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Pitt football notebook: Bennett to undergo shoulder surgery

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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt running back Isaac Bennett swings out for a pass during practice Thursday, March 20, 2014 on the South Side.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Friday, April 11, 2014, 6:57 p.m.
 

Pitt running back Isaac Bennett's sprained left shoulder is worse than the original diagnosis, and he will have surgery next week, coach Paul Chryst said.

Chryst said Bennett, who was hurt April 4 at practice, will miss most of the team's offseason conditioning program. Chryst hopes Bennett will be ready for training camp when it begins in August.

“I'm not going to bet against him on this one,” Chryst said. “I think he'll attack (his rehabilitation). I believe that.”

Bennett and sophomore running back James Conner (knee) were injured on the same day, but Conner, who has been walking with a knee brace while attending every practice, is expected to recover in time for conditioning work prior to camp.

Together, Bennett and Conner ran for 1,596 yards and 15 touchdown last season.

Good spring for Howard

Secondary coach Troy Douglas offered high praise for rising sophomore Titus Howard.

“He has probably been the best cornerback we've had, in my opinion, this spring,” Douglas said. “He'll tackle. He's a very coachable young man.”

Douglas said his group has been improving but not as much as he would like.

“We have to do a little bit better job of (playing) man and (wide receiver) splits and playing with a higher football IQ.

“We have to play smarter. We have to be able to read the body language of the receivers. They're coming, but they still have a long way to go.”

Douglas said he keeps his anger under control at practice because there are so many people on the sideline.

“When I'm in the film room, I'm not so nice,” he said.

He also would like to see rising junior cornerback Lafayette Pitts “cut it loose.”

“We just have to get him to play full-tilt every play. He has so much talent. He can be a really good player, but you have to keep on him about go, go, go, play, play, play. If you relax (in the secondary), (the other school's band) is playing the fight song.”

Sky high

Redshirt freshman punter Ryan Winslow lost a ball in the rafters of the indoor practice facility when one of his better boots of the spring never came down.

“I've never seen that before,” he said.

Winslow said he has been hitting the roof consistently, but he achieved his best hang time (4.7 seconds) Thursday when the team practiced outside.

Boyd belted

Pitt practiced without leg pads Friday — only shoulder pads and helmets — but there was still a few big hits. The best was safety Ray Vinopal knocking down wide receiver Tyler Boyd at the goal line. Boyd was stunned for a few seconds, but he didn't miss a snap.

Former Pitt running back Kevan Barlow and former wide receivers coach Bobby Engram visited practice.

Field Pass

More than 2,000 people have registered for Pitt's first Field Pass event scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday. The offensive, defensive and recruiting coordinators will conduct discussion sessions on their specialities, and players will direct an on-field clinic on football fundamentals for those in eighth grade and younger.

Prior to the activities, Pitt will hold its penultimate practice of the spring. It will be closed to the public. Camp closes Tuesday afternoon.

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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