LB Scott McKillop

2007 Statistics

Coach: Dave Wannstedt
16-19, 3 years
2007 Record: 5-7
at Michigan State LOST 13-17
at Virginia LOST 14-44
NAVY LOST 45-48 (2OT)
at Louisville LOST 17-24
at Rutgers LOST 16-20
at West Virginia WON 13-9

2007 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2008 Outlook

The promises made by fourth-year headman Dave Wannstedt upon taking the top spot here have proven tough to deliver upon. As pledged, he has definitely built a proverbial fence around this talent-producing region, and not allowing many of the city’s best players to leave has meant more talent for the Panthers as their draft classes rated No.10 and No.8, respectively, for the past two years. But nothing the school’s 34th head coach has done so far has produced a winning record. All of his campaigns here have, at some time, featured at least a three-game losing streak (last year’s skid was four). Walt Harris, Wannstedt’s predecessor, took the Panthers to five consecutive bowls prior to his exit, something Big Dave has yet to do even once. What should have meant a step up the win ladder has done just the opposite. Ostensibly, this year will tell whether changes at the top are again to be in the near future, or if the stacked talent can finally sail this awry ship toward a winning destination.

So,, how can you put Pittsburgh this high in your ranking after the team’s worst season in close to a decade? Simply put, balance and depth are the answers…those things, and the emergence of the best RB since Tony Dorsett, will couple with the seven returning starters from last year’s No.5 (total) defense to give Wannstedt his best chance so far at success.

The Tyler Palko years featured talent, but there was little behind the starters if injuries were prevalent, and they were. Then the new starter, Bill Stull, was lost in the first game of the new era, and nine bowl-eligible opponents made sure Pitt earned anything they got. Now, after the lumps, some units are stacked three deep (DL, WR, RB) with potential starters, though, the thin OL still holds the Panther’s entire destiny in their hands.

LeSean McCoy is one of only three true freshmen to ever rush for over 1,000 yards (Ray Rice and Steve Slaton). His 1,328 rushing yards set the Big East Freshman single season rushing record. Finally, the running game delivers, and in light of Stull also ready and eager to return, all the backfield needs is protection to succeed. Creative play calling to go along with the influx of talent will guarantee points. The bottom line is that for the first time in close to a decade, there will be a balanced attack foes will be forced to stop.

New DC Phil Bennett only needs to tweak a few areas to keep the conference’s No.1 stopping crew on top. A defensive specialist himself, Wannstedt’s D’s have fared better than their offensive brethren, but the last two losing streaks have each allowed huge amounts of points that don’t reflect the results seen most of the year. In ’07, the shining moments were bright - holding Cincy’s No.16 scoring offense to 17 points, Rutgers No.16 total offense to 20, and West Virginia’s seemingly unstoppable 3rd-ranked rushing attack to 104 yards as well as the Mountaineer’s No.9 scoring machine to nine points are all impressive feats, but they are countered by Connecticut, Virginia and Navy scoring 34, 44 and 48 in their mid-season romps through this defense. Consistency issues are what Bennett will be judged upon, for the speed and attitude needed already abound.

The schedule slowly ramps up, so the offense has a chance to get up to speed against seemingly lesser squads. Iowa is a modest home test they should pass; this game will tell whether it is a breakout year or just another struggle to break even. Bet on the former…but the eight games that start with South Florida compose possibly the toughest slate for any conference member. Not many in the Big East have a non-con list with semi-toughies like Navy and Notre Dame (well, not as tough these days) joining the Hawkeyes. With WVU and Louisville revamping many areas, the Panthers have a real shot at challenging for the conference crown, but so do all of the wanna-be’s that have been aiming at these two recent powers. The odds are better for the Panthers to finish in the top 20 for the first time in nearly 20 years, but disappointment is just as likely until Dave & Co. can prove they have the college game under their control for above-.500 respect.

Projected 2008 record: 7-5
QB - 3 DL - 3.5
RB - 4.5 LB - 4.5
WR - 4 DB - 3.5
OL - 2.5 ..
2007 Statistical Rankings
Total Off:
Sacks Allow:
Total Def:

Passing: Pat Bostick, 155-252-13, 1500 yds., 8 TD

Rushing: LeSean McCoy, 276 att., 1328 yds., 14 TD

Receiving: Oderick Turner, 36 rec., 496 yds., 5 TD

Scoring: LeSean McCoy, 15 TD, 90 pts.

Punting: Dave Brytus, 66 punts, 39.6 avg.

