Pitt football notebook: Panthers center sharpens his skills
When Pitt junior center Artie Rowell watches video of a game or practice, he can see what he did wrong by stopping the tape with a simple flick of the wrist.
It's not that easy on the field, with defensive linemen in his face and running backs coming up behind him.
But after starting all 13 games and making most of the blocking calls last season, Rowell is going through his first spring as the recognized starter at center. And the game is coming into sharper focus.
“The field is starting to look as clear as it is on tape,” he said. “When that happens, you are able to make some calls.”
Pitt coach Paul Chryst said the spring after a player's first significant stretch of playing time is among the most crucial days of his career.
“All the coaching points are real,” Chryst said. “You have a frame of reference. He has to draw on that.”
Rowell said working with coaching assistant Ryan Turnley, his immediate predecessor at the position, has been a big help, too.
Four-fifths of the line has been together for all seven spring practices. Offensive left tackle Adam Bisnowaty has yet to practice as coaches treat his back injury with care.
While quarterback Chad Voytik goes through his first spring as the presumed starter, sharing snaps equally with Trey Anderson, he is working on cleaning up mechanics in his throwing motion.
“My stride length is a little long,” he said.
He said Chryst noticed it, but Voytik said he has been aware of it since high school.
If Voytik's accuracy suffers in practice while making the changes, he isn't worried.
“There are a lot of days before the first game,” he said.
Chryst said perfecting the details can make a difference.
“You have to teach what to do,” he said. “But how-to is important. That's where you gain an edge.”
Almost 100 former Pitt players visited practice Friday, and Chryst had each of them introduce themselves to the players at the end of the day.
“I want our guys to feel (the tradition),” he said. “I want our players to know they have a responsibility.”
Said sophomore defensive end Shakir Soto: “It was great seeing all the old guys here. You realize what 20 years does to you.”
Chryst conducted the most physical practice of the spring, with the greatest amount of live drills and officials calling penalties.
“It was good to be able to tackle,” he said.
A few highlights: Redshirt freshman wide receiver Zach Challingsworth finding open spaces in the secondary at least twice; running back James Conner shedding three would-be tacklers as he surged into the corner of the end zone; and cornerback Trenton Coles stepping in front of a Voytik pass for an interception.
Pitt All-American defensive tackle Aaron Donald makes it easy for line coach Inoke Breckterfield to use him as an example. Donald attends many practices and joins the meetings and offers advice when he's not preparing for the NFL Draft.
“It's not like he left,” Breckterfield said.
Quarterback Tom Savage also attends many practices before he will visit several NFL teams next month.
Chryst canceled practice Monday and will replace it with the 15th and final session of the spring April 15. The next practice will be Tuesday.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Defensive woes resurface for Pitt men’s basketball team
- At Pitt, a chance to make early impression under Narduzzi
- Pitt women end regular season with win over Clemson
- Improved play against zone keys Pitt’s turnaround
- Against Wake Forest, Pitt looks to reverse fortunes on road
- Role change suiting Pitt’s Jones just fine
- Pitt’s NCAA Tournament hopes take a hit with loss to Wake Forest
- Pitt’s rise coincides with improvement by sophomore forward Artis
- Pitt’s weakness ‘pretty obvious’ to all
- Clairton’s Titus Howard dismissed from Pitt football team