"The players are out there on their own with a chance to make plays," Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "Dom DeCicco on defense, I thought he made some really nice plays."
DeCicco's hand found pigskin on Conor Lee's low, driven field-goal attempt at the beginning of the scrimmage. DeCicco's block was met with a gasp from the crowd and an explosion of support from his defensive teammates. It was the DeCicco's first-ever blocked field goal in his career.
Pitt's new defensive coordinator, Phil Bennett, said his job is to put together a defense that will generate some turnovers. DeCicco's play was evidence enough of the progress Bennett and company has made.
"We have to get takeaways," Bennett said. "A good defense helps the offense by forcing turnovers and getting them back on the field. It starts with speed."
Bennett was quick to point out DeCicco's play. The mustachioed coach appeared delighted at the mention of his first-string safety's name.
"Football is very important to Dom," Bennett said, smiling. "He is deceptively fast. He plays with power and speed and aggression. He has had a very good spring."
DeCicco's new, sleek physique has helped him improve on the field and in the training room. The native Pittsburgher gained 20 pounds in the offseason and worked on speed and agility with strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris. The hard work has paid off.
"The weight helped me get stronger and bigger," DeCicco said. "Buddy made me faster. I've felt [the conditioning progress] all spring. I'm just feeling bigger, stronger, quicker. That helps a lot with confidence. I feel like I can make plays and do a lot of positive things for this team."
With all the new changes to his body, DeCicco couldn't wait to get out on the field, and it showed today. He and his defensive teammates stood out in their domination of Pitt's battered and bruised offensive unit.
"It was nice competing and going hard for the first time and getting results from it," DeCicco said. "On defense, we always want to do well. I think with the offense the way it is right now with all the injuries, we should be doing this well. It really felt great to just get out there and do it."