Spring Notebook: Safety in the Blitz

Doug Fulmer

PITTSBURGH -- The University of Pittsburgh's final football practice Thursday afternoon at the UPMC Sports Complex ended with a highly-spirited goal-line situation where the offense was more successful than the defense.

The Panthers' blue-clad defensive unit will get another chance to better the offense during the annual Blue-Gold intrasquad scrimmage Saturday afternoon at 1 at Heinz Field. The contest is open to the public for a $5 admission fee. Parking in Gold Lot 1 is for $5 as well.

The game will pit Pitt's offense against its defense with conventional scoring for the offense, as well as a system for the defense. The defense gets one point for a forced fumble, five for a fumble recovered, five for an interception. 12 for an interception or fumble return for a touchdown, one for each tackle for a loss, one for blocking a conversion kick, two for a sack or stopping a two-point play, three for blocking a field goal or a missed field goal, three for stopping a forth-and-one behind the 50 and two for stopping it inside the 50. The offense gets six points for a touchdown, one for the extra point and two for a run or pass for a conversion. It also gets one point for each converted first-and-10, runs for more than 12 yards and pass completions more than 16 yards.

The game can be viewed via video stream on PittsburghPanthers.com free of charge. Also, Fox Sports radio 970 will have a live radio broadcast from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Along with interviews with players and coaches, host Greg Linnelli will provide observations and updates on the event.

Live coverage on the internet begins at noon. Just click the all-access button on the Web site and then click here to view free content. Hit sign-up now button, select a password and sign up. That will allow browsing through free content, but it is not binding in any way.

Fulmer On The Mend

Even though he was on restricted duty, redshirt sophomore DE Doug Fulmer suffered a setback when he injured his right knee early in spring camp. Fulmer broke his left ankle against The Citadel (Game 4) last fall after starting the first three games and needed surgery again to repair the damage to his right knee.

"It's a shame, but because of missing half the year and being a young player, Doug Fulmer is a player who needs reps,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "He needs to play the game, so it's unfortunate that he's missed the entire spring. He'll be slowed up a bit this fall, too, but he'll be back. It's just going to take a lot of time and rehab for him to get there.''

Fulmer will have had some five months to rehabilitate the knee and get ready for the season when the opener with Eastern Michigan arrives Sept. 1.

Other Injury News

Mike McGlynn is recovering nicely from his left shoulder surgery and should be ready to work out again this summer. Wannstedt didn't rule out the fifth-year senior playing somewhere else on the offensive line.

"I think Mike McGlynn is athletic enough and smart enough and experienced enough where he could play any one of the five positions,'' Wannstedt said. "He could play guard, center or tackle.

"So, we'll wait to see what is the best position for him and the team. He played some center in high school, but we'll see where we are before fall camp, put our best five (O-Linemen) together and go from there.''

Fifth-year senior safety Mike Phillips injured his left shoulder Tuesday after a collision with junior FB Conredge Collins. But Wannstedt said the injury wasn't serious, just a pinched nerve in there, so Phillips returned to practice Thursday. He did not compete in the goal-line drills, however.

Sophomore Dorin Dickerson picked up his intensity a bit during 11-on-11 drills and could get more action Saturday at weak-side linebacker. Senior TE Darrell Strong has begun rehabilitating his injured shoulder, while redshirt sophomore center John Bachman still had his right knee heavily wrapped after his injury in last Saturday's scrimmage.

Quarterback Update

Wannstedt noted that junior Bill Stull would start at quarterback ahead of redshirt sophomore Kevan Smith if Pitt played a game this weekend, but that position is hardly close to being settled.

"(This fall), it's going to be a little bit different,'' Wannstedt said. "We'll be a little more veteran on offense, except for quarterback, so we have to adjust things to help out with that. ... We need to find out what they can do well and get the most out of them.

"If we had to play a game now, Billy Stull would get the start because he can run the offense, but we have a long time before we have to play a game. And a lot of things will happen before we play that opener. So, I wouldn't jump too far ahead at this point.''

Wannstedt added that freshman Pat Bostick will jump into the mix this summer, as he will enroll at Pitt for the beginning of the summer session. Bostick will graduate a bit early, Wannstedt noted. Also, RB LeSean McCoy and WR Aundre Wright will leave Milford Academy in New York to enroll early, while DT Tommie Duhart will graduate from Coffeyville Community College in Kansas and do the same.

More Blue-Gold Scrimmage News

Wannstedt isn't naive enough to believe that the Panthers will settle all positions and set their depth chart after Saturday's matchup, but he and the coaching staff do have things to accomplish.

"I'm looking for guys who make plays, and I'm looking for a clean scrimmage,'' Wannstedt said. "By that I mean no penalties or turnovers. And we're always looking for guys who can play the game at full speed.

"That's the way the game is played. ... We're also going to add something to it, a scoring system for the defense. So, it'll be offense versus defense, and we'll keep the scoreboard going, and hopefully it'll be more exciting for our fans and our players.''

Pitt will not cover kickoffs, however, because there just isn't enough depth for that. The only special teams work will be on punts and field goals. Also, one might look for a safety blitz from the defensive coaches. This is something that recently was implemented due to the athleticism at the position with big hitters like Eric Thatcher and Elijah Fields.

"Desperate times make for desperate measures,'' Wannstedt said. "We're looking for a lot of different ways to help our run defense.

"And getting a safety involved with blitzing is one way that we haven't done much. ... But we won't do anything too new this week. Our defensive coaches are going to try to win, so it should be competitive.''

Quick Slants

In two-minute drills, Stull slickly looked off the safety in the end zone and hit wideout Oderick Turner for a touchdown. ... Sophomore Kevin Collier got a lot of reps and made a nice cutback in the open field during a 25-yard touchdown run. ... Smith rolled right, away from the blitz, to connect with wideout Cedric McGee and away from safety Lowell Robinson in the corner of the end zone. ... In the practice-ending goal-line drills, Stull faked a dive play to Collier and then quickly sprinted to the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown. ... Collier scored on an off-tackle blast behind Jeff Otah for a score. ... TE John Pelusi was used in motion out of the backfield on the goal line primarily to kick out a linebacker or DB, but Stull missed him when he was open in the back of the end zone. MLB Scott McKillop was nearby in coverage. ... Shane Brooks lined up at FB and was strung out on first down from the 3 by Dickerson, but he scored on the next two short-yardage plays. ... The session ended with head equipment manager Tim "Ox'' Enright and video coordinator Chad Bogard missing 20-yard FG attempts wide right. Ox kicked for the defense, while Bogard represented the offense.

Observations

Dickerson appears to be healthy again and should get a lot of playing time Saturday. He will push Adam Gunn hard for the starting weak-side LB spot. ... Redshirt frosh Greg Romeus has played well enough to merit spot duty with the first team at left DE. This move forced fifth-year senior Joe Clermond to first-team on the right side, while fifth-year senior Chris McKillop was bumped to second-team at left DE. McKillop has played both sides, and he started six straight games in the middle of the season last fall. He suffered a season-ending left knee injury at South Florida. ... Collier is getting a good look at tailback now, because carries will be limited in the fall when McCoy is in the mix with he and starter LaRod Stephens-Howling. ... Brooks and Collins give Pitt a solid FB tandem as well, so the running backs should be solid this season. They will just need blockers in front of them.

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