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Pitt football notebook: Young Panthers have 'up-and-down' practice

| Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, 7:12 p.m.

Pitt has only 11 seniors on its 105-man training camp roster, but coach Paul Chryst said that is no excuse for what he watched Wednesday.

“I thought we had an up-and-down practice,” Chryst said. “I would like to see us be a little sharper, a little more focused. I have to do a better job of getting them focused.”

Chryst did not question his players' effort.

“I don't think it was guys not trying,” he said. “We had enough of them (players) flying around. But we didn't have everyone.”

A total of 53 players — slightly more than half — are first- or second-year players. That's a product of Chryst remaking the roster in his third season, but young players sometimes perform inconsistently.

“We are who we are, and we are embracing it, love it.” Chryst said. “Youth can't be the excuse.”

Chryst especially was disappointed because Wednesday was the first day the team wore shoulder pads. He was animated while addressing the group after practice, but he did not reveal what he said.

Drills were indoors for the first time this week because of wet grounds.

• Senior running back Isaac Bennett will be limited in practice while he recovers from April shoulder surgery. Chryst said Bennett is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation, but there is no need to fast-track him back into the lineup. “He does have a good focus on what is going on,” Chryst said. “He wouldn't need as many reps as some of the other guys.” Bennett rushed for career highs in yards (797) and touchdowns (seven) last season. Meanwhile, sophomores James Conner and Rachid Ibrahim and freshmen Chris James, Qadree Ollison and Dennis Briggs are getting important work at running back.

• Conner is listed at 250 pounds, but he said he's not sure at what weight he will play this season. “I like food, so we'll see what happens,” he said. “I try to maintain a weight and be comfortable at it.”

Terrish Webb was back with the first team at strong safety while he competes with Reggie Mitchell for the starting job. Mitchell was on the first team Tuesday, but he insisted it's a friendly competition. “We are learning we can depend on each other,” he said. “Terrish is my boy. I don't want to say it's a battle.” The player who is not chosen to start at strong safety likely will be the nickel back.

• Players will wear helmets and shoulder pads Thursday before donning full gear Friday.

— Jerry DiPaola

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