shortness of performance — when it came to dancing during warmups and competing during drills available to the media.
After a strong rebound during Wednesday’s practice, following Tuesday’s slow day, the atmosphere was lively on Thursday. The coaches were loud, the drills were crisp and with some live reps, there was plenty of competition.
The quarterback stretched the field horizontally and vertically Thursday morning, working through a variety of routes.
Both Kedon Slovis and Nick Patti worked the ball to their receivers well on the short and intermediary routes, hitting receivers and running backs in stride on slants and crossing patterns and putting the balls right on the hands for a comeback route. But it was the fades and seams that allowed Slovis to show off a bit.
It’s well noted that Slovis throws a very, very catchable ball. With about 40, 45 yards to hit the end zone, the quarterbacks let it fly. Slovis connected on two of his four attempts, hitting Konata Mumpfield and Myles Alston in stride with perfect precision, and his two misses were both slight overthrows.
Patti hit two of his attempts, both slightly underthrown and forcing the receiver to slow his stride, but he did throw a nicely placed deep ball that skipped off the receivers’ outstretched hands.
The running backs have an emphasis on catching the football out of the backfield, along with the increased emphasis on actually establishing a rushing attack, and Israel Abanikanda has made it a point to improve upon his own pass catching skills. Rodney Hammond Jr. is still the best pass catcher out of the backfield at this point. C’Bo Flemister also looks good catching the ball.
Matt Goncalves and Blake Zubovic have both been impressing this summer, locking down the right side of the line. With Gabe Houy and Jake Kradel returning as last season’s starting right tackle and right guard, respectively, the competition in the room is tremendous.
When it comes to actually running behind the offensive line — perhaps the deepest unit on the roster — in 11-on-11 reps, Abanikanda and Hammond both very, very good. Abanikanda’s explosion and Hammond’s suddenness are a compelling duo.
On the defensive side of the ball, it’s clearer and clearer by the day that SirVocea Dennis, Bangally Kamara and Shayne Simon have emerged as the leaders of their respective linebacker spots. Kamara at Star and Simon at Money offers a blend of size, speed and agility.