DB Darrelle Revis

2005 Statistics

Coach: Dave Wannstedt
5-6, 1 year
2005 Record: 5-6
at Ohio LOST 10-16 (OT)
at Nebraska LOST 6-7
at Rutgers LOST 29-37
at Louisville LOST 20-42
at West Virginia LOST 13-45

2005 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2006 Outlook

One year under the new administration of head coach Dave Wannstedt failed to yield many of the offensive improvements promised. Few things truly changed in Pitt’s ball-moving profile. Hailed as the perfect man to take the Panthers to the next level, Wannstedt, a defensive specialist, brought fellow alumnus Matt Cavanaugh in to run the offense. In turn, Cavanaugh revamped little, except for taking the game out of the capable hands of Tyler Palko, and the results have been less than encouraging.

The coaching staff told everyone what they would do (run, run, and keep running) and how they would do it (til it worked, which it never consistently did), so it is no surprise most of their worthy opponents had the right ways to stifle such in 2005. With no changes in the foreseeable future, 2006 should yield similar results. Something will have to give for Pitt’s offensive efforts to yield more than its ‘05 ranking of 85th. Senior Palko needs to get the call more (his overall production aggregately dropped over 60 yards from 2004 through 2005) so he can both establish new deep threats with this capable receiving corps and improvise when nothing develops out of their basic play-calls, or else opponents will continue to stack the box to stop the Panther’s simplistic running schemes. See, the Panthers have a bunch of big, lumbering linemen, who, though experienced, really have to operate by pushing forward. Unless they quickly prove to be superior at this, the hulking (but quick) RBs will struggle. True TB Stephens-Howling is the lone exception and can make his own plays on the outside. But he alone is just not enough to carry Pittsburgh to a higher level of overall offensive production.

The defense is really good, and will again be strong enough to keep Pitt competitive in most games. DC Paul Rhoads is the lone carryover from the Walt Harris days, and proved he knows who’s who with last year’s stronger defensive showing. He only needs to re-bolster the secondary, and he has the depth that can step into the vacated slots to keep foes in check for 60 full minutes. The front seven will surprise many with its improvements, and as all 11 gel, consistency here can win games from this side of the ball.

Overall, this campaign will probably play out like the last one – better, favored opponents will continue to beat this team like a drum. That means at least four losses loom, and a worse team having a good day is likely to do what Nebraska and Ohio did in ’05 (Pitt held both to a combined 16 points and still lost to each). Ergo, as already alluded to, Pittsburgh has to show something has changed offensively to pull off any upsets. Early home tilts with non-cons Virginia and Michigan State will tell if new wrinkles can lead to the explosiveness that has been desperately missing, or if their predicted old-school running attack will weigh the win total down yet again. This is a championship town with great, knowledgeable pigskin-savvy fans who all painfully know the truths disseminated here. Please, just give the ball to Tyler and let him work some magic back into the Panther’s great legacy.

Projected 2006 record: 8-4
QB - 4 DL - 2
RB - 2.5 LB - 4
WR - 2.5 DB - 3.5
OL - 3.5 ..

Passing: Tyler Palko, 341-193-9, 2392 yds., 17 TD

Rushing: Larod Stephens-Howling, 96 att., 434 yds., 0 TD

Receiving: Derek Kinder, 37 rec., 374 yds., 3 TD

Scoring: Tyler Palko, 6 TD, 36 pts.

Punting: Adam Graessle, 60 punts, 42.2 avg.

Kicking: David Abdul, 2-2 FG, 6-7 PAT, 12 pts.

Tackles: H.B. Blades, 121 tot., 67 solo

Sacks: Chris McKillop, 3.5 sacks

Interceptions: Darrelle Revis, 4 for 12 yds.

