A 6-foot-4, 255-pound redshirt junior defensive end, Doug Fulmer has suffered a torn ligament in his left knee during a Sunday training camp practice and will have surgery. An MRI test Monday revealed the tear, his third major injury at Pittsburgh, and he likely is gone for the season.
"They're working out the details for the surgery, but it's just so unfortunate because of the guy hasn't had a chance because of all the variety of injuries,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "The plan right now is that he'll have the surgery. We'll see how the rehab goes, and then we'll deal with it then.''
Wannstedt added that a sixth season would have been possible because of the proximity of the injuries, but with this one added into the mix the coach didn't want to speculate on when or if Fulmer could make a healthy return. He clearly was having problems bouncing back from the right knee surgery that he needed in the spring, 2007, which forced him to miss all of last season.
Fulmer's initial injury, during the fourth game in 2006, against the Citadel, was a broken left ankle. He played in all four games with three starts and was turning into a productive pass-rusher and run-stopper. He attempted to work out during the following spring with the team, and that could have contributed to his second injury to the right knee.
What this means for the Panthers is that Jabaal Sheard, a 6-foot-4, 255-pound sophomore, must secure the starting left defensive end spot. He was expected to battle Fulmer during camp, but now is the clear-cut leader to start.
"Doug's loss is a blow because he's someone that we admire, and he's a leader and a great kid,'' Pitt defensive line coach Greg Gattuso said. "But it's also a blow because he's a great football player. It was real hard to be with him (Monday) night, so our hearts and prayers go out to him and his family.
"We don't know what his future holds, but I expect him to work hard to try to come back the way he did all the other times. It's just that we'll miss him this year. So, Jabaal will have to step up. He's played very well so far in camp, but the problem is you would like to have three guys minimum and maybe four.
"So, we've got four guys fighting for a position right now,'' Gattuso added. "I'm mixing them up right now with the second-team D-ends. The third and fourth guys have to be able to flip. With Tony Tucker, Tyler Tkach, Chas Alecxih and Justin Hargrove are fighting for the third and fourth spots. And it's been a good battle so far with Greg Romeus and Jabaal as the starters so far.''
Tucker is a 6-2, 235-pound redshirt freshman, and Tkach is a 6-3, 265-pound redshirt sophomore. Alecxih is a 6-5, 275-pound redshirt freshman, and Hargrove is a 6-3, 250-pound redshirt freshman, who was a grayshirt in 2006.