'Pitt'' the Name, Swagger is Back

PITTSBURGH (AP) - From the lapel pin on coach Dave Wannstedt's suit jacket to the helmet logo worn by quarterback Tyler Palko, it's obvious that Pitt is back.

Not Pittsburgh, but plain old Pitt. The same shortened name that the University of Pittsburgh's teams were known by during the best run of football seasons in school history during the 1970s, when Wannstedt was a player, but one discarded by former athletic director Steve Pederson a few years ago.

Now, the school is embracing Pitt again. So much so that the Panthers will wear Wannstedt-era blue-and-gold uniforms with the script Pitt logo on the helmet, rather than the block-letter style of today, during their Sept. 24 home game against Youngstown State.

``We want to bring back some of that tradition,'' said Wannstedt, a starting offensive lineman on Pitt's last national championship team in 1976.

To help do that, Pitt brought back Wannstedt, the former Bears and Dolphins coach who, at this time a year ago, was trying to make do in Miami without AWOL running back Ricky Williams. As Pitt prepared Tuesday to open summer camp on Wednesday, Wannstedt's only absentee was backup quarterback Joe Flacco.

That's hardly a loss comparable to Ricky Williams, but Flacco's anticipated departure - apparently over a lack of playing time - leaves freshmen recruits Shane Murray and Bill Stull as the only scholarship backups behind Palko. It's the second consecutive season the backup left, as Luke Getsy did the same thing by transferring to Akron a year ago.

That's a nearly unheard-of lack of depth for a Top 25-caliber school, but one Wannstedt has no choice but to deal with in his first season as a major college head coach. It may be one reason why, after years as one of the nation's most pass-driven offenses under former coach Walt Harris, Pitt is building around the run.

Rashad Jennings, a former Virginia high school star who enrolled in school in January, expects to begin the season as the top tailback after running for 119 yards on 19 carries in the spring game.

``I'm ready to run the ball against Notre Dame as many times as they need me to,'' Jennings said of the Sept. 3 televised opener. ``I can't wait.''

That doesn't meant that Pitt is shutting down the Palko-to-Greg Lee passing combination that produced more than 70 catches and 10 touchdowns last season. Instead, Wannstedt wants to reduce the burden on Palko for generating offense; Palko accounted for 827 of Pitt's 1,051 yards of offense in its final three games.

``We'll see what happens,'' Palko said. ``I'm not going to say we're going to be a run-oriented football team, because you never know. You go game-by-game and do whatever you need to do - sometimes we're going to throw it 50 times and sometimes we're going to throw 10.''

Lee prefers a number somewhere in the middle.

``Being able to run the ball is going to make it a lot easier on us,'' Lee said. ``If you're only passing the ball, it's not that hard to stop the pass.''

Notes: To try to develop a rivalry, Pitt and new Big East member Cincinnati will play each season for a trophy designed to resemble an Ohio River paddlewheel boat. ... Wannstedt's last college job was as the University of Miami's defensive coordinator in 1986-88. ... Wannstedt called the Notre Dame opener ``the most high-profile game of the season.'' Former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis also debuts as a college head coach. ... Freshman defensive back recruit Bryan Williams of Akron, Ohio, did not qualify academically. ... Wannstedt estimates that redshirt freshman defensive lineman Corey Davis, listed at 300 pounds, has lost 30 pounds. ... Pitt will practice 29 times before the opener. ... H.B. Blades, moved from outside to middle linebacker during the spring, will stay there as what Wannstedt calls ``the quarterback of the defense.'' ... Pitt will use a 4-3 defense after previously employing a multiple 8-man front. Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads, hired by Pitt in 2000, was retained by Wannstedt.

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