Pitt Football: New coach to bring new format to spring

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Pitt's annual Blue-Gold spring football game is today at North Hills High School's Martorelli Stadium in West View, but the scrimmage will be a "game" in name only and the format will be different than it has been in past years.

The Panthers will not be separated in two squads, nor will there be a scoring system in place. Instead it will be a more meat-and-potatoes controlled scrimmage with the units being put into a number of situations.

New Pitt coach Paul Chryst did say that the first-team offense and defense will square off and the second teams will face each other, but there won't be any score kept and there will be very little special teams work.

That means the Blue-Gold game will be more like a glorified practice, but Chryst said his only concern is making sure that the Panthers finish the spring strong and get the offseason started the right way.

"[The spring] went too fast but it was good," Chryst said. "I think it has been productive. Did we achieve everything we wanted to? Probably not, but it's been good and I wish we had more.

"[We are] just starting to build the foundation of everything. Also, [it was] us getting to know the players and them getting to know us, which is the biggest thing."

"We just have to make sure we finish off strong on Saturday."

It will be tough for fans to get a feel for what the team might be like in the fall. Injuries and other issues will keep a number of key players on the sideline.

Ten players -- cornerback K'Waun Williams, safety Jarred Holley, linebacker E'Juan Price, guard Chris Jacobson, linebacker Todd Thomas, wide receiver Mike Shanahan, defensive tackle Tyrone Ezell, wide receiver Ronald Jones, running back Malcolm Crockett and running back Ray Graham -- are out with injuries and Jones is the only one who might see the field today.

Also, middle linebacker Dan Mason has been absent in recent days and his status for the game was unclear. Chryst said Mason was getting some time off to "take care of some things."

If Mason does not play, that would mean there are at least eight potential starters -- Mason, Williams, Holley, Jacobson, Thomas, Shanahan, Ezell and Graham -- sitting out.

Chryst said he isn't sure how all those players will fit in once the fall begins, but the plan throughout the spring was to be smart and make sure that they are ready to play.

"You have to be smart because they are coming off of injuries, so you have to integrate them that way," Chryst said. "You really don't worry about anything other than getting them back in. The first thing with coming back from an injury is getting your confidence back.

"At the same time, they will be learning and playing a little bit of catch-up. Now they also have experience, so that should accelerate their learning because they have been around it. There are a lot of things that go on at the same time. You understand, too, that you are getting ready a season."

The fact that so many key guys have been out, however, has meant that a number of younger players have gotten opportunities. Chryst hopes that means the Panthers have developed some depth at key positions.

Pitt still is a little bit thin at linebacker, defensive line and offensive line, but there is no question that the secondary -- cornerbacks Cullen Christian, LaFayette Pitts and Lloyd Carrington got plenty of experience and improved as spring progressed -- is deeper than it was at the start. Also, there are more receivers capable of playing than originally thought.

And as always, the quarterback position will be closely watched.

Originally, there was thought to be competition between Tino Sunseri and Mark Myers for the starting job, but the competition actually has developed between Myers and Trey Anderson for the second-team spot.

Sunseri, meanwhile, steadily has progressed throughout the spring and clearly has staked his position as the team's starting quarterback heading into fall training camp.

Pitt spring game

When: 1 p.m. today.

Where: Martorelli Stadium, West View (North Hills High School).

Radio: 1-3 p.m., KDKA-FM (93.7).

Of note: Admission and parking are free. ... Gates open at 11 a.m. ... Children, eighth grade and under, can join a clinic on the field with Pitt players at 11:30 a.m. ... Meet-and-greet with the team on the field after the scrimmage.

Players to watch: QB Tino Sunseri, QB Mark Myers, WR Devin Street, WR Cam Saddler, TB Isaac Bennett, OT Matt Rotheram, DT Aaron Donald, LB Shane Gordon, LB Nicholas Grigsby, S Ray Vinopal, S Andrew Taglianetti, CB Cullen Christian, CB Lloyd Carrington, CB Lafayette Pitts.


Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise. First Published April 14, 2012 12:00 AM


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