Pitt Spring Practice-Tuesday

Max Gruder (55) finished a play.

After further review, Pitt football coach Dave Wannstedt did not glean much additionally from watching tapes of the Panthers' initial intra-squad scrimmage this past Saturday, but he still wasn't thrilled with the defensive intensity.

Maybe that's why the Pittsburgh blue shirts picked up the pace a bit during Tuesday afternoon's practice at the UPMC Sports Complex.

"We made too many mental mistakes in all phases,'' Wannstedt said. "We ... could be a lot more efficient in all phases. Offensively, they schemed the defense and made a few plays on some things.

"But defensively, you wouldn't expect that to happen to us. When you focus in on the quarterbacks in the scrimmage, I thought that those guys did a very good job. But we need to make more plays defensively.''

Pitt's defense tightened its effort against the running game, as there was little room for Dion Lewis and Ray Graham to burst through holes. Redshirt freshman Jason Douglas had a couple nice runs against the third team. Lewis skipped through a slight hole for a first-down run, but it was all him after he hit the initial hole.

"I thought we did a little better job against those guys,'' Pitt redshirt junior strong-side linebacker Max Gruder said. "It's pretty nice, because we have the luxury of going against two of the best backs in the whole Big East.

"So, that helps us out immensely in every area, tackling and agility, things like that. It really helps us going against Dion and Ray in practice every day.''

Pitt's offensive line did a better job with pass protection during practice Tuesday, but that could be attributed to some improved play by fifth-year senior center Alex Karabin.

"Alex is one of those guy who could be taken for granted and not give as much credit for the good job that he does,'' Wannstedt said. "But Alex is a very consistent player, and I think he knows his strengths and weaknesses. And he's had a good camp.''

Fifth-year senior defensive end Greg Romeus isn't being used as much this spring, and senior Jabaal Sheard is out for the remainder of the spring with what was determined to be a cracked bone in his right hand. He still is getting some work, but will not scrimmage or participate in any live drills.

That means other players like redshirt junior Brandon Lindsey, redshirt sophomore Shayne Hale and fifth-year senior Nate Nix have more chances to show what they can do.

"Brandon Lindsey, Shayne Hale, and you know who had a good scrimmage ... Nate Nix is going to help us at defensive end this year,'' Wannstedt said. "He had a good scrimmage, so when Jabaal is not in there and Romeus, we need Brandon and Shayne to come on. We really do.''

Graham did get a short rushing touchdown, and there were several scoring passes with Tino Sunseri and Pat Bostick both hooking up with fifth-year senior wideout Greg Cross for one TD each.

Junior cornerback Antwuan Reed was picked on all afternoon and had a solid performance, but he did not have a shutout. Reed knocked one away from junior Jonathan Baldwin in the right corner of the end zone. Buddy Jackson also had tight coverage on Baldwin, but the ball was thrown out of bounds anyway.

Bostick took a slant all the way for a touchdown, and Sunseri found him open on the left side for a score. Cross also made a one-handed sideline grab and went over the top of Reed for another, but stayed on the ground a while and was limping after he eventually got up. But he finished practice.

Sunseri also connected with Baldwin on a slant for a score from inside the red zone, and Graham scored from short range on a burst up the middle.

All in all, it had to be a better day for the defense, but the Panthers are looking for more from that unit later in the week as well.

Pitt has six more spring practices, including Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week. The Friday workout will begin at 4:15 p.m. and likely won't involve any 11-on-11 hitting in pads. After the opening two padless practices, the NCAA mandates one more in the spring, so Pitt chose this in-between day.

The second scrimmage will be Saturday. Practice begins at 10 a.m.

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