Notebook: Wide receiver slot up for grabs
J.D. Brookhart is looking for a few good men — two, to be exact.
The Pitt offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach lost his starting wideouts from last season — Antonio Bryant and R.J. English — to the NFL and is seeking capable replacements.
"Let's see what happens," said Brookhart, who begins his search today, the opening of training camp for the Panthers. "We have some talented guys. They just need to prove they can play when it counts."
Pitt coach Walt Harris singled out senior Lamar Slade, who has shown flashes of brilliance over a career that's seen him catch 45 passes for 434 yards with three touchdowns. Slade is the younger brother of NFL linebacker Chris Slade.
"He's gong to have a tremendous year for us," Harris said. "He's got excellent hands and is really a well-skilled athlete. He's not a burner, but I think he's starting to enjoy the high pass. He can really leap. Lamar's going to do a good job at one of our positions."
The player who could be lining up opposite Slade is freshman Larry Fitzgerald, a 6-foot-3, 213-pounder who brings an impressive resume. Fitzgerald, who attended Valley Forge Military Academy the past year-and-a-half to improve on his grades, was considered among the top wideouts in the nation two years ago, after catching a combined 127 passes for 2,600 yards with 29 touchdowns in his final two years at Academy of the Holy Angels High School in Minneapolis.
"I don't want to make any predictions, but I think I have a chance," Fitzgerald said.
Said Brookhart: "We've played freshman and first-year guys before. So, if the new guys are dong the job, they'll get a chance."
Others in the mix are Roosevelt Bynes, converted running back Marcus Furman, Billy Gaines and Yogi Roth.
Junior college transfer Princell Brockenbrough is out indefinitely due to lingering affects from anterior cruciate ligament surgery. Brockenbrough played all of last season at City College of San Francisco with a torn ACL but still caught 35 passes for 534 yards with 11 touchdowns. He caught 65 passes for 1,055 yards with 20 touchdowns in two seasons, earning recognition as the top junior college wideout in the nation by JCFootball.com.
He had ACL surgery at the end of last season and has been going through rehabilitation. The timetable for his recovery is unknown, though Brookhart said it could be anywhere from three to 10 weeks.
Aside from Brockenbrough, Harris mentioned just three other players who are hampered by injuries. They are defensive lineman Darrell McMurray (back), free safety Gary Urschler (ACL) and free safety Corey Humphries (ACL).
Harris said McMurray's status is unknown, and he gave an update on Urschler and Humphries.
"Corey should be ready sometime early in the season," Harris said. "We're not sure about Gary. His surgery was more serious and his progress hasn't been as fast."
TAKING IT IN STRIDE
Freshman Tyler Palko, the ballyhooed quarterback from West Allegheny who is expected to vie for the starting quarterback job, is taking a wait-and-see approach heading into camp.
"I've never even taken a college snap, so how can I know what's going to happen?" Palko said. "I feel like I know the offense pretty well, but can I execute with all these great athletes coming at me• I don't know."
Pitt adopted a new policy this year in which freshmen and first-year players are off limits to the media until they play in a game. Yesterday's media session marked the one and only time that freshmen and newcomers would be available to the media during camp. A big reason for that is Palko, who would have drawn constant requests throughout the upcoming weeks. Senior offensive guard Bryan Anderson made the "Watch List" for the Outland Trophy. The Panthers will hold two scrimmages (Aug. 17 and Aug. 21) and play one mock game (Aug. 24) during training camp. All are closed to the public.