Ball security plaguing Pitt offense in practice
Friday, August 12, 2011

The Pitt offense committed at least seven turnovers four interceptions and three fumbles during Thursday's practice. The miscues could have reached double figures, but three near-certain interceptions were dropped.

Coach Todd Graham, installing a new fast-paced offense, praised the defense for being opportunistic but said the Tino Sunseri-led offense needs better ball security.

"We turned the ball over way too much," Graham said.

Sunseri, Mark Myers (twice) and Trey Anderson were intercepted. Running backs Ray Graham, Malcolm Crockett and Desmond Brown lost fumbles in a shoulder-pads-and-shorts practice. There also were at least three bad shotgun snaps when the ball hit the ground.

"I feel really good about the defense," Todd Graham said, "but I don't feel good about putting the ball in jeopardy."

Sunseri was intercepted by safety Jason Hendricks. Graham said it was Sunseri's first interception in about 200 pass attempts through four days of practice.

Sophomore Shane Gordon appears to have unseated fifth-year senior Tristan Roberts as the first-team Sam linebacker. Gordon, a 6-foot-1, 230-pounder from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., took every snap with the first unit Thursday; Roberts, who started eight games last year, worked solely with the second unit. Gordon had the biggest hit of the day when he broke into the backfield and smeared Ray Graham on a play-action pass.

"Shane has got tremendous ability, power and strength," Todd Graham said. "He is very much in the mix."

Junior kicker Kevin Harper went 3 for 3 on field-goal attempts, including a 57-yarder and a 49-yarder. Harper, one of the top kickers in the nation coming out of Mentor (Ohio) High School, has attempted only one field goal at Pitt a missed 51-yarder against Syracuse in 2009. Playing behind all-Big East performer Dan Hutchins, he was the team's kickoff specialist last season.

"Harper had an incredible day," Graham said. "He really believes he can be the best in the country."

Todd Thomas, a redshirt freshman, continues to make plays at outside linebacker after switching from receiver. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound former Beaver Falls star forced and recovered a fumble with the second unit.