Vangas Set For Senior Season

Few nonstarters have gotten as much playing time in their careers as Chris Vangas, but even less have taken as much heat as Pitt's fifth-year senior center received during the offseason.

After three seasons as the primary backup at the University of Pittsburgh, however, Chris Vangas is eyeing the starting center spot this fall. But before he even took a snap during training camp, the Panthers fans had Vangas as a bridesmaid once again with classmate Mike McGlynn or junior C.J. Davis moving to starting center.

"I've got all the confidence in the world in Chris,'' offensive line coach Paul Dunn said. "He's done everything that he can to prepare himself for this season. So, I feel very strong about the way he prepared in the summertime. Buddy Morris describes him as a warrior, and I would have to concur.

"He's going to give you everything that he has, and that's anything a coach could ever want. And Chris has played some football here. He just hasn't been a starter, so that's probably why he's being overlooked. But that's not by us. We think very highly of Chris, and his work ethic can't be overlooked.''

Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt opened camp by saying that Vangas and redshirt sophomore John Bachman would battle it out for the starting spot, and if the good competition got either ready to play then it wouldn't matter when McGlynn was healthy. But nothing can be done until then anyway. So, Vangas and Bachman will continue to complete for the starting center spot.

And Vangas has acquitted himself pretty well. He has had some solid practice sessions, including Thursday morning's session -- the first in shoulder pads. Vangas led fullback Conredge Collins up the middle for a 10-yard gain, and he provided a couple cracks in the defensive line for junior tailback LaRod Stephens-Howling to slash through.

For Vangas, it's a last chance to shine as a college football player.

"I'm ready to get this started, get this thing rolling for my senior season,'' Vangas said. "I just have to take advantage of this opportunity. It's my last year, so I just want to give everything I've got and do the best that I can for this football team. I want to help them improve and win football games.''

Vangas was the backup to two-year starter Justin Belarski in 2004 and played in six games, including nearly the entire matchup at South Florida when Belarski was injured during the first series. Pitt won that game 43-14.

He backed up Joe Villani in 2005, as well as last season, and played all 11 games in '05 with special teams play included. Vangas was Villani's backup last year as well and played in al 12 games.

"We have a lot of experience on the O-line, but have to play better as a unit,'' Vangas said. "I'm just as good as the guys next to me, so if they know what they're doing then it makes my job so much easier. I won't have to tell them what to do, as long as they know what they're doing.

"If we can play better, it'll make our quarterback's job easier. That's real important with a new quarterback. We have to make him as comfortable as possible. We have to keep guys off him, and we have to be able to run the ball to help out the offense, too. It all falls on us to get things started up front.''

And after three seasons as Pitt's primary backup center, Vangas believed that his time finally has come.

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