Before I begin I want to share this new document with you – it is Pitt’s Guest Practice Rules & Regulations:
As you can see certain conduct is expected when you are there as a media guest, and specifically afterward, and they are clearly spelled out. It really is almost exactly the same limitations I have put on my own writing after watching practices anyway. With that in mind I read this as not-so-much pertaining to the “Media Open Window” time period but the whole of the actual practice time where some invited guests are allowed to watch the stuff that is fully closed to the media.
Today there was some NFL Scouts who stayed an extra day, high school coaches, coaches from way-smaller colleges and some player’s family members.
See – they get to watch the actual X&Os and proprietary part of the real practices including players getting screamed and, at least today, a brawl… which I’m upset I missed. But I had a chance to see 40 minutes of work today vice the normal 20-25 minutes so I’ll describe some of what I saw.
First off the players break into their respective units; 1st, 2nd and 3rd for both offense and defense and then the kickers. Then they start running some very basic warm up plays. Here’s what I concentrated on in some sort of order.
I watched the kick return coverage teams working on shedding blocks while at full speed downfield. The RB/ST coach Andre’ Powell is very active with this, very vocal and stopped some individuals a few times to do hands-on training to immediately correct what he saw.
As that was going on the QBs were tossing warm-up passes. Brown, DiNucci, MacVitte, Pickett and walk-on FR Jake Zilinskas (from Indiana, PA) are the five we have on roster.
What I did was purposely not look at the QBs’ names next to their numbers – I just concentrated on the jersey numbers and since I can’t remember who wears what numbers anyway it was like a blind test. I felt I could be more objective that way.
So – the QBs broke into two groups with Browne and Pickett taking one unit and DiNucci and MacVitte with the other. I think sometimes the QBs switched around to the different groups to get a chance with all the backs & receivers.
For some reason #3 (DiNucci) left after the warm-ups and I didn’t see him on the field again – he may have come back after we media left though. Now remember when I write this next part these are basic drills and not full speed or plays with the defense on the field.
First were half speed plays with the RB out to the short flat pattern. Then came quick release passes to WR and RB directly to the far side LOS – a play I have always hated. The speed and zip of the throws was increasing with the two patterns but the coaches still wanted shorter passes.
Then they started throw 10 yard button hooks (each QB had about 3-4 passes before they switched patterns) . Then they ended up with 15 yard out passes which required more timing and more strength on the ball.
Of course this is early days and who threw well today might screw up tomorrow but here is a quick impression of what I watched.
All the QBs had mostly good throws but if I was awarding a 3″ trophy as to who had the best speed on the ball it would have been #8 (FR Kenny Pickett). The QB who seemed most accurate would have been a tie between #4 (Browne) and Pickett – with a slight edge to Browne. #7 (MacVitte) had some nice passes also but on this one day the other two guys were a bit more on the mark to my eyes.
The best throw of the day though was from #19 (Zilinskas) as he double clutched when a receiver stumbled then rifled it complete before the receiver went out-of-bounds.
Some impressions of the WRs: Jester Weah and Aaron Mathews are both big guys. The roster lists them as 6’3’/ 210 and 6’2″ /205 respectively but they both look thicker than that – both are muscular kids. Mathews made a beautiful tough ‘high-point’ catch right in front of me on one of those out patterns and held onto the ball.
WR Quadree Henderson made a nice running below the belt one-handed catch on one of those flat patterns.
Then the offense ran some half-speed plays against defensive players. Those were mostly handoff and blocking scheme work – Ollison was getting the RB1 carries it looked like but again, it’s early.
It is interesting that each of these work periods was a full five minutes then a whistle blew and the kids went into different drills and sometimes at different spots on the field. It was that well choreographed.
After all those separate unit drills everyone but the kickers joined at the far side of the field for calisthenics. So I walked down to the Steeler’s end of the field (one end zone is labelled “PITT” and the other is “Steelers”) and watched the special teams.
rsSR Ryan Winslow was booming his punts and was very accurate at hitting the corners when he was placing the ball. I watched him have eight nice punts in a row from around the 50 yard line – 4 ones with good downfield hang time, 2 into each corner and 2 in the endzone. I saw our Aussie Kirk Christodoulou punting a bit. He’s going to need that full year with Winslow still here to round into American college ball shape – some of his were high and long bombs but he’s up and down.
I think Winslow is underrated by us fans – he was the 35th ranked punter last year and with a rookie PK we need his deep leg in ’17.
In his third season as the Panthers’ starting punter, averaged a career-best 42.6 yards on 56 attempts…placed 12 inside the 20-yard line…achieved his personal single-game high with a 48.8-yard average (on five punts) at Virginia…had a season-long 53-yard punt in four different games (Villanova, Oklahoma State, North Carolina and Miami)…punted a career-high 11 times at Oklahoma State, placing a season-best four inside the 20.
rsFR Alex Kessman will be our placekicker this season and it looked like he made all his practice tries from 35-40 yards out. LS Conrad Brake and OL Brandon Ford shared the long-snapper duties and were accurate.
To no one’s surprise Chris Clark is running with the 1st team. I tried to see who was the 1st team Center but each play always looks like a bunch of angry water buffaloes on short stampedes out there to me.
As you can see I had a limited time so I concentrated on the offensive players.
Some bit of new info – in the past the Pitt’s Pro Days haven’t been opened to the media. EJ worked on that, Narduzzi said yes and it was a great success for everyone involved. Every person I talked to said they really enjoyed the whole day. Thanks for that!