Five newcomers get a head start on Pitt football careers

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While Pitt was wrapping up its 2012 season in the BBVA Compass Bowl Saturday in Birmingham, Ala., the future of the program was busy lugging mini-refrigerators and TVs into Oakland dorm rooms.

Five new players joined the program this week: four 2013 freshmen enrolling a semester early and one midyear transfer from Syracuse, wide receiver Dontez Ford.

The early enrollees -- quarterback Tra'Von Chapman, tight end Scott Orndoff, defensive lineman Tyrique Jarrett and defensive lineman Shakir Soto -- represent the first players to step on campus from Paul Chryst's first full recruiting class as Pitt's coach.

For them, this first week has been all about getting acclimated to campus.

"It's different, but I like it," Chapman said. "I like the freedom and getting used to being around these guys."

The returning players have this week off, from football activities, but will begin Monday with winter lifting and conditioning . That's when these freshmen will join the rest of their new teammates for the first time.

"I just can't wait to get in the weight room and start working out," Soto said. "I've been bored this whole week, really."

Each of the four early enrollees faces a different challenge when it comes to fighting for playing time in the fall. Jarrett, Orndoff and Soto said they hope to see the field in 2013, while Chapman has adapted a more measured approach.

He figures to be competing at quarterback with fifth-year senior Tom Savage and redshirt freshman Chad Voytik. For now, though, Chapman just wants to get up to speed.

"Basically, what the coaches and I came up with is, the first three to four months, it's not really competing, it's getting a good feeling," he said.

"It's just getting a good feeling, getting my feet wet and trying to get along with the guys.

"If I come in here with the mentality of 'I'm going to take your spot,' it's kind of shady."

Orndoff, though, will fill a position where Pitt appears to be somewhat thin heading into 2013. JP Holtz and Drew Carswell are the team's only returning tight ends.

"That's definitely my goal," Orndoff said. "With as little depth as they have at tight end, that just gives me more motivation to work as hard as I can the next two or three months, so by the time spring camp rolls around, I'll be able to come in and make an impact on the team and work my way into the starting lineup in some way."

The fifth newcomer of the group, Ford, took a slightly circuitous route to the Panthers. A Sto-Rox graduate, Ford attended Syracuse and redshirted his freshman year. He decided midway through that he wanted a change of scenery.

"There wasn't a specific thing I didn't like about Syracuse," Ford said.

"It's just I feel more comfortable being here. I feel like this is going to be better for me and what I'm trying to do for myself in the future."

Ford will be walk-on and must sit out the 2013 season. He will be eligible to play and earn a scholarship in 2014.

NOTE -- Pitt wide receiver Devin Street announced on his personal Twitter Thursday evening that he will return to the Panthers for his senior year. Street said he filed NFL paperwork to request an evaluation, but always said he was leaning toward staying. He led the Panthers in receptions this past season (73) and is the only returning receiver who had more than seven catches.

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Sam Werner: or on Twitter: @SWernerPG.


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