Bostick Better Prepared This Time Around

For a player who had a 3-5 record as a starter, including wins against two ranked opponents, threw for 1,500 yards with eight touchdowns and a 61.5 completion percentage in his first college season and was perceived to be a savior for the Panthers after they received a commitment and eventually signed him, sophomore quarterback Pat Bostick sure was criticized last fall.

There were some apologists for his performance, but don't count Pat Bostick among them. Bostick realized his shortcomings and also that a starting job was far from secure this year, so he took things up a notch. Already known as a tireless worker in the classroom and with film study, Bostick increased his strength and conditioning work in the offseason as well.

The effort paid off with an improved physique, losing 21 pounds will do that to an athlete, and a noticeable increase in quickness. But don't expect Bostick to run the Pittsburgh Wildcat, basically an option-running scheme, by himself.

"Probably not,'' Bostick responded when posed the question in jest. "I wouldn't do that if I were coaching. I wouldn't run it with me.''

That doesn't mean Bostick hasn't noticed the change. It was evident several times during Pitt's 7-on-7 and team drills in the first spring practice Tuesday.

"There was one time,'' Bostick recalled, "where I was running laterally and said to myself that this just didn't feel quite right. I was obviously quicker.''

If Bostick continues to work on his strength and conditioning, he'll be able to fight off would be tacklers much easier and keep plays alive for the Panthers offense. This will give them a chance to have a more vertical passing game and take some pressure of the running game and sophomore sensation, tailback LeSean McCoy, who had a spectacular freshman season despite some inadequacies in the Pitt passing game.

Bostick isn't a stranger to pressure, there was a great deal put on him as an undergrad at Manheim Township High School in Lancaster, Pa. and it increased exponentially by the time he got to Pitt.

"Going into my senior year (at Manheim), there was pressure ... from the standpoint of being a quarterback that was going to be recruited,'' Bostick said. "It's not that I was injured, but there was a lot of wear and tear from throwing a lot. I got up early to get to school to throw 100 balls up against a wall. Then, I'd throw 200 after school, and ... that caused some stress on my arm and elbow.

"And to take some stress off that I developed a little hitch in my delivery. I didn't bring my arm far enough back, so I worked hard to change that during this offseason. It became a habit, so it's going to be tough to break, but I'll try. I'll probably have a little dip, but not as much as before. If I was getting it out quicker and getting it out harder and farther, the dip wouldn't be a problem.

"So, I just want to get stronger and be able to get the ball out as quick as possible,'' Bostick added. "Overall, changing my delivery, probably added maybe 15 yards to my arm. And I needed it. I wasn't able to throw the vertical passes as well last year, but I can do it now. ... After doing just a few different stretching exercises, I was able to throw the ball 60 yards down the field.''

Bostick couldn't do that last year, and that problem wasn't lost on Panthers fans, as well as head coach Dave Wannstedt. So, this spring he brought in junior-college quarterback Greg Cross, a tremendous athlete, recruited successful scholastic quarterback Tino Sunseri for the fall and re-opened the quarterback competition with redshirt junior Bill Stull and redshirt sophomore Kevan Smith competing with Bostick and Cross this spring.

"I like what I've seen to this point, but we will give them all opportunities,'' Wannstedt said. "They each bring something different to the table, but it's going to be their responsibility to find a way to move the chains and put the ball in the end zone. And each guy can do it a little differently. But it's going to be interesting to watch, so we hope to see progress from day to day.''

Some believe that Cross, who Wannstedt called "by far the best athlete'' in the group, will be utilized in certain packages like the Wildcat even if he doesn't win the starting job, and Bostick should be redshirted after being forced to play last fall after an injury to Stull in the season-opener and ineffectiveness by Smith.

"If you ask Pat, he's coming in here to win the starting job,'' Wannstedt said. "I don't think there's been a kid on our team that's put more into an offseason program. ... So, there's going to be some serious competition at this position, the best since I've been here from top to bottom.''

Notes: Pitt has four new coaches this spring with defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, offensive line coach Tony Wise, wideouts coach Bryan Bossard and linebackers coach Joe Tumpkin joining the staff. Secondary coach Jeff Hafley was promoted to that position from his graduate assistant spot in past years.

Wannstedt also addressed the use of McCoy and All-America middle linebacker Scott McKillop, the nation's leading tackler last fall, this spring.

"I think we need to look at Shady (McCoy) and Scott McKillop,'' Wannstedt said. "We know what they can do, but Scott has only been a one-year starter. So, he needs to improve.

"And LeSean McCoy, we left a lot of long runs on the field last year. He knows that as well as anybody, and he wasn't here at this time last year. So, he needs to be out here in the spring, learn the offense better and compete and become a better football player.''

Pitt will hold its blue-chip recruiting day Saturday in conjunction with the 10 a.m. practice at the UPMC Sports Complex. About 25-30 recruits are expected. ... The annual Combine will be there Sunday beginning at 8 a.m.

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