Kicking: Conor Lee, 18-22 FG, 28-28 PAT, 82 pts.

Tackles: Scott McKillop, 151 tot., 98 solo

Sacks: Greg Romeus, John Malecki - 4 each

Interceptions: Aaron Berry, 2 for 1 yd.

Kickoff returns: LaRod Stephens-Howling, 5 ret., 20.0 avg., 0 TD

Punt returns: Aaron Berry, 24 ret., 8.6 avg., 0 TD


K Conor Lee
OFFENSE: Marcel Pestano-WR, Darrell Strong-TE, Jeff Otah-OT, Chris Vangas-C, Mike McGlynn-OT
DEFENSE: Joe Clermond-DE, Chris McKillop-DE, Kennard Cox-CB, Mike Phillips-SS

Effort, recruiting, coaching…it’s all coming together for the Pittsburgh offense to finally begin to reach its potential. What was seen as a listing ship has now been righted. But how can that be if 63 total yards and nine points per game were lost from the prior year? For an offense that has claimed to be all about running, signs that Pitt can control a game on the ground have at last been found.

This is still a pro-style approach, so running the ball is essential since spreading teams out doesn’t happen all that much. The big find was Freshman All-American and Big East Rookie of the Year LeSean McCoy. Coach Wannstedt had been using either big bruisers or scat-backs, but McCoy’s hybrid size gives the offense an every-down back who is also (capable of being) the team’s third-leading receiver. He is the first Panther to go over the 1,000-yard mark since Kevan Barlow did it in 2000, and he set the school’s freshman record for rushing TDs (14) and total TDs (15). This kid is good for 25 carries a game, but he may have to share the spotlight a bit more with so many capable backs available and eager to contribute. LaRod Stephens-Howling has become a favorite of both the staff and the fans with his tough attitude through those harder rushing years when he was the top Pitt rusher with only 434 yards in 2005 and 893 in ’06. St.-Howling is that scat-back who can be put in on specific plays for maximum effect, but he isn’t an inside runner by any means. Shariff Harris is, and the RS frosh made hit after hit on (would-be) tacklers in the spring game to hammer home his physical style. Harris will possibly supplant LaRod as the second-leading ball carrier, but each will have an important role in vaulting the Panther running game back into a top 40 unit. Conredge Collins gains yards, rarely losing any (lost one last year) and doing the job for McCoy in the plowing department. This improved ground dimension is why we see Pitt climbing back into the Big East race.

Local product Bill Stull makes a return from the thumb injury in the first game last year that forced him to use his redshirt. That took Pittsburgh’s best field general from coordinator Matt Cavanaugh and forced then-freshman Pat Bostick into the starting role. Bostick wasn’t ready yet for the limelight, evidenced by his 13:8 INT:TD ratio. Stull seems secure with the system and is again the starter, but Bostick isn’t a shoe-in for backup anymore if JUCO-transfer Greg Cross can continue to learn the offense into summer well enough to displace Bostick. Cross is a dual-threat who had the Blue-and-Gold game’s longest pass play as well as some big ground gainers, and coaches would have a hard time finding reasons not to shuttle him in for a switch up on defenses if he is in tune with what is happening by August.

The receivers are a formidable bunch, going three deep and all are over six-foot. Derek Kinder is the kind of all-around snarler-blocker-leader who makes someone pay somehow each play. Kinder was a Biletnikoff semifinalist in ’06 prior to tearing his ACL in the first week of spring last year, thus missing the entire season. Ed Conway Award (spring’s most improved player) recipient Cedric McGee is that same type of bullying presence (ala Hines Ward) who stood out enough to become a consistently relied-upon second-teamer. Oderick Turner is a former New Jersey state prep high jump champ (6’4 best) and son of former N.Y. Giant/S.F. 49er WR Odessa Turner. He wins any jump balls and forces safeties over to help. Porter led the team in receptions as mostly a third option, leaving RS frosh Aundre Wright as the odd man out due to the lack of seniority. It’s a good problem to have…but wait, there’s more. Incoming five-star prospect Jonathan Baldwin is an Aliquippa speedster who is sure to find his way onto the field come gameday, so even an injury bug cannot stop the WR corps from being a very strong asset. Dorin Dickson came back from his LB assignment to wow many this spring; the former No.8 RB prospect seems solid as a catching TE (reportedly has 4.4-second speed in the 40). He will be employed with Nate Byham, a proven playmaker who sat out this spring but will be back by fall at full strength. Pelusi also missed spring and will be back to be the blocking TE, but Tyler Tkach got reps in his place and affords Wannstedt the same problem he has at WR with too many qualified hats from which to choose.

