Pitt notebook: Shell misses another practice, 2 RBs hurt
The fragile Pitt running back situation took another unfortunate turn Friday.
With troubled sophomore Rushel Shell missing his third consecutive practice while pondering a transfer, backups Malcolm Crockett and Demitrious Davis suffered leg and ankle injuries and sat out most of the session.
That left the ground game in the scrimmage to one scholarship back — junior Isaac Bennett, who continues to run hard and show some cutting ability — and senior walk-on Desmond Brown.
Brown, the brother of Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, said he appreciated the workload, especially when Chryst matched the No. 1 defense against the No. 2 offense.
Actually, he would have accepted more, he said.
“I was up for the challenge,” Brown said. “I don't know why he stopped (practice) so soon.”
“Guys like that,” coach Paul Chryst said, “especially in a scrimmage where there are winners and losers.”
Linebackers Todd Thomas and Nicholas Grigsby and safety Eric Williams recorded the biggest — and loudest — hits of the day.
Thomas, who surfaced unblocked in the backfield on several occasions, said it was either hit or be hit when he leveled Bennett.
“Isaac is a big boy,” Thomas said of the 5-foot-11, 205-pound running back. “My theory was I have to get to him before he gets to me. He runs hard.”
Brown laughed when asked about the hit by Grigsby.
“He got me that time,” he said. “He got under my pads. I didn't see any stars. I was a little winded. That was about it.”
Scoring points with coach
There was no word on the extent of the injuries to Crockett and Davis. Chryst said Crockett initially hurt his leg Thursday but didn't miss any snaps.
“The leg was bothering him, but he tried to go,” Chryst said. “You appreciate that.”
Chryst kept practice lively, stopping once to bring players together in a massive huddle to lecture them.
He also became visibly upset and yelled “selfish” when tight end J.P. Holtz and defensive end Shakir Soto tangled after a whistle, making the players aware that such actions usually turn into penalties.
Long way to go
Chryst admitted that practices are becoming more physical as players get accustomed to their roles and the playbook.
With six sessions remaining, however, he said, “You can just see where we're clearly not where we have to be.”
Thomas said Chryst is increasing the tempo of practices this year.
“We are in the ACC now,” he said. “We have to throw it all in. It's definitely getting harder. I like how he is turning things around.”
When Chryst was asked if Shell might return to practice before the end of spring drills April 12, he declined comment. ... Among the visitors to practice were Pitt basketball coach Jamie Dixon and Belle Vernon 5-star offensive lineman Dorian Johnson, who will enroll this summer. ... Quarterback Tom Savage was the first to work with the starters, but he and Chad Voytik received equal opportunities. Savage hit Devin Street with a 65-yard touchdown, and Voytik found tight end Manasseh Garner uncovered on the sideline. Garner's momentum, however, carried him out of bounds.