Spring Practice Notebook: Quarterbacks

PITTSBURGH -- As the backup to three-year starter Tyler Palko the past two seasons, University of Pittsburgh junior Bill Stull appears to have picked up some tendencies that led to Palko's success with the Panthers.

"I came in at 7:30 (Saturday) morning, and Stull was up there watching film even before I got to my office. Tyler rubbed off on those guys. They've been around him enough to see how it's done and see what he did to be successful, and I believe they learned from it.

"I think they might have been a little inhibited by him before, though, because he has a strong personality and didn't want to let anybody else take any reps. But now that he's gone, they know what the work ethic's all about, so I don't think that's going to be a problem. We'll push them, but they need to do it on their own as well. And they'll do that.''

Bill Stull and redshirt freshman Kevan Smith are Pitt's top two starting quarterback candidates this spring, but the competition won't really heat up until summer training camp when blue-chip freshman recruit Pat Bostick enters the mix. Bostick was supposed to start at Pitt this spring, but he couldn't work it out with his high school.

That gives Stull (6-foot-3, 185) and Smith (6-3, 215) an excellent opportunity to get a jump on the competition this spring. Pitt has worked out twice of the 15 practices scheduled at the UPMC Sports Complex. The sessions culminate with the annual Blue-Gold game April 14 at Heinz Field.

"I consider myself to be a hard worker, but with the coaches that we have here and Buddy (Morris, the strength and conditioning coach), he's making everybody push themselves to the limit, to their boundary,'' Stull said. "But everybody is working harder to get ready for this season. That's how we're approaching the situation this spring.

"For me to have a shot to be a starter, I've picked things up in the weight room, watching more film, staying after practice to get a few more reps, I'll do whatever it takes. I learned a lot from Tyler and Coach Cav (offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh). They helped me develop as a player and student of the game, so I'm getting better all the time.''

No matter who players quarterback at Pitt this fall, he'll be inexperienced. Obviously, only Stull has had live game action since the other two have freshman eligibility, and that has Cavanaugh a big concerned. Stull is 7-for-10 for 86 yards and one touchdown in two seasons.

"I think they're both quality players,'' Cavanaugh said. "So, from that standpoint, I'm not freaking out over it. But I know that whoever starts will be inexperienced. ... So, we have lots of work to do, but I'm confident that they both have the ability and capability to do what we need to do this year.''

Both Stull and Smith get a chance to prove themselves under game-like conditions this spring, as the Panthers will make both quarterbacks live -- meaning they can be hit -- during scrimmages and contact drills. That's something different for Smith, who ran the scout team last year.

"Since I had only one year in high school (at Seneca Valley), it was important for me to get as much work as possible last season,'' Smith said. "So, that's why I got a lot of reps on the scout team. Now, Bill and I take all the snaps, and we're pushing each other to make each other better.

"Also, when I got a chance last summer to work with the second team when Billy was injured, it was a privilege to work with Tyler. He was always there to help me. I could go to either him or Coach Cav, so I learned a lot as a freshman even though I never got into a regular game.''

And Pitt should be the beneficiary no matter who emerges this spring.

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