However, once a full recruiting class is secured, Panthers coach Dave Wannstedt and his staff must put together a depth chart for spring drills in March, 2008. And concerning that staff, Wannstedt said Thursday that he will be reviewing his assistant coaches and players in the next couple weeks to see where Pittsburgh can improve and how it can accomplish that goal.
One area where the Panthers are solid is at running back. With LeSean McCoy leading the way after a spectacular freshman season where he ran for 1,328 yards and 14 touchdowns, Pitt is as deep as ever in the backfield. Backup tailback LaRod Stephens-Howling and fullback Conredge Collins will be seniors, and a host of others will be in the mix.
"Shady's such a high-energy guy, and he creates excitement whether he's on the field or in the lunch room,'' Wannstedt said. "He's just got that personality where he creates a lot of energy, and he's a very special running back. We're set at that position now.''
While Wannstedt believed there was no question that Pitt improved more this past season than it did the previous two, even though its 5-7 record was the worst after 5-6 and 6-6 campaigns, one area that is still a concern is at quarterback where Bill Stull, Kevan Smith and Pat Bostick will compete with possibly a junior-college transfer this spring for the starting spot. A frosh recruit could be signed for the fall as well.
Wannstedt noted that Stull, who will be a redshirt junior after suffering a season-ending thumb injury in the opening game, was hard at work in an attempt to regain the starting position he lost. Wannstedt said Smith, who replaced Stull for three starts, was athletic enough to play a different position. However, since he showed some improvement when he replaced Bostick at Rutgers, he is expected to compete at quarterback.
Bostick, who started the final seven games and finished the season as the most-experienced Pitt quarterback, is widely believed to be a redshirt candidate this coming year.
"I'm not counting on him to be redshirted,'' Wannstedt said. "He's competing for the starting job, in his mind and my mind. We haven't talked about redshirting him. ... In the offseason, Buddy (Morris) will be a major player with Pat from a weight-reduction and a strength-gain standpoint.
"We'll work on improving his arm strength, quickness with better conditioning and a quicker release. Pat got better, but I think it was a situation where we totally changed our offense from a passing-game standpoint at the end (when) we determined what we could and couldn't do at quarterback.''
The area hit hardest by graduation is the offensive line, and it will be an area of concern yet again for the Panthers with left tackle Jeff Otah, center Chris Vangas and right tackle Mike McGlynn moving on. Jason Pinkston, who will be a redshirt sophomore after shoulder surgery this season, could move from right to left tackle. A junior-college center will attempt to be signed as well, so a tackle must emerge. Wannstedt did not rule out moving some defensive linemen to offense, but he wouldn't confirm anything.
"We've got to bring the offensive line together,'' Wannstedt said. "We've got to determine the five starters, and then we've got to get them playing together as fast as we can. ... That's our top priority in the spring.''
Along with Pinkston, who started three games this season before undergoing shoulder surgery, Pitt returns senior C.J. Davis at left guard and junior Joe Thomas at right guard. Davis is a three-year starter, while Thomas opened seven games this past season and several as a freshman as well.