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Sights & Sounds: Pitt Preaches Details During Wednesday’s Practice



Pitt offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr. on Backyard Brawl.

PITTSBURGH — The cameras were rolling Wednesday down at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex as the ACC Network’s Football Road Trip crew mingled amongst the coaching staff during practice.

Frank Cignetti Jr. was mic’ed up, Pat Narduzzi actually sat on set to discuss Pitt football during the early portion of practice yet practice ran as previously scheduled. It was a day of details — especially from Frank Cignetti Jr.

A good number of offensive turnovers from live sessions and scrimmages have been the result of botched snaps. Whether that’s the fault of the center or the quarterback, or a combination of the two, I don’t know. But Pitt worked high snaps, low snaps and everything in between Wednesday.

And of course, Pat Narduzzi and crew made sure to get their money’s worth out of the padded bats when attempting to knock balls out.

As Cignetti ran the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends through drills, he made sure that positioning was perfect. From the offensive personnel each snap but also from the scout team guys serving as defensive players.

“This is full speed,” Cignetti barked out. “This is full speed!”

Once again, the freshman wideouts looked good. I’ve been watching Kenny Johnson specifically, and he’s a smooth athlete. He’s running right behind Bub Means with the X receivers — as is Lamar Seymore, who was also sharp Wednesday.

Izzy Polk and Zion Fowler-El have been working out wide and in the slot during drills, and Che Nwabuko has been inside. I’d imagine all Polk and Fowler-El will be getting more of their work outside in the season.

When Johnson spoke to members of the media earlier this month, he said that the biggest thing that Tiquan Underwood has preached is his knowledge. He arrived later than some of his fellow wide receivers, and he needs to be able to know the playbook inside and out. It comes down to details on and off the field.

Karter Johnson made a very nice one-handed snag, too. Didn’t catch the route, maybe a post, but even if he doesn’t make a lot of catches this season, he’s going to be used heavily as a blocker. He’s smooth for a guy who used to weigh 340 pounds.

Speaking of blocking, we got to see a very brief period of the offensive linemen and defensive line taking some run blocking reps. Ryan Baer — who led the pre-practice speech — is a mauler. It will be interesting to see how the left side of the line plays out.

It’s tough to really evaluate the defense during the drills that are made available to the media during practice, but in Narduzzi’s pre-practice presser, maybe the one surprising defensive linemen included in his list of performing linemen was Sean FitzSimmons. And that’s only because he’s so young. He’s a guy to watch for playing time this season.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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