PITTSBURGH — I don’t know if I’d call it bittersweet, but with Thursday’s practice in the books at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, Pitt’s camp — at least down on the South Side — is done.
There’s a walkthrough tomorrow at Acrisure Stadium before the Kickoff Luncheon, but that’s it. After months and months and months of waiting, Pitt football is just about back. Thursday’s practice, a shells practice, certainly wasn’t mailed in though. There was an emphasis on the finer details, positioning and the like.
And once again, after the media’s six scheduled sessions, the seventh was something I really wanted to see.
But we did get to see some interesting drills Thursday nonetheless, including some route running, which is always what everyone wants to see.
It wouldn’t be a camp practice without Pat Narduzzi wielding his padded bat. He really likes that thing. I don’t know if it’s because he wants to ensure better ball security or he’s just having fun with it, but it’s an every-practice event.
Speaking of ball security, the number of ‘takeaway’ stickers slapped onto helmets is through the roof right now. Here are a few:
Cruce Brookins – 3
Stephon Hall – 4
A.J. Woods – 2
P.J. O’Brien Jr. – 2
M.J. Devonshire – 4
Ryland Gandy – 2
Kyle Louis – 4
Rasheem Biles – 4
Shayne Simon – 3
Solomon DeShields – 3
It’s tough to get a full look at helmets, especially when the players wear a nametag sticker, too, but this is what I believe we’re up to now among some of the linebackers and defensive backs.
Kyle Louis with four (and maybe more, his helmet is plastered in stickers) is interesting. He’s spoken twice this summer, Narduzzi said that he’s going to play some football this season and he’s been playing primarily at Star. At 5-foot-11, 220 pounds, he’s stocky but moves well in space.
Louis and Braylan Lovelace are the two leaders at backup Star right now, I’d say. But Rasheem Biles also has four stickers of his own, Jordan Bass is an explosive athlete and all of Pitt’s backup backers are being cross-trained at Star and Money. It bodes very well for the future of the room.
I like the duo of Javon McIntyre and P.J. O’Brien Jr. at safety, too. The cool and collected McIntyre and the firey O’Brien are a good balance. They’re familiar with each other, and I think watching them read each other and communicate in-play will be fine.
Steph Hall and Donovan McMillon are a very good reserve duo, too. And I think both have their uses in certain formations and packages alongside McIntyre and O’Brien. It’s an inexperienced unit as a whole, but it’s full of potential. How quickly they can erase the sure-to-be-had mistakes will determine the true potential of the defense.
There wasn’t much movement amongst the wideouts. I still think it’s Konata Mumpfield, Bub Means and Daejon Reynolds with Kenny Johnson and Zion Fowler-El mixed in. Che Nwabuko is someone I think could see the field offensively, too.
Means, Fowler-El and Nwabuko are also in the mix behind M.J. Devonshire at punt returner. It seems Devonshire’s spot is pretty secure though. And Rodney Hammond Jr. is the kick returner at this point in time.