Meet the Panthers of the Pittsburgh

The unquestioned star of the Pitt offense is super sophomore running back LeSean McCoy (#25). McCoy (5-11, 210lb, So.) provided many highlight reel runs as a true freshman in way to breaking the freshman record for rushing touchdowns at Pitt. He finished 2007 with 1,328 yards and 14 touchdowns. McCoy had one of his best games last season against the Midshipmen.

Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Colors: Blue and Gold
Former Panthers: Tony Dorsett - Running Back - Dallas Cowboys (1977-1987);
Denver Broncos (1988), Mike Ditka - Tight End - Chicago Bears (1961-1966);
Philadelphia Eagles (1967-1968); Dallas Cowboys (1969-1972), Antonio Bryant - Wide Receiver - Dallas Cowboys (2002-2004); Cleveland Browns (2004-2005); San Francisco 49ers (2006); Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2008-present), Larry Fitzgerald - Wide Receiver - Arizona Cardinals (2004-Present), Tony Siragusa - Defensive Tackle - Indianapolis Colts (1990-1996); Baltimore Ravens (1997-2001), Jeff Otah - Offensive Tackle - Carolina Panthers (2008-present), Mark May - Guard/Tackle - Washington Redskins (1981-1990);  San Diego Chargers (1991); Phoenix Cardinals (1992-1993), Curtis Martin - Running Back - New England Patriots (1995-1997); New York Jets (1998-2007), Dan Marino - Quarterback - Miami Dolphins (1983-1999)

On Dec. 23, 2004 Dave Wannstedt returned to his Alma matter as head football coach.  In the three plus seasons since then he has amassed a 20-20 record.  Wannstedt has an NFL pedigree, having served as the head coach of the Chicago Bears from 1993 to 1998 and of the Miami Dolphins from 2000 to 2004.  Pitt is his first college head coaching position.  Phil Bennett joined Coach Wannstedt's staff this year as defensive coordinator.  Bennett spent the last six seasons as head coach at SMU.  On the other side of the ball, Matt Cavanaugh has been offensive coordinator during the entire Wannstedt era.  Cavanaugh was a finalist for the head job, but the administration went with the bigger name.  The only other coaches that have been with the program since 2005 are David Walker, running backs coach and Greg Gattuso, assistant head coach/defensive line coach.

Red shirt junior Bill Stull (#11) injured his thumb in the first game of the 2007 season and did not play again.  Stull (6-3, 215lb, R-Jr.) has shown no lingering effects from the injury in 2008.  For the season he is 95 of 165 passing for 1,028 yards with 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.  Stull had a storied high school career in which he threw for 5,572 yards and 62 touchdowns.  The Panthers depth chart lists three players at backup quarterback, Pat Bostick (#19); Kevan Smith (#12); Greg Cross (#14), though none have attempted a pass in 2008.  Bostick (6-3, 220lb, So.) started the final eight games of 2007 as a true freshman.  Smith (6-3, 225lb, R-So.) started three games last season, and was the first to relieve Stull when he was injured.  Cross (6-2, 210lb, Jr.), a transfer from Fort Scott Community College (Ks.), has 4 carries for 15 yards and a touchdown on the season.  He is being used by coach Wannstedt as a change of pace to the more conventional Stull.

The unquestioned star of the Pitt offense is super sophomore running back LeSean McCoy (#25).  McCoy (5-11, 210lb, So.) provided many highlight reel runs as a true freshman in way to breaking the freshman record for rushing touchdowns at Pitt.  He finished 2007 with 1,328 yards and 14 touchdowns.  McCoy had one of his best games last season against the Midshipmen.  He finished with 32 carries for 165 yards and 3 touchdowns.  This season "Shady" as he is called by teammates, has 533 yards on 117 carries with 7 touchdowns.  McCoy's primary backup is LaRod Stephens-Howling (#34).  Stephens-Howling (5-7, 180lb, Sr.) started all 11 games in which he appeared in 2006.  He has 16 career starts.  This season, Stephens-Howling is second on the team with 44 carries for 200 yards and 2 touchdowns.  When the Panthers employ a fullback it is generally Conredge Collins (#30).  Collins (6-0, 230lb, Sr.) is a blocking specialist with 18 career starts.  He set career highs in both yards and carries verses Navy last season with 52 yards on 9 carries.

A lot was expected from Derek Kinder (#81) in 2007.  Unfortunately, Kinder (6-1, 210lb, R-Sr.) tore his ACL the first week of fall camp and was forced to red shirt.  This season, he leads the team with 19 receptions for 197 yards and a touchdown.  Early in 2006, Kinder broke out with back to back spectacular games.  Week 2 at Cincinnati, he had only 3 catches, but they were for 172 yards and 2 touchdowns. The following week, at home to Michigan State, Kinder recorded 9 catches for 121 yards and a touchdown.  Starting opposite Kinder is Oderick Turner (#88).  Turner (6-3, 205lb, R-Jr.) is starting to emerge as a big play threat for the Panthers.  This season he has 15 receptions for 190 yards.  Last season, in Kinder's absence, Turner was held to only 36 catches for 496 yards and 5 touchdowns.  This was a noticeable drop in production from his red shirt freshman season when he had Kinder starting on the other side.  Panther's fans are hoping that having these two back together they will return to 2006 types of numbers.  When Pitt goes three wide, Cedric McGee (#1) enters the game.  This season McGee (6-1, 205lb, R-Jr.) has earned three starts.  He is third on the team inn receiving with 13 catches for 112 yards.  Pitt lists three tight ends as started, though only two have started games this season.  Nate Byham (#80) have 4 starts and Dorin Dickerson (#2) has 2 with both starting the Syracuse game.  John Pelusi (#83) is also listed as a starter, but is yet to start a game in 2008.  Byham (6-3, 255lb, Jr.) started 11 games last season and has 9 catches for 102 yards this season.  Dickerson (6-2, 230lb, Jr.) made the switch from linebacker this off-season, and fills more of a hybrid/H-back role.  He has 6 catches for 59 yards and a touchdown in his first season on offense.  Pelusi (6-3, 260lb, R-Jr.) has yet to catch a pass this season.

