Reserves to get long look in opening scrimmage

Pitt Preseason Camp

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With so many starting positions settled, this afternoon, when the Panthers take the field for their first scrimmage of training camp, is going to be a much bigger day for players fighting to get on the two-deep than it will be for the starters.

In fact, it is likely a number of the team's top players -- Jon Baldwin, Greg Romeus, Dion Lewis -- will see limited action. Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said he expects to shut Lewis down after four to six carries and then give way to the reserves and let them battle each other.

Wannstedt said the scrimmage is just the first step in an evaluation process and it won't be until next Saturday -- after the second scrimmage is in the books -- when the depth chart will begin to be finalized.

"We will tighten some things up by having officials out there," Wannstedt said. "I think we'll keep it very basic. Everybody will get some opportunities; everybody will get some reps and it will be the first time we sort of stand back and let them play a little bit."

There is still a lot on the line for just about every position. Wannstedt said the scrimmage will last about 75 plays and he will try to get everyone somewhere between 20 and 25 reps.

A breakdown of what coaches will be looking for at each position and what has taken place thus far in training camp, now into week two:

Quarterback -- Tino Sunseri is the starter and while he has had some very good moments at camp, he needs now to develop consistency. This will be a good test for him and a chance for him to show that he is ready to lead the Panthers. Also interesting to watch is the two heralded true freshmen, Anthony Gonzalez and Mark Myers battle for the third spot.

Running back -- Dion Lewis and Henry Hynoski are the starters at tailback and fullback and neither has much to prove. The same can be said about Lewis' back-up Ray Graham, who is a much more physical player than he was last year. This position is pretty set.

Wide receiver -- Jon Baldwin and Mike Shanahan are locked into their positions and Cam Saddler appears to be the third receiver. But there is a real logjam of players jockeying for position behind those three -- Devin Street, Ed Tinker, Greg Cross, Todd Thomas, Kevin Weatherspoon, Salath Williams and Drew Carswell.

Tight end -- It is clear Mike Cruz and Brock DeCicco are one and two. The coaches would like a third player to emerge, which means this is a big scrimmage for Andrew Devlin and Justin Virbitsky.

Offensive line -- Three of the five starting spots are filled and this scrimmage will be a continuation of getting those three -- Lucas Nix (right tackle), Jason Pinkston (left tackle) and Chris Jacobson (left guard) -- ready for the season. The right guard and center spots, as well as all five backup spots, are up for grabs so this group will be monitored more closely by coaches.

Defensive line -- Greg Romeus has missed the entire week and isn't likely to play, which means a number of defensive ends will get an opportunity against the first-team offense. The starting defensive line is set but several younger players -- such as Shayne Hale and Tyrone Ezell -- need to have a strong showing. Another to watch is freshman tackle Aaron Donald who has made a strong case in camp to be in the rotation.

Linebacker -- Max Gruder and Dan Mason have been very steady and consistent and have solidified their standing as the starters at strongside linebacker and middle linebacker. The weakside spot has been an intense competition between Greg Williams and Tristan Roberts. Also, the backup spots are wide open as none of the younger linebackers have really stepped up, so this will be a big day for pretty much every linebacker not named Gruder or Mason.

Secondary -- Three of the four spots are set and it looks as if senior Ricky Gary is slowly but surely taking control at the open corner spot. One name to watch here is true freshman K'Waun Williams who has had a fast start to camp and has made a strong case to be in the mix for playing time.

NOTES -- The scrimmage is closed to the public. ... Defensive end Greg Romeus (back spasms) missed practice again. "I was hopeful he would be out and work today but he ran and did some work with Buddy [Morris] so we are just trying to take it day by day," Wannstedt said. "Hopefully he will be out there tomorrow." ... Linebacker Tristan Roberts was knocked out of practice. It is minor and he will return today for the scrimmage. ... Antwuan Reed was excused for personal reasons. ... Quarterback Tino Sunseri had his best day. He threw the ball well, was sharp on his reads and only threw one interception -- though it came in the two-minute drill. "Tino was sharp today and in that two-minute drill he threw two balls that were outstanding," Wannstedt said. "The best part of today is he bounced back; he corrected some things he did wrong two days ago and he got better."

Paul Zeise: or 412-263-1720.


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