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Pitt Football: 8 Panthers Shining in Spring Practice

Matt ShetlerCorrespondent IOctober 31, 2016

Pitt Football: 8 Panthers Shining in Spring Practice

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    New Pitt head coach Paul Chryst is getting a look at his new players during spring practice, and everyone is getting their first look at Chryst and his staff as well.

    So far there has been a lot to like from all parties.

    While opening eyes in spring practice doesn't guarantee playing time during the season for youngsters, it does go a long way to getting a long look when camp does begin.

    For the veterans coming off bad seasons, spring practice has given them a fresh start to impress a new coach.

    Let's take a quick look at those who have impressed so far.

Tino Sunseri

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    The 2011 season was a disappointing one for Sunseri, but he gets a fresh start and the opportunity to learn his third system in the last three seasons.

    Sunseri has had a pretty solid camp and if there were any thoughts that Sunseri wouldn't be under center for the Panthers' opener, he's done his best to answer them.

    He's Pitt's only experienced quarterback and is throwing the ball pretty well right now, including the deep ball, which he's struggled to throw his entire career.

    On Thurday, Sunseri lofted a beautiful 70-yard scoring pass to senior receiver Cameron Saddler. Sunseri hit Saddler in stride on a deep post route that went about 55 yards in the air. Saddler then made a nice spin move to elude a tackler’s grasp and slip into the end zone.

Bryan Murphy

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    Murphy, after sitting out last season due to injury and academic problems, has impressed the coaching staff enough that he's been running with the first team.

    He's looked very good throughout and looks healthy, which is more important.

    This spring he looks like one of Pitt's best defensive linemen along with T.J. Clemmings, but fifth-year senior Shayne Hale recently has started pushing the starters for playing time, so there's a lot to still be decided between now and the beginning of the season.

Devin Street

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    It's no secret that the Pitt receiving corps underachieved big time a season ago, and Street is one guy that must step up this season.

    With Mike Shanahan being held out of practice, Street has done a lot to open up some eyes.

    Street has stepped up his game this spring and has especially impressed wide receivers coach Bobby Engram, who told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Paul Zeise:

    And it is encouraging to see that Devin wants to be a consistent playmaker, a guy we can throw the ball to and a go-to guy. I want to continue to raise the level of play of all of them, and this, being our first spring, is a great opportunity for them to establish themselves.

    Devin has the skill set to be a go-to guy, but I am looking for the mental and physical. So it is, 'What is his mentality, is he willing to do the extra work, do you want the ball?' It is all earned around here, you have to earn it every day by the way you perform, and these guys are working hard to earn their spots.

    Someone needs to step up and become a playmaker, and Street will certainly be given the opportunity to do so.

Cam Saddler

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    Street isn't the only receiver looking to open up some eyes, as Saddler has done the same.

    It's a big season for Saddler, who the Panthers have been waiting on to make a real impact for quite some time now.

    He's impressed with the energy he's brought to spring camp and has performed pretty well, including ending practice on Tuesday by catching three touchdowns in a red-zone drill.

Layfette Pitts

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    Pitt has done a lot to impress the coaching staff, so much that the redshirt freshman has been getting first-team reps opposite K'Waun Williams at cornerback.

    The Woodland Hills graduate was responsible for the lone interception in the Panthers' second scrimmage when he jumped high in the air to snare an errant pass on the initial play of the scrimmage’s second series.

    His athletic ability and natural instincts are getting him a very long look.

Dan Mason

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    Just seeing Mason on the field should be enough. It's taken nearly two years for the once-heralded linebacker to recover from a devastating knee injury.

    He's not only back in uniform, but Mason is looking good, flying all over the field and delivering thunderous hits.

    His presence makes Pitt a much better defensive team.

Aaron Donald

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    Donald had a great season in 2011 and has big things in store for him in 2012 if spring camp is any indication.

    He's the closest thing the Panthers have to a defensive superstar and he's been a terror who's wreaked havoc during camp so far. He's been disruptive up front and has been a playmaker.

    During 11-on-11 work, Donald made the following sequence of plays on Thursday: a “strip sack” where he recovered his own forced fumble, another quarterback sack and, finally, a batted-down pass on third down.

    If he keeps it up, Donald has the chance to dominate the Big East Conference in 2012.

Isaac Bennett

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    Bennett has really opened up some eyes with his running in the two Panthers scrimmages so far.

    In Pitt's second scrimmage, Bennett had his second long touchdown run of the spring on a 50-yard burst. Bennett later had a five-yard scoring run one play after he converted a 4th-and-short inside the 10.

    In last week’s scrimmage, Bennett had a 70-yard touchdown run.

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