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Pitt wraps up spring football practice with closeness, competition

| Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 10:36 p.m.

The Pitt football team has holes to fill in the starting lineup, lessons young players still haven't learned and a rebuilt reputation that sits shakily atop a bowl victory against Bowling Green.

Or, as coach Paul Chryst put it: “I see some things going the right way, but you still have to do it.”

Spring practice ended Tuesday with a mixture of toughness and mirth.

Players wore the full complement of pads, and coaches conducted some hard-hitting scrimmage sessions.

There also was a light-hearted game of dodgeball, featuring quarterback Trey Anderson and cornerback Trenton Coles wrestling on the turf for the last ball, and the spectacle of offensive linemen catching punts.

“Seeing the fat guys run around is always fun,” senior safety Ray Vinopal said.

From all accounts offered by players and coaches, the team has developed a closeness that might serve them well later this season.

“This group really enjoys each other,” offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said. “They work, and they like football.

“They truly have bought into what we ask them to do, but they have done a little bit more than that. They are invested in each other. They make sure each other stays on track, help each other make the right choices, push each other and pick each other up.

“That's a great quality of a winning team.”

Their closeness, however, has not dulled their competitive spirit, at least in the case of Coles, who is battling former Clairton teammate Titus Howard for a starting job opposite junior Lafayette Pitts.

“I believe we can both start, me and Titus,” Coles said. “(Lafayette) is there. I'm pushing. I want to play. It's competition, and it's open and I'm going to go get it.”

On the other side of the ball, Chryst said he likes the progress made by quarterbacks Chad Voytik and Anderson, warning them not to slack off this summer and “to work at their craft.”

“(Hard work) is starting to be part of (the team's) identity,” Chryst said. “We are not there yet, but I like that it's going the right way.”

Notes: Chryst said sophomore cornerback Jahmahl Pardner of Rochester, N.Y., has left the team. He started one game last year, and he had attended every practice until Sunday while recovering from a knee injury suffered in 2012. ... Running back Isaac Bennett had shoulder surgery Monday and is expected to recover in time for summer camp.

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

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