Pitt notebook: Render proving to be Donald-esque on defense
For anyone who misses the big plays Aaron Donald brought to the Pitt defense last season, junior defensive tackle Darryl Render stepped up Saturday and all but shouted, “Don't forget about me.”
Pitt practiced for nearly 21⁄2 hours, with most of the time spent in a tackle-to-the-ground scrimmage that included officials blowing whistles and throwing flags.
The run defense dominated the Pitt ground game, and Render was in the middle of much of the action.
He batted down a pass and later intercepted a shovel flip that thanks to Donald-like quickness off the snap and the proper read of the play.
“I was where I was supposed to be,” Render said, “and it popped right there, and I said, ‘There it is.' ”
Although it was only a scrimmage against a Pitt offense that has yet to find its legs, Render liked the results.
“We played good run defense,” he said. “That's what we take pride in because, I guess, people are really sleeping on us because Aaron Donald is (gone).”
Coach Paul Chryst noticed, but he also didn't like some of what he saw of the offense, including snap-count problems and procedure penalties.
“You see some of the details offensively why we are struggling,” he said. “You have to clean that up, but the bottom line was I thought the defense did a nice job, especially early in the scrimmage versus the run.”
Asked about quarterback Chad Voytik, Chryst said, “I thought he did some things that were all right, and he had a couple he'd want back.”
Time off for Boyd
Receiver Tyler Boyd did not work in the 11-on-11 tackling portion of the day, the second time this camp Chryst gave him at least part of the day off. The idea is to keep Pitt's top offensive weapon fresh for a long season.
Boyd made an outstanding catch between cornerback Ryan Lewis and safety Jevonte Pitts in drills before the scrimmage. Freshman receiver Adonis Jennings (groin) was limited.
Conner keeps busy
Running back James Conner worked on both sides of the football, even changing into the white defensive jersey for the first time when he lined up at defensive end.
The shuffle in the defensive backfield continued, with former Shady Side Academy quarterback Reggie Mitchell sharing a cornerback spot on the first team with freshman Avonte Maddox.
Mitchell is playing safety, cornerback and nickel — and doing it well — and Maddox is showing coaches he is more than just a young player with speed.
Meanwhile, Trenton Coles, who is dealing with an ankle injury, played on the second team.
Secondary coach Troy Douglas said Mitchell has been impressive and has proven to be a quick learner.
“He's a smart kid,” Douglas said. “He is probably the best in and out of breaks of any of the defensive backs we have.”
Maddox, despite being 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, showed a willingness to get physical, twice bringing down the 250-pound Conner in the open field.
“That's what you want to see,” Douglas said.
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
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