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Ground game carries load for Pitt

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Pitt's passing attack started to make progress Saturday during the 10th practice of the spring, but wherever the offense goes this season, the ground game will take it there.

Runners and blockers made the most significant impressions yesterday during the second scrimmage of the year, led by rising sophomore tailback Isaac Bennett and five offensive linemen who have been together every day since drills began March 15.

Bennett, who was the team's best running back at the end of last season, had several long runs. On the most impressive, he burst through a nice hole, kicked away from safety Ray Vinopal, whose tackle attempts usually don't miss, and accelerated into the end zone.

"We are starting to understand up front how to really run the football downhill," quarterback Tino Sunseri said. "It's a different thing coming from last year, being a straight zone scheme and always reaching (to make the handoff)."

This year's offense under coach Paul Chryst allows for quicker, smoother handoffs, giving the back a chance to hit the hole quicker and time to choose an alternative.

"The first drive, we ran the same play seven times in a row," fullback Mark Giubilato said. "If it's going to keep working, we might as well keep doing it."

Bennett's new home

It's too early for declarations, but Bennett may be the best player on offense.

He is bigger and stronger than a year ago - and unafraid of when Ray Graham returns from a knee injury and high school All-American running back Rushel Shell arrives on campus.

"I'm looking forward to playing beside everybody," he said. "It's not competition, but I say teamwork. Everybody will fit in somewhere."

The ever-smiling son of a Tulsa, Okla., preacher, Bennett was unfazed when the team was abandoned by former coach Todd Graham, who was the only BCS coach to offer him a scholarship.

"I didn't really come here for him," he said. "But best of luck to coach Graham."

Passing game update

Sunseri had his best day of the spring after Chryst reminded him in no uncertain terms not to hold onto the ball too long in the pocket.

Sunseri hit Brandon Ifill and Cam Saddler for touchdown passes. He also recognized he missed some open receivers.

"I have to put more air underneath the ball and stop trying to throw it so flat," he said. "On my deep ball, obviously, I am overthrowing by a little bit, but I'm not giving them time to adjust. I finished on a touchdown to Cam. I was able to make that adjustment."

Chryst's observations

Penalties and overthrown passes bothered Chryst.

"There were good stuff and some great examples of you can't shoot yourself in the foot before the play even starts," he said. "It's good if we learn from it, and, if not, we will keep going until we do learn from it."


Backup middle linebacker Ejuan Price, who has an unspecified injury, didn't practice. Chryst said he was unsure whether Price would be available Tuesday when drills resume. ... Pitt served as host to about 90 juniors and their families, plus the fathers of many current players.




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