Pitt Camp Begins

There's a great deal of enthusiasm around the Pitt football program going into this season, maybe more than any recent year except for Dave Wannstedt's first as the head coach at his alma mater.

And Wannstedt believed that's just how it should be, as Pittsburgh begins training camp practices Tuesday morning. The Panthers open the regular season against Bowling Green Aug. 30 at noon at Heinz Field.

"As we get started, the enthusiasm and the energy among our players and our fans is very evident,'' Wannstedt said during Monday's pre-camp press conference. "I think that's good, and that's exciting. From a coaching standpoint, it's excellent to see your players have legitimate enthusiasm.

"At this time of year, every player and every coach on every level feels their team has a chance to finish near the top. ... (But) when I have a conversation with someone who's excited for this upcoming season, my first reaction is 'we've gotta prove it.' ... So, we'll take things one practice at a time.''

The Panthers will split their squad when practice begins, and that will last through Friday. The first-teamers and fourth string practice at 8:30 a.m., while the twos and threes will go at 3 p.m.

"That's going to give every player, seniors through freshmen, a chance to get in good reps,'' Wannstedt said. "Under this system, everyone is at least second on the depth chart. This way, when we bring it all together on Saturday, we'll hopefully have a very clear evaluation of our talent level.

"(But) there are going to be a lot of rookies mixed in with that first group. ... There are some changes that we've had to make as far as special teams, such as putting Conor Lee together with Mark Estermyer in the afternoon. But for the most part, we'll have twos and threes in the afternoon.''

Wannstedt also addressed Pitt's quarterback situation.

"Coming out of camp a year ago, I really believed Bill Stull was going to be the best kept secret in the Big East,'' Wannstedt said. "When he came out of camp a year ago, his statistics were as good in two categories as Tyler Palko's when Tyler was a senior (during training camp). Bill never redshirted when he came in, so I think the redshirt last year will help him out.''

Stull is bigger, and his arm is stronger, Wannstedt noted, and he's more mature.

"I was very pleased with how he performed and progressed at spring ball,'' Wannstedt said. "Coming out of that, he was our most complete quarterback. Then you look at Pat Bostick, Kevan Smith and Greg Cross, who's learning the system. We have four guys coming here to win the job. That's what makes players better.''

Stull is just happy to be back with his teammates after spending the bulk of last season rehabilitating his injured right thumb. He basically played just a half against Eastern Michigan in the opener last fall and had the thumb on his throwing hand nearly torn off.

The ligaments were so badly torn and stretched that Stull needed surgery and three months of rehab before he could even grip a football tightly, let alone throw it with any velocity. But he was better in the spring.

"I think I had a pretty good spring, but camp is here now,'' Stull said. "And we're ready to roll. There's no turning back now. It's full steam ahead. We're ready to have a good camp to get ready for a real good season. All the hype is over now. It's our job to prove that Pitt is it once again.

"When you look at the depth and talent that we have all across the board, we expect to have a good season. Maybe it'll be a breakout year, but that remains to be seen. We just want to get started with practice, and we believe we'll show what we can do. We're sick of losing, and we're ready to have a good year.''

That's about as enthusiastic as the Panthers can get.

Panther More Top Stories