A 6-foot-5, and now up to 265-pound defensive end from Coral Springs, Fla., Greg Romeus won't surprise any Pittsburgh opponent this season, but that doesn't mean anyone will be able to stop this pass-rushing demon.
Romeus' play steadily improved last fall as a backup to fifth-year senior Chris McKillop, but he'll move into the starting spot at right end this season and can't wait to begin pressuring opposing quarterbacks.
"I know that I'm going to have to play a bigger role on this team this year, so I worked harder than I've ever worked before to get ready for this season,'' Romeus said. "But we all know this could be a big year for us, so everybody worked real hard in the offseason to prepare for it.
"That means there's going to be a lot of competition in this training camp, but that's a good thing. I think every player will tell you that they play better when there's somebody right behind them, pushing them and trying to get ahead of them on the depth chart. That's made this team very deep and very hungry.''
Romeus will battle opposing left offensive tackles this season, but he'll also face competition from Pitt teammates Tony Tucker (6-2, 235) and Justin Hargrove (6-3, 250), a pair of redshirt freshmen with no experience but loads of talent. Redshirt junior Doug Fulmer (6-4, 255) and sophomore Jabaal Sheard (6-4, 250) are competing for Pitt's starting left defensive end spot.
Fulmer played in four games in 2006 with three starts, but he missed the remaining games that season and all of last year with injuries. Romeus and Sheard, nine games with no starts, were first-year players last fall. And Tucker and Hargrove redshirted their first seasons, so the Panthers' defensive ends might not be as experienced as their tackles. But they're every bit as talented.
"It just helps having more guys in the rotation,'' Romeus said. "You can't play 80 snaps a game like we did against Connecticut two years ago (when the Huskies scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to tie the score and eventually won in overtime, 46-45, on a two-point conversion). That was the difference in the fourth quarter and overtime. We didn't have anything left.
"You definitely can play your best when your fresh, and it worked pretty well last season. We could be even better by the end of this season, because I think Coach can throw anybody he wants in there, and they'll get the job done.''
Romeus played in all 12 games with no starts last season, but he registered 41 total tackles, including 28 solo stops. Among those were 11.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including four sacks. None were more important than when he dumped the Syracuse quarterback behind the line in the final 30 seconds to preserve a close win. Romeus also had three pass breakups and recovered a fumble at West Virginia. He earned freshman All-America honors from several publications for his performance last season.
"I did pretty well last season, but I have much higher goals this year,'' Romeus said. "And I know a lot more is expected of me by the fans, the coaches and my teammates. But I won't let anyone down. I've worked very hard to get to this point, and I can't wait for camp to start. This is a big season for all of us.
"And nobody can do it my himself. We take a lot from each other on and off the field, feed off each other and our fans, and that's what makes us a better team. Working together, that's the key. We're in great shape. I don't think I've ever felt better, so we're looking for big things from the defense this year.''
And that means there could be a lot of bad things happening to opposing offenses against Pitt this season.