The line turns itself over with three new starters. The right guard spot finds John Malecki switching sides of the ball, and a quality OL is contingent upon Malecki growing into a starter. Joe Thomas can move back to the position he played in prep (OT), but his continued upswing on the learning curve is just as essential for finding a tight group as Malecki’s adaptation is. New HUCO-transfer Robb Houser is another “iffy” component – he can play fine, so far, but at this level, the proof is in the real game reps. Jason Pinkston started the opening three games at right tackle, then a season ending shoulder tweak meant a redshirt. He shifts to the left side, but like left-mate C.J. Davis (G), he was excluded from spring ball, meaning we will find out how well he can do on the other side only once the campaign starts. Davis is the one constant, starting 30 consecutive games, yet the line’s lone senior starter is fighting a hamstring that may hamper his efforts into August. Local RS freshman Chris Jacobson is a top reserve, and he, too, had a knee problem that further pushes new OL coach Tony Wise to his limits in just his first year back in the college ranks after 20 years away (coached in the NFL with Wannstedt at Dallas, Chicago and Miami; teamed up together also in college, first at Pitt in 1977, and then at Oklahoma State and Miami). Gibbs and Williams saw lots of first-team reps without Pinkston and Davis around this spring, so depth exists, even if it isn’t very battle tested. Even with all contingencies met, this line is a fledging group that still has to come together quickly once August practices hit. A decent line will make Pitt seem unstoppable; a marginal-to-bad one will again start the murmurs of Wannstedt’s departure after four years of unfulfilled offensive promises.


RB LeSean McCoy


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Bill Stull-Jr (6-3, 200) Pat Bostick-So (6-3, 220)
FB Conredge Collins-Sr (6-0, 230) Shane Brooks-Jr (5-11, 225)
TB LeSean McCoy-So (5-11, 210) LaRod Stephens-Howling-Sr (5-7, 180)
WR Oderick Turner-Jr (6-3, 200) Cedric McGee-Jr (6-1, 200)
WR Derek Kinder-Sr (6-1, 210) T.J. Porter-Jr (6-1, 185)
TE Nate Byham-Jr (6-3, 245) John Pelusi-Jr (6-3, 255)
OT Jason Pinkston-So (6-4, 300) Jordan Gibbs-Fr (6-7, 280)
OG C.J. Davis-Sr (6-3, 315) Dominic Williams-Sr (6-4, 305)
C Robb Houser-Jr (6-2, 285) Alex Karabin-So (6-1, 290)
OG John Malecki-Jr (6-3, 275) Chris Jacobson-Fr (6-3, 285)
OT Joe Thomas-Jr (6-5, 300) Dan Matha-Fr (6-6, 310)
K Conor Lee-Sr (5-11, 195) Dan Hutchins-So (5-11, 190)



After producing the No.5 total defense in 2007, Paul Rhodes vacates for the same DC position at Auburn. Ok, the loss of Rhodes doesn’t seem so bad when you see the three aberrations of 44, 48 and 48 points (respectively) scored by second-tier programs Navy, Virginia and South Florida. The turnover produces new sheriff Phil Bennett, the former SMU head coach who was crowned Defensive Coordinator of the Year at Texas A&M in 1995 and who led Kansas State to three top five finishes (in total defense 1999-2001). This guy has everyone snapped to attention, and he knows when to apply the whip and when to let his guys just pin their ears back and play “get the guy with the ball”. Bennett gets a rag-tag group that’s strongest point is Bennett’s specialty – linebackers.

The DL is strong inside and promising on the outside. Duncan and Williams started seven games together after starter Mustakas was lost for the entire year during the Grambling tilt, and the 15 TFLs they combined for speak highly of what’s to come. National wrestling champ (275lbs Greco-Roman) Myles Caragein seemed unblockable this spring, and JUCO-product Tom Duhart burst onto the ’07 scene with a bulging stat line for a reserve tackle. Mustakas is hungry to get his starting spot back, so expect much from the Panther bigmen when envelopes are pushed. Outside, it’s Freshman All-American Greg Romeus sure to expand on his 11.5 TFLs as he blossoms into a battle-tested leader. Doug Fulmer missed most of ’06 (right knee) and all of ’07 (left ankle), but his status as a starter remains after he came out this spring and didn’t seem to miss a single beat. Sheard and Tucker also impressed in off-season practice(s), so depth is there…but with a resurgent Fulmer as the lone upperclassman on the end, finding departee Clermond’s 10.5 sacks amongst the remaining DEs is the only challenge for this DL to become one of the school’s all-time best.

