Pitt Football: Spring outing with fan appeal
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Pitt's spring game is Saturday at Heinz Field, but organizers are providing much more than an opportunity for fans to catch an early look at the 2009 Panthers.
That's why the event is being called the "Pitt Spring Football Festival" -- as opposed to just the Blue-Gold game -- with attractions designed to appeal to families and even casual fans being scheduled before the game, which kicks off at 2 p.m.
• What: Traditional intrasquad scrimmage to end spring drills.
• When: 2 p.m. Saturday.
• Where: Heinz Field.
• TV: WPCW.
Perhaps the most intriguing attraction is the coaches' chalk talks, which will be an opportunity for the fans to listen to a series of 20-minute lectures (complete with a Q&A session) given by head coach Dave Wannstedt, offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti and defensive coordinator Phil Bennett.
Fans will have a chance to interact with coaches and learn about some tactical decisions and why they are made, the recruiting process and a typical practice schedule, as well as some other aspects pertaining to the Panthers or college football in general.
Wannstedt said he is looking forward to the event because he thinks it is a good way to get fans more engaged with the program.
"We just decided we needed to change some things up," he said. "I'll talk a little bit about recruiting and the process and the program over all and then we will have Phil Bennett talk about defense and obviously Frank Cignetti, the offense.
"Then it will be open to questions, and that will probably be as much fun for the fans as anything because they'll get a chance to ask questions about what takes place during practice, game day or halftime or whatever they want to know."
Of course, one reporter said that odds are very good that the first question will have something to do with quarterbacks, to which Wannstedt quipped, "I'll defer that one to Frank. That's why he's talking."
Besides the coaches' talks, which will begin at 12:30 in the East Club, an autograph session with some of Pitt's NFL players will be held. Confirmed players are Darrelle Revis (New York Jets), H.B. Blades (Washington Redskins), Clint Session (Indianapolis Colts), Jeff Otah (Carolina Panthers) and Scott McKillop (soon to be drafted).
Another activity will be an on-field clinic for youngsters that will be run by Pitt's current players. Participants will go through seven different stations, engage in drills and interact with Pitt's players.
"We think our players are good kids, and anytime we can get them involved with the public, it is a good thing," said Chris LaSala, Pitt's director of football operations. "It is a good opportunity for the kids and I think it is a good opportunity for our players to realize how much kids look up to them, and our guys will have a lot of fun with it."
Also, live entertainment, games and other activities will take place outside the stadium and on the South Plaza.
Parking for the game is $5 in the Gold lots, but admission to the game is free.
Spectators will be able to make donations to the Fallen Heroes Fund, benefiting the families of the three police officers who were killed Saturday, at Gate A before and after the game.
NOTES -- Wannstedt suspended senior defensive back Aaron Berry, senior defensive tackle Tommie Duhart and sophomore offensive lineman Wayne Jones for the balance of spring drills due to various violations of team policy. ... Sophomore Antwuan Reed has more than made a case to be the starter at cornerback opposite Berry in the fall with the way he has played this spring. Yesterday, Reed had another excellent performance.
First Published April 8, 2009 12:00 am