Pitt football--Tuesday press conference

PantherDigest.com fans are excited after the the University of Pittsburgh's season opening victory last Saturday. Senior writer Dale Grdnic attended Head Coach Dave Wannstedt's press conference today. He reports to back with interesting news and notes concerning Pitt's season opener against the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Pitt football--Tuesday press conference

PITTSBURGH -- The University of Pittsburgh football team was 0-5 on the road last season, and the Panthers get their first chance to improve on that mark against Cincinnati Friday night at 8 at Nippert Stadium.

But don't tell Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt that there's any added significance to the game against the Bearcats.

"I hadn't thought about being 0-5,'' Wannstedt said during his weekly press conference Tuesday at the UPMC Sports Complex. "Is that what we were? I think you have to look at every game on an individual basis and try to determine what happened that was the reason we didn't win.

"It might have been handling the travel. ... But it's still going to come down to blocking and tackling. I like our routine on the road, and we'll approach things differently. We have good leadership, which we've talked about all along, and our guys I believe will be focused and ready to play.''

Cincinnati, 1-0 after whipping NCAA Division I-AA Eastern Kentucky 31-0 last Saturday night, is also a Big East game for Pitt (1-0). Wannstedt said it was quite early in the schedule to be playing a Conference game, but he believed his senior leadership would get the Panthers past any problems.

"We have to make sure we're focused,'' Wannstedt said. "When you're in a team meeting, everybody's the star pupil.

"But once you walk out of that room ... you're away from a structured environment, the attitude that the older guys set is going to be the example and the standard that the younger guys are going to follow.''

Fifth-year senior quarterback Tyler Palko also downplayed the importance of playing Big East opponent Cincinnati on the road.

"We just have to do what we did to prepare for last week's game,'' Palko said. "We just have to learn from the couple mistakes that we had and do the best we can to be ready for Cincinnati. "But this week is no different for us whether we won or lost last week. It's just another game, and it's the second game on our schedule. They have a lot of guys coming back, and we know they're going to be ready for us.''

Palko downplayed the importance of playing a Big East game so early in the schedule and said the Cincinnati game was no more important than any other matchup on Pitt's schedule this season. He also believed the Panthers' road woes last season were attributable primarily to mistakes.

"When we've played on the road, we've had some costly turnovers,'' Palko said. "They'll kill you, and you already are at a disadvantage on the road. So, we just have to concentrate on keeping our mistakes down and doing the things that we do best. But we don't need to change anything.''

If Monday's practice was an indication, the Panthers should be more than ready to take on Cincinnati. Pitt's scout team pushed the starters hard from the outset, and this impressed offensive right tackle Mike McGlynn.

"That was a physical practice, as much as we've had in the past two years here, and that should get us ready for the tempo of all the games,'' McGlynn said. "So, if we can keep that intensity up in practice, the game should slow down for us against Cincinnati.''

Wannstedt believed the difference in practice was directly connected to the Panthers' recent recruiting efforts. All the players are freshmen.

"When your scout team D-line is (Greg) Romeus (6-5, 230), Jared Martin (6-2, 290), (Jason) Pinkston (6-4, 280), McKenzie Mathews (6-2, 235) and Ty Tkach (6-3, 230), and your middle linebacker is Greg Webster (6-1, 235), you need your mouthpiece in to block those guys,'' Wannstedt said.

"So, our guys are giving a fantastic effort in practice, and that's making our older guys better. That's the way that the better programs do it. When you bring in a bunch a guys that can't play, not only won't they help you on Saturday. They can't get you ready during the week.''

And Pitt needs to be ready for Cincinnati if it wants to erase all memories of last season's 0-5 record on the road.

* LaRod Stephens-Howling (ankle) is taking it easy early this week, but Wannstedt believed he would be OK to start at Cincinnati.

* The coach also noted that fullback Conredge Collins is healthy after suffering knee and hamstring injuries during training camp, and he is expected to start after giving way to Mark Yezovich against Virginia.

"(Collins) will get back in the lineup and get going this week,'' Wannstedt said. "He missed some time during training camp. ... So, he got behind a little bit, but we also weren't sure where the whole fullback position was at.

"We worked some with the tight ends in the mix, just to keep ourselves protected, but Conredge will be back in the fold. And he's a major part of what we're doing on offense.'' * The only starting position still in question is left defensive end, where redshirt juniors Joe Clermond and Chris McKillop are battling. Clermond started against UVA.

"I told him that this time a year ago, I moved his name tag to the other side of the board (off the depth chart),'' Wannstedt said. "And I didn't think he'd be a part of this thing, to be quite honest with you.

"But he has come in here and worked. And you have to give him credit. He got his weight down, and he had a great offseason. He has made plays, and he's off to a good start.''

* Pitt played nine defensive lineman against Virginia, rotating players in and out for situational play. Clermond and Doug Fulmer were the starting ends, while Rashaad Duncan and Gus Mustakas started at tackle.

* Freshman John Malecki win in for 18 plays, Wannstedt said, while redshirt frosh Mick got 22 snaps. And Duncan had 28, so there was just a 10-pla difference between the starter and key subs.

"(Defensive tackles coach) Greg Gattuso keeps track of that,'' Wannstedt said. "We'll play a lot of guys until somebody separates himself.''


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