Camp is now officially over and quite frankly, it isn't a day too soon as there just isn't much left to dissect about this team.
I think it is a good team, but I'm not sure it is a great team and I don't know that we will really know much about it until week 4 -- unless, of course, it somehow manages to lose one of those first three games.
Not surprisingly, Bill Stull is the starting quarterback. It apparently was a surprise to some people out there because I wrote it last week and had a bunch of people e-mail me to tell me how wrong I was and how it was still an open competition. I suppose that was just a lot of wishful thinking by some of Pitt's most faithful fans but I'm not sure why this was really even that much of a question.
Look, I can't say it any other way or any clearer-- this was never a truly open competition, particularly after the spring. I even wrote going into the spring -- Tino Sunseri would have to be so ridiculously good to even get in the discussion that it wasn't realistic to think it could happen.
Dave Wannstedt has a certain comfort level with his fifth-year senior and thus, it was not going to be easy - or perhaps even realistic -- for any of the other players at that position to beat him out.
To quote Dave Wannstedt "it is what it is" now let's move on. Again.
Seriously, what more can be said or written about the quarterback position? What is done has been done and frankly it is time to accept reality and move forward.
As an aside -- If you want a detailed play-by-play of Stull's performance in camp versus the other guys, check out the Pantherlair fan site, which is published by Chris Peak, the often imitated and original guru of the up to the minute detailed practice reports, as Chris did a marvelous job of tracking every rep the quarterbacks took this camp. And while I am at it, I also think another valuable resource if you want to follow the team is Chas Rich's clipping service because it is a compilation of just about everything written about the Panthers you could find on the web.
But back to the Panthers, I really believe it is this simple -- barring major injuries, if Stull plays well, which he is capable of doing, Pitt has a chance to have a special season and if he doesn't play well, I could easily see an underwhelming 7-5 type of season from this bunch and that would certainly bring a lot more questions than answers about the future of this program.
I don't think 7-5 or worse will happen as I happen to think this team will win at least eight games, but there are certainly at least six games on the schedule which Pitt could lose if it doesn't play well and well, we've seen in the past this team play poorly and lose games it shouldn't.
And beyond the quarterbacks, left guard and safety are still to be resolved and the rest of the starting lineup is pretty much what we figured it would be. I'll be interested to see what the actual rotation of tailbacks looks like once the games start but I have a sneaky suspicion early on we will see all three (Chris Burns, Dion Lewis and Ray Graham).
Now, on to more important items of business -- the response to my lists of a day ago was so overwhelmingly positive and the amount of feedback filling my inbox has been so great that I've decided to take another "let's think outside of the box" approach to today's blog and look at an issue which has been recently caused some discussion and is worth looking at a little closer.
Joe Bendel, the superb former Pitt beat reporter and host of the Joe Bendel Show which can be heard on Fox Sports radio 970 each day from 3 to 7, put together his all star team of Pitt players from 2000 until now (he called it his "all-decade team") and asked a very interesting question - could this team beat this year's Florida team. I had a number of discussions with Joe about this subject in the past week and asked him if I could take it to you, the Pitt fans, for a further discussion because it really has been thought-provoking in a couple of ways.
First, let's look at Bendel's all-decade team......
QB -- Rod Rutherford
RB -- LeSean McCoy
RB -- Kevan Barlow
WR -- Larry Fitzgerald
WR -- Antonio Bryant
TE -- Kris Wilson
OT -- Jeff Otah
OG -- Charles Spencer
OG -- Bryan Anderson
C -- Jeff McCurley
OT -- Rob Petitti
DE -- Greg Romeus
DL -- Mick Williams
DL -- Tyre Young
DE -- Bryan Knight
LB -- Gerald Hayes
LB -- H.B. Blades
LB -- Clint Session
CB -- Darelle Revis
CB -- Shawntae Spencer
SS -- Josh Lay
FS -- Ramon Walker
P -- Andy Lee
K -- Conor Lee
Joe said the two players who seemed to draw the most support for being on the team who were omitted are Tyler Palko and Scott McKillop.
As much as I like Tyler Palko and respect what he did at Pitt, I agree with Bendel and think that if you honestly look at body of work and overall production for an entire career, the choice would have to be Rutherford, if for no other reason than he had a better record (his teams were 17-9, Palkos were 19-16) and he had better numbers. Yes, I know part of what held Palko back was his teammates and he didn't have Larry Fitzgerald but the "what ifs" are fictional and almost always a losing argument (I mean, playing the "what if" game, maybe David Klingler would have been a great NFL quarterback had he been drafted by the 49ers instead of the Bengals, but he wasn't so we are left to go by what we saw from him) and we must deal in reality.
The McKillop versus Session argument is much more interesting to me because it brings to light what intelligent and sensible people clearly understood about the differences in the categories I created and the reasons for my lists yesterday -- What is it that you are looking for when you pick a team like this? Because there is a big difference between "NFL prospect" and "great college player" More often than not, the two are one in the same but in the case of a player like Tim Tebow, are they really?
Is it athletic ability and NFL potential we are judging this team on?
If so then Session (who was a fourth-round pick) is your man.
Is it production and consistency as a college player, not too mention hardware?
Then McKillop is your man.
One argument I would make in favor of Session and Blades for that matter is this - neither one of them played behind a legitimate NFL defensive lineman and the defensive lines during their era were not very good at all and that's a big factor in looking at their careers (and probably makes you appreciate Blades for what he had accomplished even more).
But despite that fact and after thinking about this one for a while I think you'd have to go with McKillop over Session just because he was a first-team All-American and that is a big piece of hardware to ignore.
For that matter the Tyre Young question is similar -- the guy really only played one stretch of about seven games and yes he played those games at a high level and yes, he was an unstoppable force, but his body of work is so limited it is hard to judge him against some other players who had longer, more productive careers.
That being said, I can't in good conscience take him off the list because he was so ridiculously good in that stretch -- he was as big of a reason for Pitt's 2001 turnaround as any, be it scrapping the spread or the schedule getting a little lighter in the second half of the season -- that he needs to be on this team.
One other change I'd probably make is I'd have put Chad Reed at center just because he was such an intelligent player and really was a big part of an awfully good offensive line (probably the best since I've covered the team). Reed was a tough guy and he was an excellent player at that position, and like Bendel, he was a machine and whose production has never been matched by any of those who followed in his footsteps.
In short, the only two changes I'd probably make are McKillop and Reed for Session and McCurley.
The more interesting question to me is this one (which, by the way, Joe raised and clearly got under the skin of some of his callers) -- how would that team fare against the 2009 version of Florida or even Texas, Oklahoma or USC?
Honestly, I'm leaning towards agreeing with Joe and saying that Florida, with Tim Tebow as the X-factor, would probably win a close game but I believe Pitt would beat the other three for a variety of reasons ranging from a lack of belief in Big 12 defenses to USC's inexperience at quarterback.
But this is one I'd like to hear from you about -- what do you think -- Could Florida 2009 beat Pitt's All-Decade team or not? And are there any players you think should be on the team who are not?