Pitt Camp Outlook: Offense

The Pitt football team has a number of returning starters on both sides of the line, but when the Panthers begin training camp practices Tuesday several starting and key backup spots will still be up for grabs.

Here's a look at each position on offense for the University of Pittsburgh and how the depth chart shakes out with less than one month remaining before the Panthers play host to Bowling Green Aug. 30 at noon at Heinz Field.

Redshirt junior quarterback Bill Stull regained the starting job he earned last fall and quickly relinquished when he suffered a season-ending thumb injury in the opener. Sophomore Pat Bostick and redshirt sophomore Kevan Smith both started and played extensively in his absence.

Bostick and Smith will vie for playing time in a reserve role, while junior Greg Cross was added to the mix this spring. He could be used in various packages like the Wildcat, but add a throwing option that wasn't available last year.

"Bill Stull's performance during the spring was very encouraging, especially considering that he had a six-month layoff due to the thumb injury,'' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh said. "Unlike last year, our quarterback competition will involve players with experience.

"Although he's only a sophomore, Pat Bostick is the most-experienced quarterback on our roster. Kevan Smith has played and started for us, and I think we're all intrigued with what an athlete like Greg Cross can bring to our offense.''

Sophomore tailback LeSean McCoy had an outstanding initial season and certainly should merit Heisman Trophy consideration this year. Senior LaRod Stephens-Howling, redshirt sophomore Kevin Collier and redshirt freshman Shariff Harris give Pitt its best stable of backs in years.

While McCoy could get around 300 carries this fall, the backup runs could be spread among the others until one gets hot. Former starter Stephens-Howling and Collier have experience. However, Harris is the wild-card in the group.

"We are blessed to have two exceptional tailbacks in LeSean and LaRod,'' running backs coach David Walker said. "They complement each other very well. ... We are enthused about our running backs' potential this year.''

Senior fullback Conredge Collins is a devastating blocker and solid pass-catcher, but redshirt freshman Henry Hynoski will push the veteran for playing time.

"Conredge Collins fits the ideal fullback mode,'' Walker added. "He can run. He can block, and he can catch.''

Fifth-year senior flanker Derek Kinder is back and better than ever after a season-ending knee injury in camp last summer. Junior T.J. Porter stepped in as a starter and had his best season, while redshirt junior Cedric McGee and redshirt freshman Aaron Smith had the best springs in the group.

At split end, redshirt junior Oderick Turner is a two-year starter, but he will be pushed by speedy redshirt freshman Aundre Wright and freshmen Jonathan Baldwin and Cameron Saddler, who should be a return ace as well.

"We have a very well-schooled receiver unit,'' wideouts coach Bryan Bossard said. "The older guys have a strong comprehension of the offense. Throughout the group, we have a great balance of size, speed and strength. They can catch the ball, but aren't afraid to go and block a linebacker or safety.

"With the backs that we have, our downfield blocking is going to be imperative. While we need to continue to work on our consistency, I like the dedication and potential of this group.''

Pitt's three tight ends each provide something different. Junior starter Nate Byham is the most well-round, while redshirt junior John Pelusi is the best blocker. And junior Dorin Dickerson, who moved from defense in the spring, is the best athlete.

"I believe we have a lot to like about our position,'' tight ends coach Brian Angelichio said. "We have depth and experience, as well as potential.

"Nate Byham and John Pelusi are two veterans who understand what we are looking to accomplish in our offensive schemes. Dorin Dickerson has been an exciting addition who can really bring a lot to the table with his athletic ability.''

The Panthers offensive line is an area that might have the most potential, but it's also the least-experienced group after three seniors graduated.

Redshirt sophomore Jason Pinkston moved from defense and started three games at right tackle last fall before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. He will play left tackle this season. Redshirt freshmen Jordan Gibbs and Greg Gaskins are backups, although Gibbs also got extensive work at right tackle.

The left guard is four-year senior starter C.J. Davis. Fifth-year senior Dominic Williams, redshirt junior John Bachman and redshirt freshman Chris Jacobson are battling for playing time in a reserve role.

The center is junior-college transfer Robb Houser, while redshirt sophomores Alex Karabin and Jared Martin are inexperienced backups.

Junior John Malecki moved from defense and will starter at right guard, while redshirt freshmen John Fieger and Wayne Jones are backups.

Junior Joe Thomas moved from guard to starting right tackle. Fifth-year senior Chase Clowser and redshirt freshman Dan Matha are backups.

"The goal for our offensive line is for continuous improvement, from the very first snap of training camp until our final game of the year,'' offensive line coach Tony Wise said. "Fall camp will be very significant for our line.

"It will be our goal from the outset to begin developing as an overall unit and from an individual standpoint.''

Place-kicker Conor Lee, a fifth-year senior, has developed into the most accurate kicker in the Big East with just six missed fields goals (30 of 36) in two seasons as a starter with the Panthers. Freshman Kevin Harper, Pitt's kicker of the future, could be the a kickoff specialist this fall.

Redshirt freshman Andrew Janocko is a new holder for Lee this season.

Pitt's Media Relations Department contributed to this story.

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