The LBs are all returning starters, and senior All-American Scott McKillop is second to none in the land for tackling quality. Capable of finishing third nationally in solo tackles (98), Bennett sure hopes his D is good enough across the board to keep this much work from needing to be done by the Export product or those who share this vaunted position. But when your defense already has its three starting LBs as the top tacklers, the job is already being done by everyone so all are optimizing their eAdam Gunn had been waiting his entire collegiate career until last year's modest success, which means this campaign should be much bigger for the senior. Gunn has sub-4.5 speed, and Pittsburgher Shane Murray (mmmmm…Pittsburger) is also that same kind of quality coverage guy in the flat (as is McKillop). Max Gruder has really progressed, to the point where he is challenging Steve Dell for the spot behind McKillop, but neither has the speed of the All-American ahead of them. But the biggest upside has to be with ex-RB Greg Williams, who has the toughness/quickness combo-factor any good BCS-level LB needs. Few in the country will have a better corps, especially when the new coordinator coaches up his talent.

Eight letterman are back from a unit that ranked first in the Big East and third nationally in pass defense. The news out of the defensive backfield has to do with corner Anthony "Buddy" Jackson. With a six-foot frame and sub-4.4 speed, coaches will likely move him past heir-apparent Jovani Chappel to bookend returning starter Aaron Berry at corner. Chappel plays smart and consistently improves on the few mistakes he makes, but it may not be enough to hold off Jackson's surge this spring. Chappel as a nickel would signal a strong group. Like Chappel, Rick Gary plays much bigger than his 5'9 frame suggests, and Gary's starting experience gives quality depth beyond the main three CBs. The young Berry, one of the more heralded prep players to come out of the Keystone State while being named to the AP Class AAAA All-State First Team, is poised to become one of the better covermen in this conference. He is also handles the punt returns. The safeties are also in a flux that has a few scenarios possibly playing out. Eric Thatcher is the veteran who bounced back from a busted ankle to have a solid 2007. His job looks safe, but the reviews this spring for the times Dom DeCicco and classmate Elijah Fields were in together have insiders excited for what the secondary will be once the two have another year under their collective belts. Both are athletically gifted, more than the safety spots have seen here in years. Depth behind these three suffers a substantial drop-off in quality. The secondary, traditionally a major strength for Pittsburgh, gets highly talented graduate assistant Jeff Hafley to take over. Enough talent should keep anything from going awry, and working under a new coordinator will reshape the D quickly so the quality/results seen from last year's No.5 finish loses little momentum.


CB/PR Aaron Berry


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Doug Fulmer-So (6-4, 245) Jabaal Sheard-So (6-4, 240)
NT Rashaad Duncan-Sr (6-2, 295) Gus Mustakas-Jr (6-3, 280)
DT Mick Williams-Jr (6-1, 290) Tommie Duhart-Jr (6-4, 290)
DE Greg Romeus-So (6-5, 250) Tony Tucker-Fr (6-2, 225)
SLB Adam Gunn-Sr (6-2, 230) Greg Williams-Fr (6-3, 215)
MLB Scott McKillop-Sr (6-2, 240) Steve Dell-Jr (6-1, 225)
WLB Shane Murray-Jr (6-1, 210) Nate Nix-So (6-3, 225)
CB Aaron Berry-Jr (5-11, 175) Ronald Hobby-Fr (5-10, 175)
CB Jovani Chappel-Jr (5-9, 185) Ricky Gary-So (5-9, 175)
SS Dom DeCicco-So (6-3, 220) Elijah Fields-So (6-2, 215)
FS Eric Thatcher-Sr (5-9, 195) Sherod Murdock-Fr (6-0, 170)
P Dave Brytus-Sr (6-4, 230) ..




When your punter forces over one-third of his tries to be fair caught, the net results should be much higher than Pitt's 70th ranking. Junior Golden Gloves champ of Western Pennsylvania (2002) Dave Brytus, also a karate black belt and former hockey terror, is an extra hat on coverage teams to go with his Purdue-transferred foot. Senior Conor Lee is consistent, but without an FG from outside of 50 yards in his entire playing career at any level, Brytus could make the FGAs from beyond the 40 if asked to. St.-Howling is the new face for kick returns with his specialized assignments, and Aaron Berry is just waiting for his first return to the house with the many breakaway chances he gets due to his speed and vision. Fun fact: Scott McKillop is the team’s third-string long snapper.