Pitt football notebook: Panthers getting ready for important scrimmage
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said practice was lighter Friday to prepare players for, perhaps, the most important day of training camp. That will be Saturday, when he will conduct the second and final live scrimmage of the summer.
Those players looking to impress coaches get their last, best chance to do so. Next week, Pitt starts getting serious about game-planning for the Virginia game Aug. 31.
“(Saturday) is a big day,” Narduzzi said. “(Saturday) is our last chance to really make that move on the depth chart. There’ll be some moves and solidification of the depth chart after (Saturday).”
Narduzzi said he will be watching quarterback Kenny Pickett for his proficiency running the offense but also for something more practical.
“I’ll be watching the quarterback to make sure he doesn’t get hit,” Narduzzi said. “It’s always intense out there on game day. It always scares the heck out of me.”
But he’ll also be watching every position, no matter who has impressed through 13 days of practice.
“That guy you think you’re good with, he has to show up (Saturday) and play, too,” he said. “You might have a solid 1. But, hey, who’s the 2, 3? Those are all huge battles that happen at every position.”
Among the players who will have especially inquisitive eyes on them is Mychale Salahuddin, a redshirt freshman coming off a knee injury.
Narduzzi said Salahuddin, a highly recruited running back from Washington D.C., has returned to full-contact participation after coaches limited his work early in camp as a precaution.
“He did not go full go in the (first) scrimmage. He was upset about it,” the coach said. “Our main concern is the safety of our football players. I think everybody will look at it and say, ‘They did that guy right.’
“This week, we started to get him hit. We’re taking our time. Even though he’s mad, (he said), ‘Coach, I’m ready.’ It doesn’t matter. I’m not ready. I want to make sure you’re good. He’ll go live (Saturday).”
Redshirt freshman defensive end Habukkuk Baldonado also is coming off an injury and was under the same early precautions as Salahuddin.
“He’s been impressive, as well,” Narduzzi said.
The scrimmage, which is closed to the public, should reveal the starters at linebacker and chief backups at wide receiver.
Saleem Brightwell and Elias Reynolds are battling at middle linebacker. Kylan Johnson and Chase Pine are sharing snaps at the outside (money) position, with Phil Campbell III and Cam Bright at star.
Wide receivers coach Chris Beatty is happy with starters Taysir Mack and Maurice Ffrench.
“They have unlimited potential. They can be as good as any group in the conference,” he said.
But it’s important to note Aaron Mathews (Clairton) and Tre Tipton (Apollo-Ridge) have shown flashes of production.
“They want to be a part of helping us win instead of watching us win,” Beatty said.
Speaking about the entire group, he said, “All those guys have had their moments. Now we have to get them consistent, as opposed to (producing) every other day or every third day.”
Italy not a priority
After Pitt’s basketball team returned from a tour of Italy earlier this week, Narduzzi was asked about a similar trip for his team in the future.
“I’d consider it. I’d love to go to Italy. I’d love to go back to the home country. However, it’s just time,” he said, referencing how it could impact recruiting.
“Talking to people that do that, they don’t get real excited about it. (It’s) more of a grind. Our kids need time off. They need time away from our coaches. If it was that exciting and everybody heard rave reviews about it, everybody else would be doing it. That’s my opinion.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .