Wednesday Afternoon Delight
Bill Stull, the only Pitt quarterback with any previous playing time at the college level, beat out redshirt sophomore Kevan Smith and freshman Pat Bostick. And while he was the frontrunner since spring practice ended, there were always some questions about him. But not by Stull.
"It feels good, finally,'' Stull said. "I guess once I signed and came to Pitt, I've always dreamed of being the starting quarterback in my hometown. I played football here in high school (Seton LaSalle), and what better way to progress than to be the starting quarterback for the University of Pittsburgh.''
Smith has played well, at times, the past two weeks during training camp, but his inexperience was evident more often than not. He only started one season at Seneca Valley, Pa. High School and was redshirted last year. Bostick, a blue-chip recruit and fan favorite since he signed with Pitt in February, was at a disadvantage after he left camp for personal reasons before it even started and didn't return for eight days.
"I think it's pretty obvious that Billy Stull is the starter at quarterback,'' Wannstedt said. "He's performed the best, and right now he's the most confident in what we're doing. He has the most confidence from this football team. He has the most confidence of the coaches right now.
"So, Billy will be the starter, and Kevan Smith and Pat Bostick will continue to work, and they'll improve. They'll work hard enough during the week (in practice), as we get into this season, that they'll get better and better. And, if need be, they'll be ready to play.''
Since many regulars were banged up after two-plus weeks of two-a-days and physical practices during training camp, Wannstedt and his staff decided to rest offensive tackles Jeff Otah and Jeff Pinkston, defensive ends Joe Clermond and Chris McKillop and cornerback Aaron Berry. Several others only got limited action. Stull was 9-for-13 for 92 yards and one touchdown to tight end Darrell Strong. He beat Dorin Dickerson to the corner of the end zone and made a one-handed catch for the score despite tight coverage.
"Billy's a ball player,'' Wannstedt said. "He's a leader, and he understands the offense and knows what we want philosophy-wise. We believe in him, and the players believe in him. He's got plenty of ability to do everything that we need to ask him to do. ... He's thrown the deep ball well, and he's ready to play. He's excited, and it's a great opportunity for him.''
Bostick completed just 3 of 7 passes for 53 yards, primarily against other freshmen, but he had one 30-yard touchdown pass to Maurice Williams, was sacked twice and fumbled a snap. Smith was 2-for-4 for 15 yards and was dropped once.
Sophomore T.J. Porter got the most work among the wideouts and had four catches for 28 yards in mostly possession plays. Junior tailback LaRod Stephens-Howling had one carry for 44 yards around right end, and LeSean McCoy had a 15-yard touchdown run. But there wasn't much running overall.
"We can do anything and everything,'' Stull said when asked to describe Pitt's offense. "We'll go 4-5 wide if we have to, but we'll also go into our (power) packages and run it down your throat if we want to. And we have the personnel and the depth to do that with our wideouts and tight ends, and our offensive line is doing one heckuva job.''
While several starting positions are settled, including quarterback, Wannstedt noted that two areas need to be sorted out.
"The linebacker thing, we're still working through some issues,'' Wannstedt said. "We're pretty set in the secondary, and we're pretty set on the defensive line. We're going to rotate those guys. The offensive line just has to get back healthy, but we know who the five starters are today with Mike (McGlynn) not being in there today.
"The tight ends are kind of like the defensive line. All three guys are starters. Nate Byham, Darrell Strong and John Pelusi. The running back thing, we've got great depth there. So, the offensive line and linebacker are the two spots that we're working through.''
Wannstedt said that it was not out of the question for McGlynn to be ready for the regular season. He will be working on run-blocking next week, the final phase of his rehab at full speed. He also noted that the staff is confident in Pinkston starting at right tackle this season.
Wannstedt and defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads aren't accustomed to rotating players at linebacker. That's more the case for the defensive line, but he added that Adam Gunn and Scott McKillop have been the two most consistent players there with Shane Murray in a close third. Jemeel Brady, Dorin Dickerson and Nate Nix "are right there, so they're all going to play.''
Pitt has its annual FanFest Thursday night at Heinz Field, and a final night practice ends camp Friday.
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