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Pitt notebook: New tight end Will Gragg impresses Pat Narduzzi

August 12, 2018 GMT

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi was worried early this summer that the tight end position was a weak spot on the roster.

That was before the team added Will Gragg, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound graduate transfer from Arkansas who joined the Panthers in June. This week, during Pitt’s preseason camp on the South Side, Narduzzi and his staff got their first look at the former four-star recruit in action.

“We’ve seen him in drills, but it’s amazing what happens when just a helmet goes on,” Narduzzi said Saturday before the second day of camp. “You see different things. ... The one thing that stood out about Will Gragg was just his route-running. The guy can push the field, and it’s different than maybe some of the other guys. ... He’s going to really help us in the passing game.”

Gragg has two years of eligibility remaining.

He caught five passes in 10 games as a redshirt sophomore for Arkansas last season. He totaled 61 receiving yards.

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“We thought we needed another tight end who could come make plays,” Narduzzi said. “It doesn’t matter -- pass catching, run-blocking -- just a tight end, period. It didn’t matter what it was. We were just interested in another tight end that we thought could make an impact.”

The only other tight ends listed on Pitt’s roster are sophomore Tyler Sea, redshirt freshman Grant Carrigan and redshirt junior Jim Medure.

“We felt like (tight end) was maybe a position of weakness coming in,” Narduzzi said, “and the strong survive out there. There are guys out there who are doing a good job, and some guys look around and say, ‘Wow, why is that guy here? Whew, he’s pretty good.’ ”

Switching sides

Some of Pitt’s defensive ends had an informal tryout with the quarterbacks, Narduzzi said, and freshman Kaymar Mimes earned his way to the offensive side.

Mimes (6-5, 235) is working as a tight end, a position switch that would have made his NFL brother jealous. His brother, Raiders linebacker Shilique Calhoun, played for Narduzzi at Michigan State and always wanted to give tight end a try.

″(Mimes) just showed he had a natural athletic ability, a natural tendency to be a tight end,” Narduzzi said. “He runs good routes. He understands kind of what’s going on.”

Narduzzi then had a message for his brother.

“Shilique was never a good enough athlete to be a tight end,” Narduzzi said with a laugh. “I told Kaymar that he’s definitely a better athlete than his brother.”

Take two

What a difference a day makes.

Narduzzi said Day 2 of camp is his favorite because the first-day nervousness is gone, so he’s interested to see how players respond. Saturday was the second day.

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“You always find out in Practice 1 where you are as a football team, where you came out of the summer,” Narduzzi said. “Practice 2 really is my favorite because you get to see a little bit more. You see how much little improvement they can make. Between the first game and the second game, you make improvement. I think between the first practice and the second practice, you really see who they are.”

Watching the wideouts

Pitt must solidify its stable of wide receivers in the next few weeks, but Narduzzi wasn’t ready to name any early favorites.

“Everybody, I don’t have favorites,” Narduzzi said. “I want guys that are going to make plays that coach (Shawn) Watson and our quarterbacks can count on making the catch. That’s up to them to decide. I don’t decide who those guys are (before camp). You guys have some names, and we know who has talent, but you’ve got to show it. Our whole team will find out who those guys are.”