That won't be the case this year, as Scott McKillop, a fifth-year senior, finished the season as the nation's leading tackler, earned All-America honors from various publications and was the Big East Conference's defensive most valuable player.
McKillop and the Pittsburgh defense should be in line for more accolades this fall as well.
"The individual honors, they're nice, and my mom likes to read that stuff,'' McKillop said. "But I'm more interested in how well the team does and what I can do to help the team. I expect our defense to have another good season, and I plan on playing a big role in making it nationally ranked again.''
By all accounts, McKillop should be a catalyst for Pitt's defense, as numerous preseason college football magazines have awarded him with first-team All-America honors. To date, McKillop has been named a first-team All-American by Athlon, The Sporting News, Lindy's, Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook and NationalChamps.net.
That list will continue to grow before training camp opens in August.
"We expect a lot from Scott McKillop this season,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "But we expect a great deal from all our players, especially senior leaders like Scott.''
The pre-season hype for McKillop certainly appears to be justified. Last year, McKillop led the nation with 12.58 tackles per game and spearheaded a Pitt defense that ranked fifth nationally, surrendering only 297.67 yards a contest. An unknown when the 2007 season began, McKillop built his national reputation practically on a weekly basis and climaxed a spectacular season with Pitt's now epic defensive performance in a 13-9 upset against then second-ranked West Virginia in Morgantown.
And McKillop led Pitt's swarming defensive effort that misty December night. The Mountaineers, one week removed from a 66-point performance against Connecticut, were limited to just one touchdown and 183 total yards. McKillop made one of the game's pivotal plays by tossing aside a WVU offensive lineman and corralling tailback Steve Slaton a yard shy of the sticks on a fourth-and-three situation late in the fourth quarter.
That ESPN nationally televised game showed the country what Pitt fans knew all season long. That McKillop was one of the finest players in college football. The 6-foot-2, 245-pound McKillop is up for some sparkling hardware this year as well. In its recently released annual, The Sporting News called him "a leading contender for the Butkus Award,'' given annually to the nation's top linebacker.
McKillop is also up for the Rotary Lombardi Award, presented to the country's outstanding lineman or defensive player who lines up within five yards of the football, and the Bednarik Award and Bronko Nagurski Trophy, both given to the nation's outstanding defensive player. The Lott Trophy, a national defensive player of the year award that takes into account character and academics, has him as a leading preseason candidate as well.
So, if McKillop was under the radar last year, expect him to be squarely in the sights of Pitt's opponents this season.
But expect McKillop to have them there as well.
Pitt's Media Relations Department contributed to this story.
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