Pitt notebook: In lieu of open scrimmage, fan event aims to please young and old

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Pitt didn't hold a traditional spring game this year, but still got fans out to its South Side facility to enjoy a warm afternoon.

The Panthers hosted their first "Field Pass" event Sunday, replacing the spring game with a chance for fans to interact with players and coaches.

Pitt officials said more than 3,000 people attended the event, which included drills for kids and a "chalk talk" for adults. The latter featured presentations from defensive coordinator Matt House, offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph, strength and conditioning coach Ross Kolodziej and recruiting coordinator Dann Kabala.

There was a lot of generic coach talk, but also some interesting nuggets. Rudolph, for example, outlined how the Panthers call plays in the huddle and make adjustments at the line of scrimmage. "King right fire panther" translates to a run to the right.

Both coordinators showed clips from spring practices and followed them with how those concepts applied in games last fall.

A common theme across all presentations is how young the 2014 Panthers will be, and the growth opportunities ahead of them.

"We're going to leave no stone unturned in their development, which, as a coach, is pretty fun," Rudolph said.

Injury bug unkind

Twelve players were out or limited at Pitt's practice Tuesday. They ranged from stars such as running back James Conner to walk-ons, but all the injuries have had an impact on how Pitt could practice this spring.

Specifically, the lack of running backs has made scrimmaging difficult the past few practices, and all the injuries mean less special teams work.

"There's some things that are unavoidable," coach Paul Chryst said. "For us to be as good as we can be, we need everyone. It's not probably ever going to happen.

The latest to join those sitting out was cornerback Lafayette Pitts. Chryst, though, said it was just a minor injury and Pitts could return Tuesday for the final spring practice. The only injury that will affect a player beyond this spring belongs to running back Isaac Bennett, who will have surgery this week to repair a shoulder injury and will miss the beginning of summer conditioning. Bennett is expected to return for fall camp.

Teachable moments

Chryst described Sunday's practice, held before the Field Pass event, as "sluggish."

He pointed to a number of pre-snap and procedural penalties called by the officiating crew on hand.

"They're teachable moments," Chryst said. "If we can learn from it, if they put themselves in it where it stings a little bit, then those are good days. You can learn from them. If you take the approach of, 'Oh it's practice, I'll be good,' then you're not going to get better and we're not going to be as good as we can be."

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


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