Stull Ready For 1st Test

Pitt will have eight new starters with four on each side of the line in its season-opener with Eastern Michigan Saturday at 6 p.m. at Heinz Field, and Panthers coach Dave Wannstedt described it as a final exam for his team.

Pittsburgh has practiced and prepared three weeks during training camp for this day, and those players -- including junior quarterback Bill Stull -- and Wannstedt believed that they all would be ready to go.

"We have playmakers, and Billy has done a real good job of recognizing that,'' Wannstedt said. "His decision-making, he hasn't stood back there and taken sacks and stood back there and gotten hit and put the ball on the ground.

"He's been smart about getting the ball out, and I think he's comfortable with throwing the ball to whoever's open. And the more talent that you have ... it doesn't make any difference who you throw it to. You just need to have some confidence that they'll make the plays.''

Stull noted that he didn't have any game-week jitters just yet, but he didn't believe he would since he at least played in a few games the past two years as Tyler Palko's backup. Stull was 7-for-10 for 86 yards and one touchdown in the six games he played as a freshman and sophomore.

And now that he got that first game, first snap and first play out of the way, he can concentrate on other things like taking charge of the Panthers' offense. But Stull's been doing that since spring workouts.

"Going into the season and finally saying that this was my position to lose,'' Stull said. "I think you have to be that way every single down that you're in there with the first team. So, I think every play you have to feel that way and have that confidence in yourself. You absolutely have to have it.

"Both Coach Cav and Coach Wannstedt told me just to stay within myself and let our playmakers make the plays. Let them do the dirty work and do their things. We have a lot of great athletes, and we're going to use them. You can only do so much and not try to force things, because ... that's when bad things can happen like interceptions and turnovers.''

One of those playmakers, redshirt junior wideout Marcel Pestano, said he noticed right away that Stull was different as the first-team quarterback.

"He's showing a lot better leadership this year, now that he's the No. 1 guy, so that was very evident when camp started,'' Pestano said. "He wasn't the man for sure before, but now he is and he's taken charge. He's very dedicated, and I think he can lead Pitt back to where we need to be.''

The Pitt defense also has faith that Stull and the offense won't put it in poor field position often or make every game a defensive struggle.

"We're really confident,'' redshirt junior middle linebacker Scott McKillop said. "Bill Stull's been out there, and he's been our general since this spring and the whole entire camp. He had a great camp, a terrific camp.

"He's thrown the ball good, and the offensive line has been blocking good. ... He's proven to everyone on and off the field that he can lead our team and help us go in the right direction. We're glad he's leading our offense.''

Stull realizes that he can't do it alone. He needs his playmakers on offense and a big turnout from the fans, who the quarterback said will be comprised primarily with friends and family members if he can get enough tickets for them. So, if there are any extra tickets out there ... .

"I'm trying to get a lot of tickets,'' Stull said. "I'll tell you that much, for friends and family and my coaches from Seton (LaSalle). So, I'm working on getting a lot of tickets. It's going to be packed, I'm sure of that with a lot of my family and friends there, and that just adds to the excitement.

"It's our first home game, and we want to come out with a bang. So, we're going to be hyped, but we'll be ready to go. We've worked very hard from the spring through training camp and now preparing for Eastern Michigan.''

And this is one test that Stull and the Panthers should pass with ease.

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