A 6-foot-3, 205-pound redshirt junior, Bill Stull took nearly every repetition with the first-team offense during more than two practice weeks and actually earned the starting quarterback spot for the second straight year for Pittsburgh.
Stull finished the 2007 camp as the starter and played a solid first half in the season-opener against Eastern Michigan. However, he suffered a right thumb injury early in the third quarter and had season-ending surgery. He was healthy again for spring drills, 2008, and was the starter again. He maintained that spot, unofficially, of course, until Wannstedt made the announcement.
"It's obvious, but I just haven't said it yet, Billy Stull has had an outstanding camp,'' Wannstedt said. "He really has. The guy has played smart. He's made good decisions with the football, and he's thrown the football very accurately. He's shown great leadership skills. And he'll be the starter on opening day.''
With all due respect to sophomores Pat Bostick and Kevan Smith, who are competing for the backup spot now, Greg Cross and Tino Sunseri, but Stull has just had the look of a starter. He has been sharp, proven to have a stronger arm, and the team rallied around him from the outset.
"It feels awesome, but I'm just glad that I was able to prove to the coaches, myself and my teammates that I've earned the spot again,'' Stull said, with emphasis on the word again. "It's out in the open, and now I'm ready to move on to Bowling Green.''
Stull believed he had to prove that he could perform to the level he was at last fall when he began spring drills and then show improvement during camp. Stull appeared to do that, but still wasn't named the starter because Wannstedt wanted to create competition and give all the quarterbacks a "fair opportunity to win the starting job.''
Bostick and Smith were competitive, at times, but neither played well enough to surpass Stull. And neither was strong enough to secure the No. 2 spot, either.
"That's going to be the challenge. In a couple days when we start our Bowling Green preparation. You can't work five quarterbacks, (so) we've got a plan for that. We'll work through that, but this scrimmage will have some bearing how we'll stack the quarterbacks behind Billy. So, we'll watch the tape.''
Wannstedt added that one quarterback definitely will be redshirted, that likely will be Sunseri, "and possibly two guys,'' he added. That could be Bostick if Smith earns the backup role, but that has yet to be determined. Still, both have experience from last season, so that's one difference this year.
"And I think we're a lot more of a family,'' Stull said. "We've been through a lot of controversy, up and down, things like that. There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears during the season. ... And our offseason program, that's not a joke. We've grown a lot together, and we're better for it.''
Junior Joe Thomas got the first-team reps at right offensive tackle, and freshman Lucas Nix ran with the second team during Wednesday's scrimmage.
"We're still working on (right tackle),'' Wannstedt said. "I will say this, Lucas Nix, Chris Jacobson, both those guys are making progress every day.
"And Joe hasn't backed away, so we've got some real healthy competition going on with that offensive line. Pretty soon, in the next couple days here by the first of the week, we'll have to name a starting group. But Lucas is going to play, and whether he's the starter or not will be determined.''
The starters did not get much action in the scrimmage, but that was by design. There were no statistics taken during the workout, either.
"We altered our plan a little bit today,'' Wannstedt said. "We still got about 50 plays with our second and third groups. The starters got about 25 plays, but there was limited tackling with those guys.
"We probably have more decisions to make with those two units than the actual starters, for the most part. (So), when we watch the tape, I think we'll be able to make some final evaluations as we set the depth chart and start preparing for our opener here in a couple days.''
Redshirt freshman Tristan Roberts played first-team weak-side linebacker in place of Murray, but on the third play -- presumably to blitz -- redshirt sophomore Elijah Fields came on as a third safety. Fifth-year senior Austin Ransom, who just moved to linebacker this week, also played there.
Notes: Wannstedt believed Wednesday's performance by the defense was its best in camp, its most-consistent effort overall. ... Jonathan Baldwin and Buddy Jackson were involved in the two best plays in the scrimmage. Baldwin pulled in a long touchdown pass from Smith, basically off Jackson's helmet. ... That was just a few plays after Jackson drilled Baldwin after a sideline catch that drew hoots and hollers from their teammates who were watching. ... Wannstedt added in Oderick Turner's time at Pitt, this was his best training camp. Whether it was the pressure from young competition, i.e. Baldwin, or a sense of urgency for the redshirt junior wideout, Turner had a solid performance.
Stull's The Man, Write It Down
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