Pitt entered the season needing to replace left tackle Jeff Otah, who was drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers.  Jason Pinkston (#77), who missed most of 2007 with shoulder surgery, has earned that assignment.  Pinkston (6-4, 300lb, R-So.) started the first three games last season at right tackle before injuring his left shoulder at Michigan State.  The other bookend for the Panthers is Joe Thomas (#56).  Thomas (6-5, 300lb, Jr.) started 7 games in 2007 at right guard.  He played tackle at the Cleveland powerhouse St. Edward High before coming to Pitt.  Starting at center is junior college transfer Robb Houser (#64).  Houser (6-2, 285lb, Jr.) started his college career at Butte College in California.  Left guard C .J. Davis (#55) is by far the Panthers most experienced lineman.  Davis (6-3, 310lb, Sr.) has started 35 consecutive games, dating back to the sixth game of his true freshman season.  John Maleck (#74) converted from defensive and has started the first 5 games on 2008 at right guard.  Maleck (6-3, 280lb, Jr.) played in all 12 games last season at nose tackle, but has drawn rave reviews from offensive line coach Tony Wise for his play so far.

Defensive end Greg Romeus (#91) only played one season of high school football, but his inexperience has not hurt his college production.  Romeus (6-5, 265lb, R-So.) recorded 4 sacks last season earning Freshman All-American honors by the Football Writers,, The Sporting News, Rivals and  This season he leads the team with 3.5 sacks.  Starting at the other end spot is another youngster, Jabaal Sheard (#97).  Sheard (6-4, 250lb, So.) has 4 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks on the season.  Mick Williams (#95) starts at defensive tackle after starting 7 games in 2007.  Williams (6-1, 285lb, R-Jr.) leads the defensive line with 20 tackles.  Manning the nose is Rashaad Duncan (#50).  Duncan (6-2, 295lb, Sr.) has played in every game the last three years, and is by far the most experienced defensive lineman on the roster.  He has 13 tackles on the season and 103 for his career.

The leader of the Panther's defense is middle linebacker Scott McKillop (#40).  McKillop (6-2, 240lb, R-Sr.) leads the team with 52 tackles after finishing last season with 151, which was tops in the nation.  He also leads the team with 9 tackles for loss.  Former walk-on Austin Ransom (#86) moved from safety to will linebacker and is second on the team with 36 tackles.  Ransom (6-2, 240lb, R-Sr.) also has 3.5 tackles of loss and an interception.  Coming off a red shirt season, Greg Williams (#38) starts at sam linebacker.  Williams (6-3, 225lb, R-Fr.) is fourth on the team with 20 tackles.  He had 8 tackles and 1.5 sacks against Iowa.

The leader of the Panther secondary is free safety Eric Thatcher (#28).  Thatcher (5-9, 195lb, R-Sr.) is currently third on the team with 29 tackles.  He has 23 career starts at safety, including all 12 in 2007.  Aaron Berry (#17) started 9 games at corner in 2007.  Berry (5-11, 175lb, Jr.) had 2 interceptions in 2007 and currently leads the team with 4 ass breakups.  At the other corner, Jovani Chappel (#7) had appeared in 21 games his first two seasons at Pitt, but did not earn his first start until this season.  Chappel (5-9, 180lb, Jr.) has 17 tackles on the season.  The Panthers have used two players at strong safety this season.  Dom DeCicco (#31) started the first two games of the season as well as the Panthers last game at South Florida.  Elijah Fields (#4) started the other two contests.  DeCicco (6-3, 220lb, So.) has 15 tackles and on interception, while Fields (6-2, 220lb, R-So.) has 6 tackles on the season.  Neither player had stared before this season.

Special Teams
Kicker Conor Lee (#37) currently leads Big East in kick scoring, field goals and PAT percentage.  For his career, Lee (5-11, 200lb, R-Sr.) is 39 of 46 on field goal attempts with a long of 48 yards.  Walk on Luke Briggs (#24) handles the kickoffs.  Briggs (5-9, 180lb, R-So.) is averaging 63.1 yards per kickoff.

Punter Dave Brytus (#18) transferred from Purdue in 2005.  Brytus (6-4, 230lb, R-Sr.) is currently having his best season with a 42.4 yard average per punt.

Starting corner Aaron Berry is the primary punt returner.  This season he has averaged 7.2 yards per return.  Backup running back LaRod Stephens-Howling and reserve wide receiver Aundre Wright (#10) are the main kickoff returners.  Stephens-Howling has 11 returns for a 21.9 yard average while Wright (5-11, 180lb, R-Fr.) has 8 for a 19.6 yard average. Top Stories