It's two weeks later, and Jeff Otah still wins most battles, as the 6-foot-6, 340-pounder should do this season. But the 6-5, 260-pound Greg Romeus has won his share as well by using athleticism, quickness and strength, and he doesn't try to bull-rush Otah every time now.
"It makes me a lot better going against a guy like Jeff Otah in practice,'' Romeus said. "That's the way you get better, by playing against better people, and he sets a good example for me. In high school, I probably could bull-rush anybody, but you can't do that to Jeff. He can't be moved that way, so I have to work on him a different way, and Coach Gattuso has helped.
"He taught me to use my speed to get around him or some other little techniques to get the job done, and I've been working on them. You have to use everything you can to be successful at this level, and we work on different kinds of moves every single day. The thing with our D-line is that we're all in great shape, so we can go at full speed in practice to improve.''
Romeus has been playing left defensive end, primarily backing up fifth-year senior Chris McKillop, but he got to start for a couple days when McKillop was battling a hamstring problem. And he has also spent some time behind fifth-year senior Joe Clermond on the right side and subbed for him when he missed time as well. So, Romeus has become quite versatile.
And he credits the senior defensive ends as much as line coach Greg Gattuso for his development at the University of Pittsburgh.
"We've been alternating a bit, rotating around, and I started on the right side,'' Romeus said. "But mostly I've played on the left behind Chris. He's been a big help to me, and so has Coach Gattuso. He's been a real big help. I've learned a lot from the veterans on our line and the coaches the past year.
"Coach Gattuso coaches us hard, and he makes sure that we know our assignments and do them right. Knowing your assignments is such a big part of playing well, so he's been a big help in that area. And if we need extra time, Coach Gattuso is there to help us. He's always been there for us.''
Gattuso has several young players vying for a backup role at defensive end like redshirt frosh Ty Tkach and freshmen Justin Hargrove, Jabaal Sheard and Tony Tucker, but they're competing for the No. 4 spot. Romeus has the third one locked up. That's not bad for a kid who played just one year before coming to Pitt from Coral Springs, Fla. just one year ago.
"He's light years ahead of where he was when he got here,'' Gattuso said. "But he still has a lot to learn. The good thing is that he's very willing to do it, and he has a great deal of natural ability. When you put those two things together, the skies the limit for a player like Greg.''
Romeus was a very humble player as well, and he appears to know his place. He realized early that unlike some incoming freshmen who were high school superstars, he was unlikely to play immediately. And it was better for him to sit back and learn for a season. Now, though, Romeus' place in Pitt's defensive scheme is steadily rising.
"I feel good about the opportunity I'm getting for some playing time this season, and after sitting back for a year I'm ready to play,'' Romeus said. "I know that it's my chance to step up. All that preparation helped me a lot, and I have to take advantage of this opportunity.
"I want to be focused, know my assignments and what to do so I can help the team be successful this season. And that's what really matters the most to me. I know I'm not the biggest, fastest or strongest guy, so I have to learn how to use all my skills to reach all my goals.''
Romeus appeared to make daily improvements during the first two weeks in Pitt's camp, but his development this year -- along with steady improvement from the other young Panthers on the line -- make the future bright.
"We graduate two defensive ends this season,'' Romeus said. "So, there's a big opportunity for me next season as long as I do what I'm told to do and perform to the best of my ability this season. And I'm ready to take the next step this season. And I think everybody on the team feels that way.''