Pitt football notebook: Lessons learned, 2 players vie for spots

Jerry DiPaola
| Sunday, March 16, 2014, 9:21 p.m.

Pitt rising juniors K.K. Mosley-Smith and Ronald Jones returned to the team Sunday night and will compete for two vital openings this season.

They were suspended from games last year for violating team rules, but Mosley-Smith is a candidate to start at one of two defensive tackle spots vacated by Aaron Donald and Ty Ezell.

Jones could become a regular slot receiver and help take defensive pressure off wide receiver Tyler Boyd.

“It was tough on me, but it was an experience” said Mosley-Smith, a Woodland Hills graduate. “I never took a step back.”

He said he was counseled by several family members and Donald, whom he called “a good leader, a good role model and a good person.”

“One person who talked to me and kept me going was Aaron Donald,” Mosley-Smith said. “He kept telling me how bright my future is and to keep doing what I have to do.”

Jones, who drew praise from coach Paul Chryst for his diligence at practice, said former Pitt assistant Bobby Engram pulled him aside and told him to treat practice like a game.

But he said sitting in the locker room while his teammates dressed for the first game was difficult.

Conner weighs in at 248

Running back James Conner is listed at 230 pounds, but he said he checked in at 248 — the same weight at which he played the 2013 season. He said he wants to play this season at 240. He said he is on target to reach two of his offseason goals.

“Coach said I was doing a great job with ball security and footwork,” Conner said.

On the matter of playing defensive end — something he did in last season's bowl game — Conner said he's OK with that.

“If they ask me to do it, I will definitely do it,” he said.

But he has changed his number from 40 to 24 in honor of one of his favorite players, Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch.

“He refused to go down, so that's what I'm going to try to do this year,” he said.

On the sideline

The past and the future of Pitt football were on the sideline watching the first day of spring drills.

Former quarterback Tom Savage took a break from his draft preparations to watch practice with his brother, Bryan. He said he has had eight private workouts with NFL teams and expects to have several more next month.

Meanwhile, incoming freshmen Alex Bookser, Dennis Briggs, Mike Grimm, Phillipie Motley and Shane Roy were in attendance.

Injury update

Several players will be limited by injuries this spring, including starting offensive left tackle Adam Bisnowaty (back), defensive end Devin Cook (knee), linebacker Zach Poker (shoulder), center Gabe Roberts (shoulder) and wide receiver Kevin Weatherspoon (foot).

Chryst said he erred on the side of caution with Bisnowaty.

“I don't know if I know for sure,” Chryst said of how much work Bisnowaty will get.

“Obviously, we want to get something out of him, but certainly it's still the spring and not at the expense of any type of setback.

“You take it practice by practice and see what he can end up giving us.”

Redshirt freshman Jaryd Jones-Smith will get additional practice time in Bisnowaty's absence.

Two for one

Senior Manasseh Garner will split time between wide receiver and tight end, but he is officially listed as a wide receiver on the roster.

“I'll be able to be physical (like a tight end) and run routes like a receiver,” he said.

He said he has lost 20 pounds and is at 215.

“He has his own skill set,” Chryst said.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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