It's the third camp for University of Pittsburgh head coach Dave Wannstedt, and he must find replacements for three starters on offense, five on defense and punter Adam Graessle.
"This is a very important camp for us as a team, and it's crucial for me as a senior to help get this program turned around,'' wideout Derek Kinder said. "We have a lot of talent coming back and some good recruits coming in again this year, so I think we'll be able to have a real good season.''
The Panthers will have a new quarterback throwing to Kinder and an amazing group of talented wideouts this season, as three-year starter Tyler Palko has graduated. Two-year starting center Joe Villani and tight end Steve Buches must also be replaced.
Quarterback likely will be Pitt's most hotly contested position this August, as junior Bill Stull, redshirt freshman Kevan Smith and frosh recruit Pat Bostick will vie to become a first-time starter. Only Stull, with six mop-up games (7-for-10 passing for 86 yards and one touchdown) the past two seasons, has played in a college football game.
"All three guys have been working hard, but their performances in camp probably will determine which one is the starter,'' Kinder said. "I think they all have a good chance, so we'll see what happens in camp.''
Whomever wins Pitt's starting quarterback job, he'll have a lot of talent in the backfield with him and to throw to with Kinder leading a receiving corps that includes last year's steadily improving starter Oderick Turner, a redshirt sophomore, sophomore T.J. Porter, redshirt junior Marcel Pestano and redshirt sophomore Cedric McGee. Incoming freshmen Aundre Wright and Maurice Williams could also get some playing time. Wright most certainly will be dangerous as a kick returner for the Panthers.
Pitt's tight ends should be the best in the Big East with senior Darrell Strong, sophomore Nate Byham and redshirt sophomore John Pelusi combining tremendous athleticism to provide solid pass-catching and dominant blocking.
The offensive line could shape up to be Pitt's strongest in years with the center spot the only one to replace. Fifth-year senior Chris Vangas, a two-year backup to Villani, ended the spring as the starter. The left tackle is senior Jeff Otah, a tremendous talent who should be playing in the NFL next year, while the left guard is junior C.J. Davis, entering his third season as a starter. The right guard is sophomore Joe Thomas, who started the final seven games last fall when fifth-year senior John Simonitis broke a leg in the fifth game. Fifth-year senior Mike McGlynn enters his fourth season as a starter at right tackle, but he is recovering from shoulder surgery.
During the spring, as well as several times last season, sophomore Jason Pinkston played well at the tackle spots. He could take over for McGlynn at right tackle, while the veteran moves to center or a guard spot to increase Pitt's depth there. Redshirt juniors Dom Williams and Chase Clowser, as well as redshirt sophomore John Bachman, redshirt freshman Scott Corson and frosh Chris Jacobson and Dan Matha, if healthy, will push the starters.
Junior tailback LaRod Stephens-Howling returns for a third year as the starter, but he will be pressed for carries by freshman LeSean McCoy. Junior Conredge Collins returns as the starting fullback, while redshirt sophomore Shane Brooks and frosh Henry Hynoski give Pitt a deep backfield.
The defensive line will be deeper than it's been in years with starting tackles returning in juniors Gus Mustakas and Rashaad Duncan and fifth-year senior ends Joe Clermond and Chris McKillop. Redshirt freshman Greg Romeus and redshirt sophomore Doug Fulmer, after he recovers from knee surgery, will vie for playing time at end. Redshirt sophomore Mick Williams and sophomore John Malecki are backups at tackle. Redshirt freshmen Ty Tkach and Jared Martin and frosh Justin Hargrove will attempt to make the line rotation, as well as freshmen Tommie Duhart, Jabaal Sheard and Myles Caragein.
The linebacking corps must be replaced entirely, as redshirt junior middle linebacker Scott McKillop is the lone player with any experience. Sophomore Dorin Dickerson, redshirt junior Adam Gunn, redshirt sophomore Shane Murray and redshirt frosh Nate Nix are competing for outside spots. Redshirt freshmen Greg Webster, if he can control his Crohn's Disease, and Dan Loheyde, and fifth-year senior Jemeel Brady should provide depth with incoming freshmen Max Gruder and Brandon Lindsey.
The secondary is experienced with fifth-year senior Kennard Cox returning as a starter at one cornerback spot, while sophomore Aaron Berry is slated to step in for departed Darrelle Revis at the other one. The safeties are fifth-year senior Mike Phillips and redshirt junior Eric Thatcher with sophomores Jovani Chappel and Elijah Fields and frosh Aaron Smith provide depth with incoming freshmen Dom DeCicco and Buddy Jackson.
The incumbent place-kicker is Conor Lee, while Dave Brytus should take over for two-time Big East special teams player of the year Graessle at punter. Both are redshirt juniors.
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