Explain the most recent update of the Rushel Shell saga. Sam Werner: Alright, I figured we should get started by explaining the latest here before anything else. As of this morning, Shell still has not requested formal transfer paperwork. He was not at practice yesterday (as expected) and is still contemplating a transfer. Really, the next step is going to be either a formal request for release or a return to the team, neither which have happened yet. The Panthers practice again today at 1:45 p.m., so we'll see if there are any changes between now and then. Crazy Train: Now part of the ACC...what games should panther fans look foward to? Any chance of winning the conference? Sam Werner: I think winning the conference would be a really tall order for this team. The ACC is much better than the Big East was. I think this year the goal should just be to be competitive in every game and make a decent bowl game at the end of the season.
As far as games to look forward to, obviously the top one is Florida State at Heinz Field in primetime on Labor Day. That should be a fantastic atmosphere. Beyond that, Pitt has some pretty good road trips lined up on its ACC schedule this year. Blacksburg and Atlanta, specifically, should be really cool college football atmospheres. Caleb James: Hi Sam, Do you think if Shell ends up leaving any of the incoming freshman could be a factor, I like what I see of Dan Conner even though he might not be on the offensive side of the ball, Any thoughts Sam Werner: I think you mean James Conner, but yes. He's the only running back Pitt has coming in in this freshman class. A lot of schools recruited him as a defensive end, but Pitt liked him as a running back. If there was ever any doubt that he was going to start in the offensive backfield, that's erased now. I think the original goal, ideally, was for him to take a redshirt, but that may not be an option if Shell leaves. Isaac Bennett and Malcolm Crockett are nice running backs, but neither is really the physical, between-the-tackles back that you almost need to have in Chryst's offense (remember, both Crockett and Bennett originally signed with Todd Graham). Conner is a big, physical runner. If Shell does end up bolting, I wouldn't be surprised if he sees action in 2013. Sam Werner: Looks like we're a bit short on questions today, so if you've got any, now's the time. Guest: What incoming freshman will make the biggest impact this season? Sam Werner: I think the answer has to be Tyler Boyd. It's tempting to pick Dorian Johnson, but it's no guarantee that he'll win a starting job on the offensive line (though it's definitely a possibility).
Boyd's situation is a perfect mix of elite talent and wide-open opportunity. He was one of the most dynamic high school receivers in the country this year, and Pitt has a gaping void opposite Devin Street at the receiver spot. In fact, some of the recruiting analysts I talked to liked Boyd even more than Robert Foster, who spurned Pitt to choose Alabama. I would be shocked if Boyd isn't a factor in the offense this season. Guest: Whats going on with Mason? Will he be back on the field soon? Sam Werner: I wouldn't expect it. Chryst has been very vague when he mentions Mason, if he talks about him at all. Sounds like Mason is still working through some "off the field" issues. At this point, I would say it would be surprising if we saw him back on the field this spring. Caleb James: One more for you Sam. Read a lot of different opinions on that #2 receiver spot. Who do you think as of now is going to win that spot? And will Boyd snatch it up? Sam Werner: I do think Boyd will win that spot, though it might not be as much of a slam dunk as it seemed before spring practice. Ed Tinker has really come on at the end of the season and this spring, and I know the coaching staff really likes him. He obviously doesn't have the raw ability of Boyd, but is a smart player who can make catches when called upon. I think Boyd will ultimately win the starting job, but Tinker and Ronald Jones will both be heavily in the mix as well. Tom Tupa: How has Anthony Gonzalez looked at LB so far? Sam Werner: Really, really good. I initially thought it was a little curious that the staff would move Eric Williams, the only linebacker to play in every game last year, back to safety without a proven replacement behind him, but Gonzalez has been fantastic. He's definitely stronger in coverage than he is stepping up to stop the run, but that fits in with what he's supposed to do as the Sam linebacker. He's had a few nice interceptions during camp. I originally thought someone like Bam Bradley or Deaysean Rippy had a chance to steal that spot away from him, but now I would have to say it looks like Gonzalez has definitely solidified that starting job. Sam Werner: Also I could not be more honored to be joined by former NFL punter Tom Tupa. Brian: Off-topic: Who are your picks in the NCAA Tournament games tonight? Sam Werner: I like Louisville over Oregon, Michigan over Kansas, Michigan State over Duke and, yes, Dunk City over Florida. scoise: Nobody really seems to mention Demetrious Davis when it comes to the RB situation. He was a pretty big recruit when he came in and I remember from his highlight tapes that he could be really explosive. Is he getting some run in camp so far? Do you think he will be a factor this year? Sam Werner: That's sort of an interesting question. The biggest knock on Davis is his size, which is a legitimate concern. He got some run in Pitt's first scrimmage last Friday, and will be interesting to see what he gets with Shell presumably gone in the scrimmage today. He's definitely the third back behind Bennett and Crockett, but maybe has a chance to move up.
The one thing I haven't seen much in practice is them calling plays with Davis that utilize his strengths, namely, his shiftiness and speed. Most of his run plays are straight up the middle, which really aren't his forte. I'd be interested to see what he looks like on some sweeps or screen passes. Tom Tupa: Speaking of Rippy what is his situation Sam Werner: He was a full participant in yesterday's practice. I don't think that means he's definitely not moving (there's always a chance that kids, especially ones who think they're buried on the depth chart, could go elsewhere) but I haven't seen any indication that he's very seriously considering a move. Caleb James: Ok, since its a bit quiet today. Ill hog another one. Other than Boyd, do you think any of the other 2 Clariton kids could push for time this year? Sam Werner: I would be sort of surprised, mostly because both are coming in at defensive back, which is a position Pitt is decently deep at right now. They have five legitimate safeties (including Jevonte Pitts, who has had a very good spring) and a good number of cornerbacks. If there's some attrition due to transfer or injury, maybe one of them has to see the field, but if all goes according to plan I would bet they both redshirt. Sam Werner: Alright, folks. That's all we've got for today. I think we'll do another spring chat next week, probably on Thursday. But keep reading Redshirt Diaries and follow me on Twitter @SWernerPG and I'll keep you posted.
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