Pitt trio from Woodland Hills making impact
After one week of training camp, four true freshmen have earned full-time reps on the Pitt football team's second unit.
Three of them have much in common.
Defensive end Khaynin Mosley-Smith, outside linebacker Juan Price and cornerback Lafayette Pitts, teammates at Woodland Hills, are early standouts for first-year coach Todd Graham.
"I see all three of those guys contributing and playing this year," said Graham, whose team opens Sept. 3 against visiting Buffalo. "I'm very pleased to have them. I will take all of them I can get."
The other true freshman getting exclusive work with the second team — offense or defense — is inside linebacker LaQuentin Smith of Orlando.
Here are the former Wolverines:
›› Mosley-Smith, listed at 6-foot, 295-pounds, is backing up a pair of fifth-year seniors, Chas Alecxih and Justin Hargrove. Mosley-Smith enrolled in January after attending Milford (N.Y.) Academy and participated in spring drills.
›› Price, who originally committed to Ohio State but stayed home after Jim Tressel's resignation, is the second-string Panthers linebacker behind all-Big East candidate Brandon Lindsey.
›› Pitts, rated as the nation's No. 12 cornerback by Scout.com in the Class of 2011, joins senior Antwuan Reed behind starters Buddy Jackson and K'Waun Williams.
"I work hard, so I expected to (play)," Pitts said. "It's very difficult if you don't put the work into it. But if you take your time and learn it in the film room and study, it will come pretty good to you."
Said Price: "I've been working hard. The hard work pays off, so that's what I've been expecting."
Mosley-Smith has dropped about 30-40 pounds since spring ball, giving the Panthers more depth on a talented, strong front in the new 3-4 defense. He is one of the team's strongest players — he broke most of Woodland Hills' power-lift records.
"K.K. has come a million miles," Graham said. "He's explosive. He can be as good as he wants to be."
Price is listed at 6-foot, 235 pounds, but he weighs closer to 250 and cuts an imposing figure for someone who doesn't turn 19 until late January. He is on the first-team goal-line defense, and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson, who coached former Steelers great Jason Gildon in high school and has compared the preseason-lauded Lindsey to the linebacker, said Price could develop into the best pass-rusher he's ever coached.
"Let me tell you, if you're a quarterback, that ball better get out quick," Patterson said. "He is lightning."
Added Graham, "Juan Price is going to be special."
Pitts, who turns 19 next month, could be the best of them all. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder is fast, strong and physical. He returned an interception for a touchdown last week, showing the skills he used to rush for more than 1,700 yards and 28 touchdowns as senior at Woodland Hills.
First-year Pitt strength coach Shawn Griswold called Pitts the best freshman in training he's had in 15 seasons.
"He just keeps getting better," secondary coach Tony Gibson said. "Mentally, he's coming along. Physically, he's there. ... I really like the way he plays. I like his demeanor. He's good in the classroom. He's good out on the field. He takes coaching. He listens."
Pitts, one of 10 brothers and sisters, had a roundabout route to Oakland. He originally vowed to play for the Panthers but changed his verbal commitment to Rutgers to join former Dave Wannstedt assistants Frank Cignetti Jr. and Jeff Hafley. But Pitts stuck with the Panthers and now looks to make an impact as a true freshman.
"When I was at Woodland Hills, we worked hard," Pitts said. "It just carried on."Additional Information:
Three freshmen and Woodland Hills graduates have an opportunity to make an immediate impact with the Pitt football team this season:
Ht./Wt.: 5-foot-11, 180 pounds
Ht./Wt.: 6-0, 235
Position: Defensive end
Ht./Wt.: 6-0, 295