Kickoff returns: Larod Stephens-Howling, 5 ret., 30.2 avg., 1 TD

Punt returns: Darrelle Revis, 28 ret., 11.6 avg., 1 TD


QB Tyler Palko
OFFENSE: Tim Murphy-FB, Raymond Kirkley-TB, Erik Gill-TE, Charles Spencer-OT, Dale Williams-OG, Josh Cummings-K, Rashad Jennings-TB (transferred), Greg Lee-WR (NFL)
DEFENSE: Thomas Smith-DT, Phil Tillman-DT, J.J. Horne-WLB, Bernard Lay-CB, Tez Morris-FS
Senior Tyler Palko is the main cog in a run-first offense. His savvy leads to great decisions and movement in the pocket that allow the Panthers to keep things rolling. Palko was turned into a drop-back QB/game manager in 2005 with then-new head coach Wannstedt, which we feel is a marginal mistake given Palko’s 4.6 speed and mind for making plays. But Palko plays team ball and will again competently do what is asked if this is the call. Still, from 2004 to 2005, Palko ran the ball 59 fewer times AND was called on 78 less times to throw it, a true misjudgment by coaches who need to realize that Pitt wins when Palko has the ball. Another year of a diminished role for Tyler will not lead the Panthers to better offensive numbers. Palko’s superior improvisational skills need to be a centerpiece once again. Backup Bill Stull had another amazing spring and, as the heir-apparent, should see more reps come season. Stull is a pure passer who has great vision that allows him to hit anyone, anywhere who may be open. In this basic offense, this sophomore can likely step in so Pitt doesn’t skip a beat if Palko goes down to injury.

Running Back
As a true freshman, LaRod Stephens-Howling led the team in their rushing-by-committee approach. A small, quick juker-type, Stephens-Howling eventually went down to an ankle injury, and this poses questions as to his durability in this run-first offense if he is a workhorse. But his speed and toughness are there when called upon. Pittsburgh lost three 225+-pounders (two to graduation, Jennings transferred), so the “thunder” to compliment LaRod’s “lightning” will now be sophomore Brandon Mason and RS frosh Shane Brooks. Mason is a step quicker than Brooks, while Duquesne-local Brooks is 230lbs so he may see more reps in two-RB formations as a FB/decoy. Soph Conredge Collins is the slated FB, and this Miami-native knows the system well after his redshirt was pulled and he became an important part of the backfield in ’05. Collins has speed (4.53) to go with his bruising style, and also has the prep résumé to warrant getting many more carries than the modest amount likely planned. This unit has the potential to “carry” Pitt far, so hopefully the coaching staff can put together play-calling that makes the most of their deep talent pool here.

Every two years, Pitt loses its primary deep threat, and this time Greg Lee realized his role lacking and vacated for the NFL. This means a new deep threat has to be found, and between junior Derek Kinder and former walk-on Joe DelSardo, the Panthers have the weapons needed. DelSardo has been an overachiever and proves he can do anything asked of him. Kinder has the size of Lee, and seems to have those sticky hands fans love. Cedric McGee and Oderick Turner, both RS freshmen, are prep track stars (McGee in the triple-jump, Turner as a high jumper) who also have the height to win those long throws. Super speedy Terrell Allen, proven on special teams, should often see status in three-WR sets. This area has the talent to thrive, but needs to have more intermediate and deep balls tried – not only for their production, but to keep DBs from crowding the box which stifles the running game.

Tight End
This is an area which could provide the deep threat spoken of above. Senior Steve Buches is big enough to be an every-down TE, for he pushes DLmen as well as he goes over the middle to distract safeties. But ex-WR Darrell Strong has the size, proven numbers and the speed to truly burn defenses. These two guys need to be utilized in two-TE sets, which will aid both offensive dimensions.

Offensive Line
Four returning starters here should make last year’s marginal offensive numbers finally become more consistent and productive. The inside looks the best with senior Joe Villani calling the blocking sets from his center slot. Villani has yet to truly replace Pettiti, but should use hard lessons learned to his advantage. John Simonitis at right guard is an athlete who also has 300+lbs. (325 to be more precise) with which to push. Simonitis has started 30 games over the last three campaigns, more than any other player on the roster. These two seniors, along with sophomore left guard C.J. Davis, comprise a huge inside presence that has to improve for Pitt to get its running legs underneath them, the only way Wannstedt’s schemes can begin to work. Davis started as a true frosh, so his upside this year looks promising. Junior Mike McGlynn is a starter since midway through the ’04 season, and still is consistently (working on) improving his game, and it has shown even this past spring. He makes the right side the obvious strongest side, which leaves only the left tackle slot to worry about. John Bachman was the backup in ’05 and should step up with his quickness to secure the other outside spot, but nothing is in stone here. Save Bachman, this is a lumbering two-deep crew that seems to lack the speed to recover when beaten, a key factor as to why the Panthers had such a low average per carry (3.2) and why an elusive guy like Palko was sacked 30 times in ’05. Something has to give or they will again drag the running game down in today’s realm of faster bigmen lining up opposite them.

