What A Difference A Year Has Made

Bill Stull is so excited to put the Oregon State disaster behind him that he said that exact word or a variation 14 times in roughly an 11-minute interview session Wednesday, but that doesn't mean he hasn't thought about Pitt's 3-0 loss in the Sun Bowl or hasn't been aware of the flak he's taken since then.

Like any starting quarterback who's played in Pittsburgh, college or pro, the scrutiny by the media covering the team and its fans can be intense.

"To me, it comes with the territory, whether it's good, bad, ugly or whatever,'' Stull said. "That's the way it is, and I want to play football here. I love playing football here, and I love everyone here. I played high school football here. My family lives here. So, I'm just excited to have another opportunity to play here.

"I think you have to take everything with a grain of salt. You can't be too high, and you can't be too low. You have to stay on an even keel and just play football. (And) I'm just excited to play (YSU) out of all the teams and have a bunch of my family members coming in for this game.''

Bill Stull moved from Youngstown, Ohio in the sixth grade, and his first college game at Pitt was the Panthers' throwback game against Youngstown State in 2005. Stull is a much different quarterback since then, and he believed there's even a difference from last season as well.

"Every year a quarterback has to become smarter, honestly, just more smarter and pretty much ready to expect the unexpected,'' Stull said. "And after having a full season ... I kind of know what to expect in this game. I've watched a lot of tape on these guys, and I'm prepared for them.''

When asked how Stull is different from last year, first-year Pitt offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti took the high road and said that all three quarterbacks -- Stull, redshirt freshman Tino Sunseri and junior Pat Bostick -- have shown tremendous growth professionally and personally since he arrived.

There will be some discernible differences in Pitt's offense, though, with Cignetti at the helm this season.

"I think what they might see differently is some different formations and different shifts with motions,'' Cignetti said. "Maybe a little more wide-open approach in terms of screens and deception. (But) the foundation is the same. Make no mistake, the foundation that Matt Cavanaugh built here in the run game, the protection system and the passing game is the same.

"And then, you'll see some of the new wrinkles that the offensive staff has put together. (But) Dave's philosophy is the same as our offensive staff's philosophy. I wouldn't be standing here if I didn't have the same philosophy as Dave Wannstedt. We have the same beliefs that we want to be a tough, hard-nosed football team. We want to protect the football.

"We want to dominate the line of scrimmage, in the running game (and) in pass protection,'' Cignetti added. "And we want to establish the line (to) run the ball, protect the quarterback and get the ball to our playmakers. Naturally, as the game unfolds, the more passes you complete the more comfortable you are throwing it. (And) the more passes you don't complete, naturally, you play it tighter to the vest.''

One area where Stull certainly needed to improve was his short-range passing and in particular throwing screen passes, because as anyone who scouted Cignetti's past offenses knows the man likes to use the screen pass.

"The things that screens allow you to do is to get the ball into your playmakers' hands whether it's a tailback or a wide receiver,'' Cignetti said. "Every time you call a screen, there's the opportunity for big-play potential. (But) you also need to treat screens like runs. A three-yard screen is a good play.

"You can't expect every one to go for a big play, but if you dial up enough of them you will get big returns. (And) I'll have screens off play-action, screens off drop-back, screens to the backs, screens to the tight ends, screens to the wide receivers. (But) we're still going to try to establish the run game.''

Cignetti noted that while Sunseri is expected to play, there is no set plan to get him in the game. Stull apparently wasn't bothered by that, nor did he say he was upset that the underclassman shared first-team reps with him during camp.

"No matter how you feel, Coach said we were going to get equal reps,'' Stull said. "The only way to have a competition is to have people working in certain groups, so that's the way it is.

"But I'm just excited that I had an opportunity to show what I could do and show that I'm a better quarterback than I was before. And I'm excited for the opportunity against Youngstown State.''

And depending on his performance against the Penguins, Stull finally might be able to put his bowl-game showing in the past.

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