Difficult camp stretch begins

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More than a full week of preseason football practice is in the books for Pitt, but there are 17 days to go before the season opener and the Panthers have reached perhaps the most difficult stretch of training camp.

The dreaded two-a-days started this week, and players are dinged up and sore, but still have a week to go before they even start to think about Sept. 1 and preparation for Youngstown State.

"The practices, camp is grueling," safety Ray Vinopal said.

"It's all about staying mentally strong. These stretches are definitely pushing us, so [coaches] know we're tired, they know we've got camp and stuff like that, but so does everyone. They're just looking to see who's going to fight through it and who's going to be dependable."

Several players have been held out of practices recently, most because of minor injuries. Pitt coach Paul Chryst described most of the group held out as "truly day to day."

Chryst said Tuesday that linebacker Todd Thomas was one player who could be out for a longer period. Thomas tried to practice earlier in camp, but is still recovering from offseason ACL surgery.

With Thomas out, and linebacker Shane Gordon "day to day," fifth-year seniors Manny Williams and Joe Trebitz have filled those roles. Wednesday, redshirt freshman Jason Frimpong found himself practicing with the first-team linebackers after Eric Williams went down with an injury.

Trebitz played in 12 games last year, but registered just five tackles. Manny Williams didn't see meaningful playing time.

Now, Chryst said, is the chance for those guys to prove they deserve playing time once the presumed starters return.

"We'll find out [about our depth] as you go through in practice," Chryst said. "Because of the guys that aren't practicing, other guys have opportunities and we'll see what they do with that opportunity."

Wide receiver shuffle

Devin Street and Mike Shanahan, Pitt's two leading receivers last year, also have been held out of practice, giving a number of other players a chance to showcase their talents.

Redshirt senior Cameron Saddler, sophomore Ronald Jones and senior Joshua Brinson, among others, each have had snaps with the first team. Brinson hauled in a nice touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone Wednesday.

"He's jumping in, he's playing a couple of different spots," Chryst said.

"That's what we need right now and we appreciate that from him. As long as you come out and work, and pay attention to the things you can control, then you've got a chance."

Brinson played in eight games last year after transferring from El Camino College in California, but caught just one pass for 3 yards.

Fists fly

Saddler and freshman defensive back Jahmahl Pardner got into the first fight of training camp Wednesday.

The altercation was broken up quickly after some shoving and a few punches. Chryst made both players run laps, noting that if a player throws a punch during a game, he is ejected.

"We can't reward them with playing. Playing's a privilege. They've just got to know that it's self-control," Chryst said.

"I love competitiveness, love all those things, and I think you've got to walk the fine line. I think the best way you can coach consistently is coach within the rules and teach them. I love the physical nature of it. Really, when it happens between the whistles, it's awesome."


Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com or on Twitter @SWernerPG.


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