Pitt notebook: Passing attack makes strides with Savage at helm

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More than most aspects of football, a team's passing game is predicated on timing.

The line must execute their blocking assignments, the receivers have to run precise routes and the quarterback has to time his pass perfectly to hit the open man.

So a week into training camp, it's easy to understand why Pitt is still working out the kinks in its aerial attack.

"It's sporadic," Panthers coach Paul Chryst said Tuesday.

"I think there's times you go up and take a look and say, 'Boys, we're starting to understand the timing of it from a receiver's perspective, quarterback.' Then there's times where obviously we need more work."

It doesn't help that the Panthers are breaking in a new quarterback and mostly new receivers in Chryst's second year as coach.

Redshirt senior Tom Savage has taken the reins under center, and a bevy of options have lined up next to entrenched starter Devin Street at wide receiver.

Through a week of practice, freshman Tyler Boyd appears to have edged ahead in the battle for the second receiver spot, but redshirt junior Kevin Weatherspoon and redshirt senior Ed Tinker also have gotten snaps with the first team.

"Offensive football is the ultimate team sport," quarterbacks coach Brooks Bollinger said. "It takes 11 guys doing their job to make a play go, especially in the passing game.

"You get to this point in the season and 10 guys might do it right, you're missing one."

Bollinger said most of the first week of practice was spent re-installing the offense from spring practices, and the second week will be more about execution and attention to details.

His only real hope on a snap-to-snap basis is improvement from Savage and redshirt freshman Chad Voytik.

"From a quarterback's perspective, just what is their thought process?" Bollinger said.

"Where are they at in that learning curve? I always tell them that the most important thing on each and every rep at this point in camp is just that they grow from it, that they learn."

Role playing

As the Panthers enter their second week of training camp, Chryst said he hopes that the depth chart will start to shake itself out.

"The second week, the plays are in, now we've got to polish and detail those plays," he said. "Along with that is, certainly, this is the week where you start to define if you've got an opportunity for a role on this team this fall on the field."

Injury report

Running back Isaac Bennett sat out the practice session Tuesday with a knee injury. In his place, freshman James Conner got the majority of snaps with the first team.

Chryst did not provide a timetable for Bennett's return, but said he was day to day.

Defensive end Bryan Murphy and cornerback Trenton Coles also missed practice, but Chryst said neither injury was serious and both could potentially return for Pitt's second practice of the day (which was closed to the media).

Cornerback K'Waun Williams and safety Jason Hendricks, who missed practice with injuries last week, were back on the field Tuesday.

Still absent

Linebacker Todd Thomas was once again absent from practice Tuesday. Thomas left the team after one practice last week, but multiple sources have indicated he wishes to return to the team. Chryst said last week he would not discuss Thomas' situation until something changes.

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Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG. First Published August 14, 2013 4:00 AM


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