Promises under the new coaching staff didn’t exactly change much, besides taking the bulk of the decisions away from Palko, which turns out to be more harm than help. Wannstedt and OC Matt Cavanaugh told foes they would run it first, and they must have listened when looking at Pitt’s meager ground numbers. The talent is there at RB once again, but the linemen seem to be too big to truly pull and/or get downfield after their initial contact. And with Greg Lee moving on, no true deep threat exists, though the WRs have the talent to do anything asked of them. Cavanaugh has to establish the ability to stretch the field – if not, the box will again be stacked, so when one play works, then the next is blown up at its inception. Palko needs to again be put in position to make plays, so giving him the room for improvisation (like he proved he can do in 2004) is key. If there are no changes from last campaign’s approach, expect the same results – an offense ranked nationally in the bottom third (82nd in ’05).


OG John Simonitis


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Tyler Palko-Sr (6-2, 220) Bill Stull-So (6-3, 200)
FB Conredge Collins-So (5-11, 225) Mark Yezovich-Jr (6-0, 245)
TB LaRod Stephens-Howling-So (5-7, 165) Shane Brooks-Fr (5-10, 215)
WR Joe DelSardo-Sr (5-8, 195) Cedric McGee-Fr (6-1, 190)
WR Derek Kinder-Jr (6-1, 200) Marcel Pestano-So (6-1, 190)
TE Steve Buches-Sr (6-4, 250) Darrell Strong-Jr (6-5, 260)
OT John Bachman-So (6-4, 260) Frank Kochin-So (6-4, 280)
OG C.J. Davis-So (6-2, 290) Dominic Williams-So (6-4, 300)
C Joe Villani-Sr (6-3, 300) Chris Vangas-Jr (6-2, 300)
OG John Simonitis-Sr (6-4, 325) Mike DeLuca-Jr (6-3, 300)
OT Mike McGlynn-Jr (6-5, 325) Chase Clowser-So (6-7, 340)
K David Abdul-Sr (5-10, 200) Conor Lee-So (5-11, 195)


Defensive Line
The losses at both tackle spots are of marginal concern, but security and depth with both ends makes the Panther’s line strong enough so developments inside won’t hamper improved production. Chris McKillop has the speed and toughness to give foes fits. This converted-LB/FB led the team in both sacks and TFLs, and he will occupy two hats, or foes will again pay. The other end is Charles Sallet, a senior who proved he can use his quickness as a way to consistently get into opposing backfields. His six sacks in the final spring scrimmage (though coaches were using a quick whistle to protect their QBs) say it all. Depth with Craig Bokor (also made huge strides in spring), Vernon Botts and Joe Clermond assures no lulls will occur from the outside. The inside is a competition between three bigmen who are surprisingly quick. Nick Williams (4.7), Corey Davis (4.65) and Rashad Duncan (4.9) all saw time in the rotation in ’05. All are sophomores, as is Gus Mustakas, a DE/DT hybrid who will find time to fit in wherever needed. Four-star recruit John Malecki is too good to be redshirted, but there is enough talent that, bar injury, he could wait til next season. The line should gel quickly with so much potential, and will then rank much higher than last season’s did as run stuffers (94th). Sacks will also increase.

This area is loaded with talent, and the Panther defense starts and pivots around MLB H.B. Blades. Blades makes our first-team all-American squad for good reason - he is everywhere and anywhere the play goes, with 4.5 speed leading to great coverage ability. Sustaining a block on him is rarely seen. This senior will lead the front seven to better overall production just due to foes just trying to avoid his presence, an impossibility (especially seeing how he led the conference in tackles). Classmate Clint Sessions is going to have his own standout campaign after 2005 saw him hindered by leg injuries. Also a speedy Floridian (Pompano Beach) like Blades, SAM Sessions strong career proves that when teams try to run away from Blades, he assuredly makes the play. The third starter from the 2003 recruiting class is junior Derron Thomas, who has more size and is therefore often a highly productive fifth down lineman. Thomas will be the only new starter. Unlike his brother, Scott McKillop has remained a valuable part of the LB corps, and backs up Blades so there is little drop off if the all-American is ever out. McKillop killed in spring drills. Brian Bennett and Adam Gunn (two blocked kicks) are two quality backups that represent the assured depth Pitt truly has here.

