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Sights & Sounds: Pitt Coaches Emphasizing Ball Protection and Takeaways Alike



PITTSBURGH — It was a shells practice at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex Thursday, which meant no live play, but that will come once again this week.

Saturday’s scrimmage will be the final one of the summer, taking place down at the facility before Saturday evening’s Steelers game. And it will help to determine quite a bit actually. With the final week of summer camp on the horizon now, Saturday is the last true chance to really impress in a live, competitive setting. So make it count.

It wasn’t the most intense session Thursday morning, not with the pads off, but it’s there’s an emphasis being set on protecting the ball and taking it away.

There were nine fumbles in the gauntlet drill Tuesday, three yesterday and as the wide receivers lined up today, Narduzzi had a message.

“Let’s make it zero today. Come on!” He shouted, trying his darndest to knock the ball out. And I can’t say I saw a single receiver let the ball slip out of his hands. Jake McConnachie did draw a “Keep your head up!” as he careened into the body bag though.

No new updates on the wide receiver front. Everyone still looks pretty good. Kenny Johnson and Zion Fowler-El continue to rep highly.

Narduzzi was asked about Matt Goncalves before practice, about where he’s lining up at this point in camp, and he said on both sides. That’s an interesting development.

And sure enough, in drills, it was Goncalves lining up at left tackle and Branson Taylor on the right. The first team line is the same it’s been most of camp, with Kradel in the middle, Ryan Jacoby at left guard and Blake Zubovic at right guard, but Goncalves and Taylor flipped. It makes sense. Put your best tackle on the left side.

Ryan Baer ran with the 2s in drills available to the media Thursday, playing left tackle across from Terrence Enos Jr. on the right side. Terrence Moore at center, and BJ Williams and Jason Collier Jr. at the guard spots. Two very intriguing units in my eyes. We’ll see how it continues to play out.

It looks like M.J. Devonshire has his entire helmet covered in ‘takeaway’ stickers (it’s only three), and I’m shocked that Marquis Williams doesn’t have any yet — maybe the quarterbacks just aren’t targeting him right now.

A.J. Woods has a couple of stickers on his helmet, Donovan McMillon has one, too. But it was Williams who advanced in the defensive backs’ catching competition Thursday morning.

Archie Collins and Cory Sanders had the defensive backs run straight toward them and catch a ball thrown their way — with some heat on it. It was single elimination so a drop meant you were out. Devonshire and Javon McIntyre and Woods and P.J. O’Brien were all eliminated, one by one, until it was just Williams and Shadarian Harrison left.

Williams was unable to haul in the ball thrown his way, but Harrison. And just like that, Harrison — a true freshman — won the competition.

Harrison is very new at Pitt, having just arrived this summer, but he’s someone to keep an eye on in the future of the cornerbacks room.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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John Smith
John Smith
1 month ago

You got to be kidding me Steph Hall has the most takeaways stickers; he actually has the most out of all the defensive backs. And you forgot to mention him I can see that this site politics.

Last edited 1 month ago by John Smith
John Smith
John Smith
1 month ago

Steph Hall has the most takeaways! Wondering why he isn’t mentioned?

John Smith
John Smith
1 month ago

This site ain’t Nothing but a bunch of politicians

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