Pitt coaches eying Offensive line, secondary
Sunday, April 11, 2010

[IMGR]http://i42.tinypic.com/2sajd3m.jpg[/IMGR]At times, Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt appeared pleased with his team's effort during Saturday's two-hour scrimmage.

He was overjoyed by the progress made by several promising prospects, including receiver Greg Cross and tailback Chris Burns. Finally, after switching positions, both are seemingly ready to make significant contributions.

Burns, with All-Big East tailback Dion Lewis limited to three rushing attempts, totaled 89 yards on 17 carries. Cross, who began his career at quarterback, tossed a 65-yard scoring passing to Jonathan Baldwin on a flanker reverse.

"Overall, it was pretty clean scrimmage," Wannstedt said. "We got better today as a team from where we were a week ago."

However, Wannstedt admits there are some kinks to be ironed out, as the Panthers will spend the final week of practice preparing for next Saturday's spring game, which will be at Heinz Field.

As expected, Wannstedt and offensive line coach Tony Wise are trying to figure out a puzzling situation on an inexperienced offensive line. The book ends, tackles Jason Pinkston and Lucas Nix, are still trying to jell with three new starters.

"We're still working through some things," Wannstedt said of the offensive line. "Right now, it's two good plays and one bad play. The consistency with our offensive line is not where it ought to be right now. We have more experience on defense, so it's going to be a work in progress.

"It's not going to get solved today. It's not going to get solve the first day of training camp."

Clearly, the Panthers aren't going to resolve much with their secondary until fall practice begins, considering injuries have sidelined three safeties Andrew Taglianetti, Dom DeCicco and Jason Hendricks.

While Wannstedt and defensive back coach Jeff Hafley are confident the secondary will ready to go when Pitt travels to Utah for its season opener Sept. 2, defensive coordinator Phil Bennett is feeling somewhat uneasy, particularly with how the absence of DeCicco and Taglianetti will affect the entire defense.

"You can never be comfortable when you're missing that many people," Bennett said, "but I think our situation will strengthen our depth in the secondary."

Despite the unsettling secondary situation, Wannstedt gave the defense high marks for its performance yesterday.

"Defensively, we played with a lot more energy, particularly up front, than we did a week ago," Wannstedt said. "... The front seven guys showed up and played like we need them to do for us to play good defense."

Wannstedt was particularly thrilled with the efforts of defensive tackle Myles Caragein and defensive end Greg Romeus. Caragein has been tasked with plugging the middle of the defensive line, which a year ago was anchored by Big-East Co-Defensive Player of the Year Mick Williams and Gus Mustakas.

"We gave up a couple of plays on the back end, but it was lack of communication," Wannstedt said. "The offense had some new formations. So, it wasn't physical plays, just some mental adjustments."

Burns and Cross have played well for much of this spring, working themselves into rotation along with running back Jason Douglas.

"Cross has worked himself in a position where we have to get him the ball," Wannstedt said.

[HIGH-LIGHT]Notes:[/HIGH-LIGHT] Tailback Ray Graham and fullback Henry Hynoski were held out as they nurse minor injuries. ... Quarterback Pat Bostick completed 6 of 16 passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns. ... Baldwin had three receptions for 103 yards and two touchdowns, and Devin Street had three catches for 83 yards and two scores.