Defensive Back
With two all-conference guys departed, Pitt’s third one from ‘05, junior CB Darrelle Revis, returns to secure one side of the field. Revis’ nine pass breakups and team-leading four INTs say much, but he is also capable of making solo tackles on any play as he is left on his own island to produce. Kennard Cox look to secure the other corner, and the junior has the size to take on big WRs, but so does soph Kelvin Chandler, who is even taller and a step quicker. Ball-hawking SS Sam Bryant is a fifth-year senior who will be relied upon heavily due to the other newbies finding their way(s). Bryant is great as eighth man in the box and reads plays well. Mike Phillips started the first three games in ‘05 at strong safety until he snapped his ankle, so he is the best candidate to slide into the vacant FS slot. This junior has been productive (at CB) when in the lineup, so there will be little lull in the secondary’s ability to play tightly as a unit. Jameel Brady, a backup at either safety slot, hits like “a concrete post”, says DC Paul Rhoads. “He’s a wall”, and is one of many backups just waiting for reps (five DB recruits in this year’s class are at least three-star prospects). The Panther’s No.2 pass defense won’t likely be quite as highly ranked this campaign, but strong number (like 2005’s 10 TDs) will be reproduced and the entire D has an ample safety net upon which they can rely.

Like in 2005, this crew has the ability to hold foes for 60 full minutes to the bare minimum, but consistency (from game to game) has to be the goal so they can improve Pittsburgh’s record. The four games in which they allowed opponents 30+ points were all losses. Otherwise, the Panther stoppers intimidated everyone else to rank 30th in scoring allowed and 31st overall (the rest of their foes never scored more than 20). The weak link, their 94th ranked rushing defense, looks like it can drastically improve, therefore improving everything Pitt will do on D. Blades, the McKillop brothers, Sallet, Sessions and the rest of the front seven assure this. The secondary is built around third-team all-American Revis, and is still deep and strong (even with major departures). It has been a stalwart, steadily improving to where 2006 looks like it can be another campaign the DBs will again excel. With an unproven offensive scheme that could again stumble, this D will be heavily leaned upon, early and often, to keep Pitt over .500.


LB H.B. Blades


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Chris McKillop-Jr (6-3, 245) Joe Clermond-Jr (6-2, 250)
NT Craig Bokor-Fr (6-3, 290) Rashaad Duncan-So (6-1, 280)
DT Vernon Botts-Sr (6-4, 260) Ernest Williams-Fr (6-1, 260)
Gus Mustakas-So (6-3, 250)
DE Charles Sallet-Sr (6-0, 235) Doug Fulmer-Fr (6-3, 210)
SLB Derron Thomas-Jr (6-1, 235) Adam Gunn-So (6-1, 215)
MLB H.B. Blades-Sr (6-0, 240) Scott McKillop-So (6-2, 240)
WLB Clint Session-Sr (6-0, 235) Brian Bennett-Sr (6-0, 235)
Tommie Campbell-So (6-2, 190)
CB Darrelle Revis-Jr (6-0, 190) Jovani Chappel-Fr (5-8, 175)
CB Reggie Carter-Sr (6-0, 185) Kennard Cox-Jr (6-1, 195)
SS Sam Bryant-Sr (6-0, 230) Shane Murray-Fr (6-1, 185)
FS Jemeel Brady-Jr (6-0, 205) Eric Thatcher-So (5-9, 190)
Mike Phillips-Jr (5-11, 195)
P Adam Graessle-Sr (6-4, 225) ..



Senior David Abdul seizes the starting slot he lost in 2004 after a car accident. Abdul has yet to be proven from outside the 40, so a trio of worthy challengers could see their chances depending on how Abdul performs. Return coverage on KOs which relies on defensive depth will continue to be strong.

Adam Graessle is a returning all-Big East (2004) senior who booms for close to 43 yards per try (career), and seems to have good control. But Pitt’s net results were dismal (108th, gave up two TDs), so out-punting his coverage cannot continue if Graessle’s efforts are to have the needed impact.

Return Game
Terrell Allen proved he is the man on KO returns, but Stephens-Howling also returned one for a score in ’05, making Pitt stronger than most here. Just as good is Revis returning punts. His 11.6 yards per try (one score) ranked him 20th nationally.