Panthers develop left tackle as training camp opens
From left, Pitt offensive linebackers Chris Jacobson, Adam Bisnowaty and Cory King drill Monday during the media day practice at the UPMC South Side facility.
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The Pitt Panthers opened training camp this afternoon and while all eyes were on first-year coach Paul Chryst, the most important development is at left tackle, where redshirt junior Cory King is, at least for now, the starter.
King was a reserve guard until Friday when starting left tackle Juantez Hollins was suspended for the season.
But he has since moved to tackle and will begin training camp as the starter, an opportunity he is excited to have.
"Right now I have to focus on myself because not only is it a new position, it is a big position," King said after practice. "I have to do the best I can to make improvements every day, just pick one thing out every day to improve on. But this is a really big opportunity for me and I hope to take advantage of it.
"It is a little different playing tackle. But even today, it all started coming back to me. There is a lot of pressure on me obviously, but I think that is the best way for me to get better, to have that sense of urgency and do the best I can do."
Chryst said that King, because he does have some game experience, was the best option at left tackle at this point because the Panthers have so few offensive linemen with experience. He said the Panthers' depth at offensive line, especially at tackle, will be challenged this year but he believes that some of the younger linemen will be ready to step up.
"We are very thin there," Chryst said. "Cory King has to step up and embrace that role. And, a big part of it, can the guys inside get it done so we don't have to move guys around there so we have to stay strong in the areas we should be. But Matt also has to continue to work and get into shape and be accountable.
"I think that will be one of the stories through camp."
Beyond the line, training camp also offered the first chance for tailback Ray Graham to practice since last October when he tore his ACL in a game against Connecticut. Graham sat out the spring and has rehabilitated his knee for the past ten months but he said he still has a ways to go before he is ready to play at full speed and with full contact.
"I felt good. As the days go on, I'm going to get better and better. I felt stronger than I thought I would be. This is just the first day so I have to be smart and I want to participate every day. As of now, I plan on playing September 1 against YSU."
One other position change of note -- Tyrone Ezell (Steel Valley) moved from defensive tackle to defensive end. "I think that he is a talented player," Chryst said. "He's got to get comfortable with what we are asking him to do so that he can turn it loose. He's big enough and athletic enough, and it'll be fun to see in camp how he progresses and if that's truly a good fit for him." ... Shane Gordon will begin as the starting middle linebacker, flanked by Eric Williams and Nicholas Grigsby. Todd Thomas and Ejuan Price -- both sat out spring with injury -- will begin camp as the second-team outside linebackers. ... Pitt announced the addition of seven freshman walk-ons: defensive back Ethan Brown (Royersford, PA/The Haverford School), offensive lineman John Guy (Somerville, MA/New Hampton School), placekicker Brad Lukasak (Orwigsburg, PA/Blue Mountain), long snapper Pat Quirin (Pittsburgh, PA/Pittsburgh Central Catholic), fullback Anthony Rippole (McKees Rocks, PA/Montour) and wide receiver Chris Wuestner (Carlisle, PA/Carlisle). Also, junior quarterback Tom Savage (Springfield, PA/Cardinal O'Hara) is a walk-on transfer from Arizona, though he is ineligible due to transfer rules. Savage threw for more than 2,700 yards with 16 TDs at Rutgers from 2009-10.
First Published August 6, 2012 8:44 pm