Pitt football notebook: Aaron Mathews out for 'personal obligations'
Pitt sophomore wide receiver Aaron Mathews will be absent from practice until the end of next week while he takes care of "personal obligations," coach Pat Narduzzi said.
Narduzzi did not label Mathews' situation a punishment. But if the sophomore from Clairton misses the first two weeks of practice, he will fall behind others competing for playing time. Mathews recorded six receptions last season as a freshman.
Pitt is seeking depth at wide receiver behind starters Jester Weah and Quadree Henderson. There is an opening for the third spot, with sophomore Tre Tipton lost for the season after injuring his knee in a bicycle accident.
Freshman Dontavius Butler-Jenkins already has made an impact with his coaches.
"He's a natural football player," offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. "He has those football instincts that you just don't teach."
Watson was impressed by Butler-Jenkins' awareness during a recent drill when the quarterback was flushed from the pocket and the 18-year-old wide receiver came back to help.
"He did it like a pro," Watson said. "Instinctually, he has the 'it' factor.
"He's played with a lot of really good football players against a lot of really good football players (at Florida powerhouse American Heritage School), which made him who he is: a highly competitive person. He's been a pleasant surprise for all of us."
Future in coaching?
Watson said Tipton has made his presence felt in the meeting room, helping teach some of the younger players.
"He's like an assistant wide receivers coach," Watson said. "He's not easy on people. He's got a future in coaching."
Whitehead in pads
Safety Jordan Whitehead was dressed in shoulder pads and working out with his teammates Thursday after sitting out most of the first two days of training camp.
Narduzzi said earlier this week that Whitehead, suspended for the first three games, will be "in and out" this month.
The team practiced in shoulder pads for the first time Thursday.
Herndon moves to offense
Narduzzi said junior Mike Herndon, who recorded a sack as a defensive tackle last season, began this season on the offensive line. He has lined up at right guard, a position that will be vacated in the opener while Alex Bookser serves his one-game suspension.
"I think (Herndon) can (make) an impact on both sides," Narduzzi said.
Narduzzi tweeted a photo of Texas transfer offensive lineman Brandon Hodges working with assistant John Peterson.
Without naming Hodges, Narduzzi alluded to a new lineman joining the team. Hodges only had been watching practice through the first two days.
"We hope to have an addition here soon," he said.
Hodges could provide depth at guard and tackle while competing for a starting job.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.