Pitt linebacker Todd Thomas told the coaching staff he plans to leave the team, Panthers coach Paul Chryst said Wednesday.
Thomas practiced Tuesday with the second team at Pitt's first practice of training camp but was not present Wednesday at the team's second practice.
"I had a chance to have some conversations with him the last couple of days, and he told me last night and this morning that he's going to leave the team," Chryst said. "I'm not going to talk about any of our discussions with him, and should something change, then I'll visit that."
Chryst declined to answer when asked if Thomas would seek a transfer or remain at Pitt. Thomas could not be reached for comment.
Thomas figured to play a significant role in Pitt's defense this season, finishing 2012 as the team's fourth-leading tackler despite playing just nine games as he recovered from offseason ACL surgery.
He finished 2012 with 59 tackles and an interception. He also blocked a punt and recovered it for a touchdown against Louisville.
When the Panthers took the practice field Tuesday, though, Thomas was taking snaps mostly with the second team. Thomas found himself behind redshirt junior Anthony Gonzalez and redshirt freshman Mike Caprara at the two outside linebacker positions.
Afterwards, Thomas said he would use the move as motivation.
"I'm surprised, but I can't do anything about it," Thomas said Tuesday. "I just have to go out there and work hard and just compete.
"I'm just going to go out and play my butt off and try to win a spot."
Chryst, for his part, praised this redshirt junior out of Beaver Falls High School after Tuesday.
"I like Todd Thomas, he's played, obviously, for us," Chryst said. "With all those linebackers, we've got to start with six, then find the best three with that. He'll certainly be in that group.
"You love the energy that he brings, love the competitiveness that he brings to it. If you look around, a lot of players respond to Todd. That's all good stuff."
Beaver Falls coach Ryan Matsook said he hasn't spoken to Thomas about the decision but said he already has received calls from other colleges, mostly Division II schools, if Thomas does decide to transfer from Pitt.
If the move is permanent, Thomas would be the latest in a string of players who either transferred or left the team this year. Since the 2012 season ended, six players have decided to transfer from Pitt.
Redshirt senior Devin Street said he was sad to see Thomas go, but reiterated that team unity was more important than any one player.
"You know what? That's part of it," Street said. "I can't do anything about it. Some guys got to go. He wasn't on board, so I can't do anything about it. I can just control the controllables and rally the guys who want to be here."
NOTES -- Pitt associate athletic director Chris Ferris said the university is 88 percent sold out of its Heinz Field season-ticket packages for the upcoming season, with just under 8,000 tickets remaining. Ferris said Pitt was at around 70 percent sold out at this point a year ago. "We've seen significant growth and we're excited, really, about the opportunity to get this thing sold out in season tickets as we near kickoff on Sept. 2," Ferris said. ... The Atlantic Coast Conference announced tie-ins with five more bowl games for the 2014-2019 seasons. The league will send a representative to the Military Bowl (Washington), the AdvoCare V100 Bowl (Shreveport, La.) and a new bowl in Detroit which will be played host by the Detroit Lions. The league also announced conditional deals with the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl (St. Petersburg, Fla.) and the Birmingham Bowl in Alabama in years where those games are played after Christmas.
First Published August 7, 2013 5:45 PM