McKillop Updates Summer Workouts

The Pitt football team is in a fourth conditioning week during its off-season workouts, running Flagstaff Hill once each week, but fifth-year senior middle linebacker Scott McKillop believes the Panthers already are making progress.

After this Friday, the Pittsburgh players will go through two weekly workouts and then increase that to three times with heavy conditioning continuing as well as 7-on-7 play among the Panthers.

"We know what's ahead of us, but we know it's not going to be easy,'' Scott McKillop said. "It's going to take a lot of hard work for us to get where we want to go this year, and that's to win the Big East and go to a BCS Bowl Game. And that hard work begins in the off-season. So, that's where we are right now.''

McKillop noted that this year's team, and in particular the veterans, are dedicated to getting the Pitt football program back on track. He says the Panthers know how close they were to posting a winning record last fall and believe that with some improvement that can be achieved this season.

Preseason prognostications have this Pitt team, the fourth for head coach Dave Wannstedt, finally securing a winning record and finishing somewhere in the lower portion of the top 25 rankings. This would be a marked improvement after three non-winning seasons since Wannstedt returned to his alma mater.

"No matter where we're ranked in the preseason, I don't think that would change our off-season workouts one bit,'' McKillop said. "I think that everything is excited and dedicated to this program back on the winning track, and that's come through so far in the off-season. We're working very hard.

"And we know that all our hard work will pay off in a few months when we get to camp. A lot of the freshmen from last year, they're really picking it up and working as hard as the veterans. Everyone knows how close we came last season, and we want to turn all those close games into our favor this year.''

While Pitt finished 5-7 last season, it went 3-3 during the second half with two losses by a touchdown or less in that stretch and three overall. The Panthers capped the year with a stunning 13-9 win against then second-ranked West Virginia in Morgantown, W.Va.

McKillop and Pitt's defense were especially stout against WVU. Just a first-year starter, McKillop led the nation in tackles with 12.58 per game and was second in solo stops (8.17). He was named to four different All-America squads and was a unanimous first-team All-Big East pick by the league's coaches. He also was named CollegeFootballNews.com's Big East defensive player of the year.

McKillop spearheaded a Panthers unit that finished fifth nationally in total defense with 297.67 yards allowed per game. He also was named a preseason first-team All-American by Lindy's magazine and NationalChamps.net and likely will be a top candidate for the Rotary Lombardi Award (nation's top lineman or linebacker), Butkus Award (top linebacker) and the Bednarik Award and Bronko Nagurski Trophy, both given to the nation's outstanding defensive player.

While McKillop appreciates the individual recognition, none of it matters if Pitt isn't successful during his final season.

"I really don't think too much about those preseason awards,'' McKillop said. "They're nice, for sure, but they really don't mean anything. There's a lot that I can improve on, and I'm working on them during the off-season.

"I did pretty well last season, but I can be an even better player this season with a lot of hard work. You never want to be satisfied with how you've played. You can always sharpen your fundamentals, and you can never watch too much film in your preparation. So, I'll be working on all those things.''

Veteran coach Phil Bennett, who replaced Paul Rhoads as Pitt's defensive coordinator this year, has tweaked the defense just a bit in the spring and could make more adjustments during training camp for the fall. McKillop believed this could improve the Panthers consistency on defense this year.

"We're going to be a very deep defense this year with a lot of starters and strong contributors returning, as well as a number of guys who redshirted,'' McKillop said. "So, we have a lot of good players on defense, and we expect to play even better this year than we did last season.

"Everything came together for us in the West Virginia game,'' McKillop said, "but we want to play that way every week during this upcoming season.

"It's hard to say what will happen and what Coach Bennett will do, but we have a lot of fast and athletic players on defense. And we certainly should have the talent to play a lot better and most consistently on defense this season.''

Pitt's summer workouts lead into training camp which begins the first week in August.

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