Wannstedt: "I think Romeus will be back.''

With a coaching resume that spans some 35 years, Pitt football coach Dave Wannstedt spent 15 in the National Football League, and contacts developed during that tenure give him a unique perspective for Panthers to utilize when considering prospects to extend their playing careers at the next level.

The Pittsburgh football program has 17 scholarship players in their final eligible season with the Panthers, and each likely will work out for NFL scouts. Some have a realistic chance to be drafted, while others likely will be free-agents. And some others, certainly, will move on to their life's work.

There certainly is speculation about which ones will be first-round picks, but there is even more talk about whether an underclassman, redshirt junior defensive end Greg Romeus, will declare early for the NFL Draft. Wannstedt spoke to Joe Bendel on his radio show this week on Fox Sports 970, and he believed that Romeus would return for his fifth season.

"He and I have had several conversations, and if he was going to be a first-round pick or a definite second then we would talk,'' Wannstedt said. "But that's not what the word on the street is. So, I expect Greg to come back next year.''

Pitt's 17 scholarship seniors are cornerback Aaron Berry, defensive tackle Craig Bokor, safety Irvan Brown, tight end Nate Byham, cornerback Jovani Chappel, linebacker Steve Dell, tight end Dorin Dickerson, linebacker Adam Gunn, center Robb Houser, offensive guard John Malecki, wideout Cedric McGee, linebacker Shane Murray, defensive tackle Gus Mustakas, quarterback Bill Stull, offensive guard Joe Thomas, wideout Oderick Turner and defensive tackle Mick Williams.

"As far as our seniors go, all the pros will start coming in now,'' Wannstedt said. "And as always, I am going to do everything in my power to get as many of these guys an opportunity to get into an NFL camp as we can, because they deserve it. And it's great for Pitt.''

Wannstedt, like most college coaches, get reports from NFL scouting departments and then brief players about their possible draft status. He advised cornerback Darrelle Revis to leave early, after his junior season, and that paid off with a first-round selection by the New York Jets.

Others, like wideout Greg Lee, were told to stay in school. Lee went against Wannstedt's advice and wasn't drafted at all. He eventually signed a free-agent deal, but has not been able to stick with an NFL team. He also reportedly told LeSean McCoy that he wouldn't be a first-round pick, and that held true as well.

"I've been right on with what I've told these kids,'' Wannstedt said. (And) it takes a little bit of time whether they will believe me or they believe some agent who doesn't know, but just wants their money and wants their business.

"So, hopefully, some of these guys have learned a couple lessons. And if a guy's ready to go, I'm going to be the first one to walk him next door to Mike Tomlin's office (with the Steelers). But, if he's not, I'm going to be honest with him and try to advise him what's best for him.''

Even with all the seniors leaving Pitt, and even if Romeus goes early, Wannstedt believed the future was still bright for the Panthers.

"I feel real good, because we've got some young defensive linemen (like) Shayne Hale, Brandon Lindsey and Chas Alecxih,'' Wannstedt said. "And we've got some outstanding young linebackers.

"And we have a couple young receivers (like) Devin Street and Ed Tinker, who I think are going to be great players. (And) Henry Hynoski's just a (redshirt) sophomore, and then you get to the recruiting thing.''

While that list certainly isn't complete, as long as Wannstedt continues to sign talent like he has in the past couple recruiting classes, as well as those committed for 2010, the Panthers' future most assuredly is bright.

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