Young Guns to Start for Pitt Panthers

Tyler LongCorrespondent ISeptember 24, 2007

IconAll eyes will be on the Panther’s backfield on Saturday when they travel to clash with the Virginia Cavaliers.

That’s because the announced starting backfield for Pitt will give everyone a glimpse of what can still be a promising future for the Panthers.

LeSean McCoy will make his first start against Virginia, Wannstedt announced at his Monday press conference, a decision that has been predicted for weeks by McCoy’s performances against Grambling and Michigan State.

McCoy leads the team in rushing, and is the first Pitt freshman to rush for 100-yards in consecutive games since Curtis Martin did it back in 1991. Junior LaRod Stephens-Howling has split carries in with McCoy, but lacks the dynamic element to his game that gets people excited about watching McCoy handle the ball.

The move by Wannstedt was based on performance in the four games so far, and he said he feels that sharing carries is not the way to go.

“I’m not a big fan of that and we’ll share carries more from the standpoint of a guy getting dinged up or needing a breather. I’m not into flipping guys, but we will try to keep them both fresh.”

He also said that they will try to give McCoy 25 to 30 touches every game.  So far this season McCoy has rushed for 417 yards, caught 11 balls for 40 yards and has thrown the ball once for 18 yards.

The “Wildcat” offense, which made its debut with Bryant McFadden and Arkansas last season, was used again by the Panthers last week in some capacity to get the ball in McCoy’s hands off the snap rather than taking a hand-off. Last week was the first time McCoy threw out of the formation, and Wannstedt said they would keep adding plays to the formation.

McCoy will share the backfield with fellow freshman Pat Bostick, who was named the starter for the game against Virginia during the post-game press conference following the loss to UCONN.

Bostick replaces Kevin Smith as the Pitt quarterback, who in three starts was a pedestrian 29 for 53 for 334 yards, with one touchdown to go along with four interceptions.

The decision for Wannstedt was made easier when Smith left the game shortly before halftime with a hyper extended elbow.  Bostick replaced him in the third quarter, completing 27 of 41 passes, including his first career TD.

“I made that decision with two minutes left in the second quarter, and I was doing that regardless,” Wannstedt said of the decision to play Bostick.

“Pat will start this week, and we’ll give him the opportunity to see if we can get a spark going and see if we can make a few plays.”

Based on the hype that surrounded them in pre-season practice, Pitt fans would like to this of this as having Tony Dorsett and Dan Marino in the same backfield, but both have a long way to go in reality before they can be compared to the former Panther greats.

The odds at this point may be stacked against the “dynamic duo” though.

Much of the hope for the rest of Pitt’s season rests on the team coming home from Charlottesville with a win, because the schedule gets much tougher for the Panthers, including trips to Louisville, Rutgers and West Virginia. 

Pitt also hosts Cincinnati in the third installment of the “River City Rivalry,” Syracuse and South Florida to round out the home schedule.