Pitt football coach Dave Wannstedt today said that, despite their performances in a 3-0 loss to Oregon State in the Brut Sun Bowl, offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh will return in the same role next season and senior Bill Stull will enter spring drills as the starting quarterback.
Wannstedt also said via a telephone conference call that he expects star tailback LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 1,488 yards and 21 touchdowns this season, to bypass the NFL Draft and return for his junior season.
Wannstedt took exception to criticism of Cavanaugh, in particular, after the Panthers totaled 178 yards against an Oregon State defense that allowed 640 to Oregon in its season finale. Wannstedt noted that Pitt finished the regular season as the Big East’s top scoring offense and No. 2 red-zone offense, and bristled when asked if the Panthers needed a new quarterback coach.
“No. Are you kidding me?” Wannstedt said. “Matt Cavanaugh knows more about quarterback play than 99 percent of the people. He’s forgotten more about quarterback play than most of the other guys know, and you can quote me on that.”
Stull completed only 7 of 24 passes for 52 yards, with an interception, three sacks and a lost fumble against Oregon State, and Wannstedt acknowledged that Stull’s play regressed since his career-high 279-yard passing performance against Rutgers. Although Wannstedt said he has yet to speak formally with Stull since the bowl game, he has no plans to bench Stull but will make the quarterback competition a focal point of spring drills.
“Billy ended up the season as the starter. The first day of spring practice, unless something happens between now and then, he deserves the opportunity to be the starter Day One,” Wannstedt said, “but it’s going to be as competitive as ever with Pat Bostick, Tino Sunseri and, depending on which direction we go with Greg Cross.
“Tino Sunseri is going to get a hard, hard look this spring, and so is Pat Bostick and so will Billy. We’re going to be more demanding at that position than we’ve ever been because I think we all know that for us to take the next step, we’ve got to be more productive there and it’s going to take a bigger commitment on my part, a bigger commitment on Matt Cavanaugh’s part and a bigger commitment on our players’ part for that to happen.”
McCoy is eligible for the NFL Draft because he is three years removed from high school, and has until Jan. 15 to declare hardship for early entry. But Wannstedt expects McCoy to return next fall.
“I had a good talk with LeSean’s parents at the bowl game and I’ve had several conversations with LeSean since he’s been home before and after the bowl,” Wannstedt said. “He’s excited to come back for another year. LeSean believes, and his mom and dad believe, that he’s excited about being here and we all believe that this next year will do nothing but enhance his opportunities for the National Football League.”
In other Pitt football news, Wannstedt said tight end Nate Byham is having shoulder surgery this week. Left tackle Jason Pinkston will have an MRI today to determine whether he needs shoulder surgery, but Wannstedt said he is optimistic that it can be avoided. One freshman cornerback, Jarred Holley, will have arthroscopic knee surgery. Another, Ronald Hobby, has been dismissed from team. Running back recruit Dion Lewis of Blairstown (N.J.) Academy has enrolled early and will participate in spring drills.