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September 27, 2010

Monday notes: Mason done for the year

Pitt sophomore linebacker Dan Mason did not start against Miami due to disciplinary reasons. He won't be starting - or playing - for the rest of the season due to medical reasons.

Mason suffered a dislocated knee against the Hurricanes and was taken from Heinz Field to UPMC Presbyterian.

"Dan Mason is hopeful to get out of the hospital today," Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt said at his weekly press conference on Monday. "The plan is to try and have surgery by the end of the week. Once the surgery is complete, we're optimistic that there will be a full recovery. Dan will be redshirted and we'll be bringing him back next year."


Filling in for Mason

With Mason out, Pitt's starting lineup of linebackers will look like it did on Thursday night: Max Gruder at middle linebacker, Greg Williams at strong-side linebacker, and Tristan Roberts at weak-side linebacker.

The Miami game was Gruder's first career start in the middle and Roberts' first career start overall. Williams started 21 games over the last two seasons before making his 22nd career start last Thursday night.

Wannstedt added that redshirt freshman Shane Gordon would likely be the first linebacker off the bench as the primary reserve at all three positions.


Another two-deep move

Elsewhere on this week's depth chart, Pitt also made a move on the offensive line, although that adjustment wasn't based on an injury situation. With the interior of the line struggling through three games thus far, junior Lucas Nix moved from right tackle to first-team right guard, replacing redshirt junior Greg Gaskins.

"I hate sometimes when you make a change at one position when we're struggling as a group; it's not an indication that it's one individual or one position."

Redshirt junior Jordan Gibbs will take over at right tackle. Wannstedt said that Gibbs will bring size and athleticism to the position and that Nix will help add athleticism to the interior with his move to guard.

"We're going to take a look at this lineup and see if this gives us the best five at this time."


Everyone's accountable

Wannstedt said that the offensive line isn't the only position group on the team that is getting re-evaluated in light of the 1-2 start.

"As we evaluate all of our players right now, we've had some serious heart-to-heart conversations with individuals that, 'Okay, we're three games into it; don't tell me what you know, don't tell me what you're supposed to do. Let's watch the tape.'

"Who's producing? Who's getting the job done when the lights come on? That's the point that we're at right now with everyone. We've got to be very honest about it and play the best players who give you a chance to win at this point."


Holding onto the ball

Pitt has two special teams fumbles through three games this season. Suspended running back Jason Douglas fumbled a kickoff in the opener against Utah, and redshirt sophomore receiver Cameron Saddler fumbled a punt in the loss to Miami.

"We chart everyday from the start of training camp to today when we practice. Pre-practice everything we do is with our punt returners and our kick returners. How many catches are they getting? Are they fair catching the ball? Are they letting it hit the ground? Are they making the catch? Are they dropping the ball?

"Cameron Saddler has been outstanding. Since August there might have been five balls that have hit the ground. He's been very, very good. He's been very conscientious about it. He's made good decisions out there. We didn't handle it (against Miami), and it was a big play obviously. I have all the confidence in the world in Cam. He'll bounce back and have a big day."


Odds and ends

- Wannstedt said that redshirt freshman defensive tackle Tyrone Ezell reported to training camp at 300 pounds, well above what was expected. Ezell has since lost about 20 pounds.

- Redshirt sophomore Andrew Taglianetti's groin injury has improved, Wannstedt said. Taglianetti played a handful of defensive snaps on Thursday night, and Wannstedt said he expects Taglianetti's participation to continue increasing.





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