Wannstedt Concentrates On Starters

Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh have worked so hard to get junior quarterback Bill Stull ready for the season-opener against Eastern Michigan that they haven't even thought about how the Panthers' other two quarterbacks are going to be used.

"The only thing is that Bill Stull is getting his first start, and he's got to get out there and get confident so he can make plays to give us a chance to win the game,'' Wannstedt said. "We haven't had any conversations about Kevan or Pat other than their backup roles. (And) all we need to do is whatever we can to get the ball into the end zone with Billy. Nothing else matters.''

With the new kickoff rule in effect, moving the ball back five yards to the 30 this year, offenses could get a good start after the opening boot. But Wannstedt noted that he still might prefer to go on defense and defer the choice to the second half if Pittsburgh wins the toss.

"The natural thing would be to give (Stull) time to settle in, but we'll have to wait to see what the game conditions are,'' Wannstedt said. "Also, between now and Saturday, a lot of things will happen in our preparation and practice to make that decision in my mind a lot easier.''

Wannstedt also noted that he and Cavanaugh, as well as running backs coach David Walker, didn't have a play for how to divide carries between starting junior tailback LaRod Stephens-Howling and freshman LeSean McCoy. Both will play, is all that Wannstedt would reveal.

"For a running back to be effective, they have to get into the flow of the game,'' Wannstedt said. "So, there's nothing set for a certain number of series or anything like that. (But) they've both been splitting time, and they're both prepared. And that's the way we're going to go into it.''

Wannstedt was equally as vague about many other spots on the depth chart.

"We're still, at some positions, working our way through it,'' Wannstedt said. "So, it's still a process. The linebacker position, Scott McKillop is the one who has the most experience. He's had a great camp, and he's really turned into one of our defensive leaders. We're settled in on that spot.

"Adam Gunn and Shane Murray will start outside, but Dorin Dickerson will play a lot, and Nate Nix will play a lot. So, I see our outside linebackers in a position where we'll play a couple guys and then we'll see how it all unfolds.''

The tight end quandary, with tri-starters listed in sophomore Nate Byham, senior Darrell Strong and redshirt sophomore John Pelusi was more of a tribute to how well all three played during camp. Pitt could open with a double-tight formation anyway, but that remains to be seen.

On the offensive line, Wannstedt noted that "it's just a matter of getting those guys playing together and getting them all out there where they're healthy. Mike McGlynn is real close. He did everything the last few days, practice-wise, so he's day-to-day right now. But the rest of the group has done a nice job coming together and trying to make that thing mesh.

"Offensive line-wise, we're better than we have been, but we're not where we need to be yet. And I think that's probably the last position on offense to come together. You have one or two guys missing, and there's so many things that are affected. ... I like our talent and depth, but we're going to need a few of the young guys to come through, just like every year.''

On defense, junior Rashaad Duncan and sophomore John Malecki were listed as co-starters at nose tackle for their solid camps. Duncan is the likely starter there. And he mentioned that Gunn will start ahead of Dickerson at strong-side linebacker even though they were listed as co-starters.

Pitt's quarterback on defense, redshirt junior middle linebacker Scott McKillop, will also be making his first start.

"It's been a long time for me, about three years, ever since my last high school game,'' McKillop said. "So, I'm excited. ... I think with myself, being a local boy, I'm trying to get Pitt back in the right way to have our tradition back up to the way it should be. That's our goal.

"With Coach Rhoads as the defensive coordinator and the linebacker coach, the burden is a lot more on our shoulders. But what he stressed this year is for us to know not only our position and why we're doing something but also the front line and the back guys as well. So, we're really prepared.''

Wannstedt didn't shed any light on the kickoff specialist, either, although he said that since classes just began maybe a one would enlist soon.

"Dave Brytus can kick off, and Conor Lee can kick off,'' Wannstedt said. "They would be the primary two. School started today, so maybe (a soccer player) will show up. But anybody who can kick the ball out of the end zone consistently, we've got a spot for you.''

Panther More Top Stories