The barking of coaches and quarterbacks calling signals at Pitt’s practice fields Monday were an indication that football is just around the corner.
Coach Paul Chryst’s answers at the post-practice media session, though, were an indication of just how far away the opener is Aug. 30 against Delaware.
“It was great to get back out there,” Chryst said. “It looked and felt like day one, which is good and certainly it’s a starting point, so we’ve got a long way to go.”
Pitt opens football training camp
University of Pittsburgh football team opened its first day of training camp. (Video by Nate Guidry; 8/4/2014)
Pitt players donned only helmets Monday as they took the practice field for the first time. They will practice in helmets only again today before putting on shoulder pads Wednesday and, finally, full pads Friday.
So even though contact was very limited, Chryst said the coaches generally could see what players had accomplished in the summer months, when they’re left on their own to organize and run any workouts.
“It’s hard though,” he said. “You know their numbers. Their bodies are changing. You can see the work they put in. You can see the time they put in throwing and catching. You can see the guys that are in body control; that means they were doing some stuff over the summer. I like the way the guys reported, the shape they’re in as a whole.”
Because there’s no tackling, the first few days of practice are generally about the coaches installing overall game plans and packages for the season. Defensive ends coach John Palermo estimated Monday that he ran his players through 20 different defensive sets. Later, with pads on, they’ll go back and clean up certain areas.
“What they were thinking half the time [Monday], I couldn’t tell you,” Palermo said. “I’m hoping they were thinking the right thing but until I see them on tape I’m not going to know.”
While the massive amount of information can be overwhelming — especially to freshmen, who are practicing with the coaches for the first time — Pitt center Artie Rowell pointed out that, because of returning experience at certain positions (notably along the offensive line) the players are able to move through situations quicker earlier in training camp than they usually would.
Another benefit the offensive line has going into this camp is that there are 15 linemen on the roster, enough for three full teams. That allows Chryst and offensive line coach Jim Hueber more options when it comes to hitting in practice and letting players get settled into specific positions.
“I think depth on the lines, both sides, it’s huge,” Chryst said. “There’s that fine line. You want to get as many reps as you can in camp. It’s important. That’s where you lay the foundation of who you are. We’re a young team, so you’ve got to play. You have to learn by playing. But if you’re thin in certain areas, then you can’t wear that position out.”
The man who is likely to draw a big chunk of attention this camp is the man the line will be protecting — quarterback Chad Voytik.
Despite being a heavy favorite to win the job, Voytik has yet to be officially deemed the starter. According to Chryst, Voytik still is in a competition with redshirt junior Trey Anderson.
The Panthers were in a similar situation a year ago, when Tom Savage was widely expected to be the starter but wasn’t officially named until Aug. 14. Chryst said Monday that he doesn’t have any specific time in mind for naming a starting quarterback.
“I’m not really worried right now,” Chryst said. “Right now it’s about installation and each guy getting into a rhythm. I think it’s unfair to put that on guys right now, honestly. … We’ll have [a starter] before Delaware, obviously, but not under any timeline.”
•NOTE — Pitt freshman linebacker Jamal Davis was not at practice, and Chryst said his eligibility is undergoing final approval from the NCAA Clearinghouse. He didn’t know when Davis would report, but was “hoping sooner than later.”