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Pitt football notebook: Tight ends neglected in passing game

| Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, 5:58 p.m.

• Pitt has drifted away from using tight ends as pass catchers, with senior Hubie Graham, redshirt sophomore Drew Carswell and freshman J.P. Holtz combining for a total of only 13 catches for 145 yards. Carswell scored the only touchdown Sept. 6 at Cincinnati. Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said it has more to do with tight ends helping in pass protection than a lack of confidence in their receiving skills. “I don't think it's anything you're going out of your way to do or feel like guys are limited ability-wise,” he said. “I just think you are trying to do what you are good at right now.”

• Graham said several people have commented that Holtz reminds them of a young Graham. “I feel like that is a compliment,” Graham said, “because J.P. is a tough kid.”

• Safety Jason Hendricks has turf toe and is walking with his right foot in a boot, but he said he will play Saturday.

• Since he rushed for 157 yards against Virginia Tech on Sept. 15, Rushel Shell has scored three touchdowns in four games, but he has gained more than 41 yards only once in that time. He continues to work on his pass blocking. “It's coming,” Rudolph said. “He's working at it. That will come with time. There are a couple things we have to clean up.”

• Senior kicker Kevin Harper has missed five field-goal attempts this season, four at Heinz Field. But he's looking forward to the final two home games of his career — Saturday against Temple and Nov. 24 against Rutgers. “It's a great challenge. The turf can get beat up,” he said. “If I show people I can do it there, I can do it anywhere.” Harper, who has graduated and will finish his MBA next summer, hopes to get a shot at the NFL. “If not, go into the real world,” he said. He also will consider the medical sales and investment banking fields.

— Jerry DiPaola

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