Are You Ready For Some Football?

Competition should be the buzz word for the Pitt football team this season, as young players will be pushing for playing time at nearly every position and some might even win starting jobs.

That's the way it is for Dave Wannstedt's third season as the head coach at the University of Pittsburgh. After two solid recruiting classes the Panthers finally appear to have a little depth at wide receiver and running back and on the offensive line, as well as on the defensive line and at linebacker.

But the biggest battle during training camp should be the competition at quarterback with junior Bill Stull, redshirt freshman Kevan Smith and freshman Pat Bostick all vying for the starting job.

"We hope all three will push each other,'' Wannstedt said. "But it's something that won't play out right away. It could last right up to the season-opener.''

Starters return at the two guard and tackle spots on the offensive line, and two-year backup Chris Vangas -- a fifth-year senior -- is in line for the starting center spot. But Pitt has to decide who else will compete at center, either redshirt sophomore John Bachman -- who is finally healthy or fifth-year senior Mike McGlynn -- which would open the right tackle spot for sophomore Jason Pinkston.

Another area of concern is at linebacker where only redshirt junior Scott McKillop, the middle linebacker, has any experience (23 games, no starts), but the outside spots are filled with mostly new players. Sophomore Dorin Dickerson, redshirt sophomore Shane Murray, redshirt junior Adam Gunn and redshirt freshman Nate Nix are competing for the two outside spots.

The secondary, on the surface, appeared to be a strength after spring drills with fifth-year senior Kennard Cox securing one cornerback position for the second straight season, and sophomore Aaron Berry stepped into Darrelle Revis' corner spot with an apparent bright future.

Safety, however, still has some question with fifth-year senior Mike Phillips and redshirt junior Eric Thatcher trying to remain healthy. Sophomore Elijah was expected to push the two for playing time, but a season-long suspension for him seriously cut into the depth there. So, either sophomore Jovani Chappel or frosh Aaron Smith, the third and fourth cornerbacks in the spring, could be moved to safety.

Pitt's depth at running back should also be excellent with two-year starter LaRod Stephens-Howling back for his junior season and incoming freshman LeSean McCoy ready to push him for playing time. At fullback, where junior Conredge Collins was entrenched for two seasons as well as the starter, incoming frosh Henry Hynoski certainly will be tough to keep off the field.

So, it should be an interesting training camp for the Panthers, one that could shape the program's future. And after going 5-6 and 6-6 in Wannstedt's first two campaigns, the Pitt football team has nowhere to go but up.

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