Lost: Tyler Palko*
Returning: Bill Stull, Kevan Smith, Dexter Davidson
Newcomer: Pat Bostick
Breakdown: After two years as Palko’s backup, Stull worked almost exclusively with the first team and proved adept at running the offense. The junior ended spring drills with a slight advantage over Smith, a redshirt freshman who has better tools but has yet to master the fundamentals.
Positives: Both Stull and Smith were recruited by offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh, know how to operate in his West Coast offense and can make all of the necessary throws. They got plenty of repetitions this spring, developed a rhythm with their receiving corps and have a summer to work out any inconsistencies. The quarterbacks are surrounded by returning talent at every position and won’t be counted on as heavily as Palko was.
Negatives: Stull had difficulty avoiding pressure in the pocket, getting sacked nine times. Smith had trouble handling the exchange and making his drops. He compounded that by throwing five interceptions. The Blue-Gold Game only magnified those problems. Davidson hasn’t practiced in the fall or spring because of knee injuries and won’t factor into the competition.
X factor: Bostick is Pitt’s highest-rated quarterback recruit since Palko, and figures to compete for the starting job. Bostick enrolls in May and will have 10 weeks to adjust to college life, learn the system and develop a rapport with his receivers. He has the widest learning curve but is a natural leader and prototypical pocket passer.
Projected starter: Bill Stull. The Panthers might be in the position to pick the player who makes the least amount of mistakes. Although Smith put up better numbers this spring, it was against a second-team defense maligned by injuries on the defensive line and at linebacker. At worst, Stull is a serviceable signal-caller until either Bostick or Smith is ready. At best, he is the Panthers’ starting quarterback for the next two seasons.