Pitt Tries To Get All 4 QBs Reps

The Pitt football team is ready to roar this season, if the school's current marketing line is to be believed, but for the Panthers to finally break out for fourth-year coach Dave Wannstedt they'll need more consistent play from the quarterback position and the offensive line.

"I think, from the time we started the offseason program, you could sense a real attitude in the weight room and with the conditioning,'' Wannstedt said Tuesday prior to the first spring practice. "I'm real excited to see all the positions compete, but primarily the quarterback position.

"With Bill Stull coming back healthy. Pat Bostick losing 21 pounds and truly looking like a different person physically. With Kevan Smith having a real good offseason, and the addition of Greg Cross, I think that's a position that ... for us to make progress and for us to get better, we have to perform better from the quarterback position.''

Wannstedt noted that the biggest challenge will be getting all four Pittsburgh quarterbacks enough repetitions in practice, but if the initial workout is an indication the group will take turns. Redshirt junior Stull worked with the first team, basically, while sophomore Bostick was next. Stull opened the season as the starter, but injured his right thumb in the first half and needed season-ending surgery.

"It's unbelievable to finally be back out here with my team,'' Stull said. "I was telling coach that I probably haven't put my helmet on his seven months, so I was a little rusty with that. But I can't even express how great it feels to finally be back. I guess a good month after the season, that's probably how long it took me to not be concerned with my thumb while I'm throwing or handing off.

"Just being able to put the ball in my hand, it's still kind of stiff and takes a little time to warm up, but I didn't have any trouble throwing today. When all you do is lift ... I'm bigger and stronger than I've ever been. (And) right now, I'm just trying to get back in the groove to where I was near the end of camp last fall. So, I have to get back in the film room and prepare that way as well.''

Smith, a redshirt sophomore, replaced Stull in the lineup and struggled to move the offense in three starts. So, Bostick's redshirt was burned, and he ended up playing in 10 games with eight starts. Wannstedt said he wouldn't think about redshirting Bostick this season and noted that "Pat is here to start.''

"I view it as an opportunity to compete and play football,'' Bostick said. "I've gotten better, and I do have some experience under my belt. Just being out there and playing in front of 70,000 people on ESPN, there's no way to go through that unless you play. So, I was able to do that, and I learned from it.''

The problems Bostick encountered, other than inexperience, were limited mobility and arm strength. He was hopeful that diligent offseason workouts corrected both issues. Bostick currently weighs 214 pounds, 17 less than his playing weight last fall, and he was clearly quicker in the pocket. He also corrected the hitch in his passing motion to add some 15 yards to long passes.

"It has to do with flexibility,'' Bostick said. "After a week of working on mine, I went out and threw the ball 60 yards. I probably couldn't throw it 50 during the season, so that was a big improvement. And the weight loss, I gave it all to Buddy. ... I can move a lot better, and I'm more flexible. I can make more plays on my feet, and now I can help us win games in more ways.''

Smith played briefly late in the season at Rutgers and played pretty well before being injured, and Bostick had to come back in. But that important for Smith.

"Sure, it gave me some confidence,'' Smith said. "Even though I couldn't finish the game, I played pretty well (7-11 for 81 yards), and that was beneficial.''

Cross, the junior-college transfer, didn't get much work during the first practice and didn't throw the ball too often when he was in there. He primarily ran quarterback draws, which he did well as the quickest and most athletic Pitt quarterback on the roster.

"I'm so excited and so glad to be here,'' Cross said. "The guys know that I just transferred here, but they've all been great, helping me fit in. And I'm loving it right now. We're here in the indoor facility, and we're working hard.''

Pitt's second practice is Thursday at 2:45 p.m.

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