Friday Morning Mania

Pitt junior Bill Stull had about as tough a day as a quarterback can have.

Stull, a frontrunner to be the starting quarterback for the University of Pittsburgh football team, had two delay penalties and threw a couple interceptions early in practice and then injured his right thumb near the end.

Stull appeared to be fine after hitting the thumb on his throwing had on guard C.J. Davis, who was pulling on a play. While that certainly was a scare initially for Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt, he said it was not severe.

"We were down to just one freshman walk-on quarterback (in the morning), and that's not fair to our football team,'' Wannstedt said. "C.J. (Davis) was pulling out, and Billy hit him on ... I don't know if it was the helmet or shoulder pad. But it's nothing serious, so he'll be back.

"(But) I will be glad when we put the full pads on, and I will be glad when we get our entire team together. We have about reached the breaking point for two different groups and no pads, and it's time. So, we have one more practice to finish up with the young kids, and then we get it going (Saturday) for good.''

Stull did not look too sharp before the injury, which occurred with 30 minutes remaining in the 2-hour, 15-minute practice. That left freshman walk-on Andrew Janocko, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound left-hander from Clearfield, Pa. as the only quarterback in the morning session.

Linebacker Adam Gunn picked off Stull during the first 11-on-11 series, as defensive tackle Rashaad Duncan and end Joe Clermond applied the pressure. Duncan appeared to be close to getting a sack, but the whistle did not blow. Stull was hurried into the errant pass nonetheless. He also had to return to the huddle after trying to audible two plays at the line.

Defensive tackle John Malecki had two strong pushes up the middle and pressured Stull. The second time it caused Stull to misfire a 25-yard pass downfield, and cornerback Ricky Gary nearly picked it off. Later in the practice, with Malecki in his face, Stull fired downfield to tight end Nate Byham who caught the pass for a 20-yard gain.

Stull also tried to hit wideout Cedric McGee on the same play, but cornerback Aaron Berry had tight coverage. McGee got a hand on the ball and deflected it to safety Mike Phillips, who raced down the right sideline for a long return.

Outside linebacker Dorin Dickerson also had a good morning with a couple high-impact hits. On one play, he blew through a block and knocked down tailback Kevin Collier. Neither blockers nor the back could stop Dickerson on that play.

With Janocko at the helm late in the practice, the offense finally scored. The left-hander beat two-deep coverage by tossing a pass to Byham in the left corner of the end zone from about 30 yards out.

For the third straight day, Wannstedt praised junior tailback LaRod Stephens-Howling. The coach called him the most underrated player in the Big East a couple days ago and added that he should be a 1,000-yard rusher if he stays healthy this season.

Wannstedt also lauded McGee for earning a starting spot Friday, as well as outside linebacker Shane Murray and safeties Jovani Chappel and Dom DeCicco for their improvement.

"The move last year with moving Shane Murray to linebacker,'' Wannstedt added, "he's put on about 15 pounds and finally is looking comfortable playing linebacker for the first time. So, I'm encouraged by that move, and that'll give us something there.

"Also, Jovani Chappel made a couple plays from the safety spot. He's a very good tackler. He's an aggressive guy, and I think that gives us a little insurance back there. Dom DeCicco has been working with the older guys, and he's really making a minimal amount of mistakes and has done a good job.''

Wannstedt also was impressed with the offensive line, noting that the players performed well during individual drills, but the group did not perform well in the team session.

The Pitt head coach also took a shot at the NCAA for one of a rule that forces teams to practice two days in shorts and T-shirts before putting on shoulder pads. Then, it goes two more days before getting into full gear.

"NFL players know how to handle it when they're just practicing in shoulder pads, but our kids don't,'' Wannstedt said. "To try to have our kids practice with no pads, not even shells on, is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. They don't know. You say practice with nothing to protect them. That's not a very smart rule.''

The Pittsburgh Steelers worked their way into the Pitt practice in the waning minutes for a walkthrough to prepare for their preseason game against the Green Bay Packers Saturday night at Heinz Field. ... LB Miguel Pena moved up to the morning group Friday. ... Redshirt freshman Jared Martin switched from DT to OG. ... Several recruits watched practice: tailback Dom Timber and safety Jeff Knox, sophomores from Pittsburgh Central Catholic; and senior offensive lineman Mike Farrell from Pittsburgh's Shady Side Academy.

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