McKillop Among Elite Players

There have been questions about his size and speed, the measurables, as NFL scouts call those attributes, and it's a perceived shortcoming in those areas that still have Pitt fifth-year senior middle linebacker Scott McKillop not ranked as high as some peers even though the roll call for those in his class is brief.

All Scott McKillop has done since taking over as the quarterback for the Pittsburgh defense last year is lead the nation in tackles, win nearly every award possible, make every major watch list and maintain that high level at the midpoint of this season.

McKillop's amazing play has earned him honor after honor this season, but it also has put No. 23 Pitt (4-1) in a position to achieve more than it has since Dave Wannstedt took over as head coach. The Panthers face Navy (4-2) Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Annapolis, Md.

"Guys like Scott are players you can build a defense around,'' Wannstedt said. "He's a great leader and a terrific player. He's just done an outstanding job, when you consider our other two experienced linebackers basically have missed the entire season with injuries. I wish we had him around a few more years.''

McKillop redshirted as a freshman, played behind current Washington Redskins linebacker H.B. Blades for two seasons and stepped into the breach last fall. Make that jumped in with both feet. He was thrust into a starting roll with two outside linebackers, Shane Murray and Adam Gunn, who were safeties earlier in their Pitt careers.

"Scott's been a big help to me, that's for sure,'' said fifth-year senior Austin Ransom, who replaced Murray at weak-side linebacker. "He keeps the defense running smoothly out there and calls all the plays for us.''

McKillop usually downplays his role, citing his teammates' improved play, and he definitely doesn't like to talk about all the awards he's received.

"All those awards and honors and things are nice, but there's only one thing that's important here,'' McKillop said. "That's winning. We haven't done a lot of it in the past few years, but we have a chance this season. So, that's what we're concentrating on. I'm honored to be picked for these things, but they really take a back seat to our team goals.''

The latest award for McKillop was to be chosen as a midseason All-American by SportsIllustrated.com. SI.com called him a "big-game standout,'' and now that he's received similar honors from CBSSports.com and CollegeFootballNews.com the 6-foot-2, 240-pound hit man certainly is getting his due.

McKillop ranks second nationally in solo stops (7.4 per game), sixth in tackles for loss (1.80) and 11th in total tackles (10.40). He leads the Big East in each of those categories. Since his breakthrough junior campaign a year ago — when led nation in tackles (12.6 per game) — McKillop has seen his star rise on the national stage. He is a highly viable candidate for college football's most prestigious honors like the Bednarik Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Butkus Award, Rotary Lombardi Award and The Lott Trophy.

Two weeks ago, McKillop (Export, Pa.-Kiski Area High School) earned three national defensive awards for his performance in Pitt's 26-21 victory at South Florida. He had 12 tackles and two sacks against USF and was named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week, FWAA/Bronko Nagurski Player of the Week and The Lott Trophy IMPACT Player of the Week.

Additionally, McKillop has been selected the Big East's Defensive Player of the Week three times this season (after the USF, Iowa and Buffalo games), making him an early favorite for the Conference's Defensive Player of the Year honor.

And those accomplishments should be all that's needed to measure McKillop's stature with the Pitt football team, as well as among his peers.

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