Call it the quarterback controversy that wasn’t.
Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt downplayed the idea that there is much competition going on at quarterback, where redshirt freshman Kevan Smith was supposed to be challenged by true freshman Pat Bostick this week.
By all indications, Smith should make his third consecutive start when Pitt plays Connecticut in its Big East Conference opener Saturday at Heinz Field.
“Nothing’s changed,” Wannstedt said. “Kevan’s the starter today. Kevan’s working with the first team. Pat’s getting an equal amount of reps with the second team.”
That’s not to say Wannstedt couldn’t change his mind and go with Bostick, or that Smith might be on a short leash against the Huskies. But it’s not like Bostick is taking away Smith’s share of first-team repetitions.
“We’re going to evaluate it right on through the week,” Wannstedt said. “I think that’s just the right thing to do. Right now, both guys are working to get better. Both guys are working extremely hard. We have to have both guys ready to play. There’s no easy way around it.”
Wannstedt was asked if he’s ever dealt with a quarterback situation where there was such a drop-off from starter to backup that it caused him to try a new offense.
“Not as extreme as this,” Wannstedt said. “In the NFL, guys don’t make the team unless they generally have some experience, but I’ve been in situations where you try to do the same things, maybe not to the extreme we went Saturday with a different offensive package.
“But you have to find different ways to win a game – whether it’s with special teams, offense or defense, running it, whatever – to take a little pressure off a young quarterback as he comes along.”
• Speaking of quarterbacks, here’s the latest update on junior Bill Stull, who had surgery on his right thumb Sept. 2 and was initially expected to be out four to six weeks:
“Billy’s right where he needs to be,” Wannstedt said. “The cast is off, splint’s on. The swelling is still going down. He’s right where he needs to be at this point. No timetable, just week to week.”
At this pace, the earliest Stull could return is for the Oct. 10 game against Navy or the Oct. 20 game against Cincinnati. It all could depend on how the Panthers play in the interim, as Stull has a medical redshirt on the line that wouldn’t be worth wasting for a sub-.500 team.
• Now that LaRod Stephens-Howling (ribs) has returned to practice, look for he and LeSean McCoy to split carries against UConn.
“You’ve got a better chance when one of your better players is suited up and healthy,” running backs coach David Walker said. “We missed him last week. He’ll be ready to go. He had a good day yesterday, so we’re full-speed ahead.”
Wannstedt said they won’t be in the backfield together – at least not in the conventional I-formation, where Conredge Collins is the fullback – but that both backs are needed if Pitt is going to win with a run-first mentality.
“When we’re real good – and winning – we should be running the ball 40 to 45 times a game,” Wannstedt said. “One guy is not going to be able to do that, so it’s important to have as many good ones as you can.”
• McCoy, for one, said he likes the vantage point he gets in running after taking direct snaps from center when Pitt goes to its Wildcat formation.
“It’s definitely different,” McCoy said. “Usually, you’re looking to read what’s going on, see who’s blocking who. When you get a direct snap, it’s a little easier because you see everything happening.”
• Sophomore right tackle Jason Pinkston missed practice Wednesday, but Wannstedt is optimistic that Pinkston’s shoulder injury isn’t too serious.
“We checked him out yesterday. He’ll be fine,” Wannstedt said. “There’s nothing that happened that there was a further injury or anything like that. His shoulder’s been bothering him all year, and we knew that. It’s not a secret. It got banged up a little bit, and he’ll be fine.”
• If Pinkston can’t play against UConn, look for Mike McGlynn to move to right tackle – where he started 31 consecutive games before this season – and sophomore Joe Thomas to return to the starting lineup at right guard.
The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Thomas started seven games last season and the opener this season before giving way when McGlynn returned from a torn labrum.
“He’s working his tail off. He’s fighting his way back,” Wannstedt said of Thomas. “Joe’s a fighter. He’s a competitor. He’s been great. Joe hasn’t missed a beat. He’s fighting every day, trying to get back in the lineup and back on the field.”
• Wannstedt confirmed that redshirt sophomore Craig Bokor has returned to defensive tackle now that Gus Mustakas is lost for the season with a torn ACL.
Bokor started the season on defense but switched to offensive guard when freshman Chris Jacobson was lost to a knee injury.