DE Joe Clermond

2006 Statistics

Coach: Dave Wannstedt
11-12, 2 years
2006 Record: 6-6
at Cincinnati  WON 33-15
at Syracuse WON 21-11
at UCF WON 52-7
at South Florida LOST 12-22
at Connecticut LOST 45-46 (2OT)

2006 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2007 Outlook

Third year head Panther Dave Wannstedt has shown no basic improvement since the end of the last regime – his 5-6 opening frame was followed by last year’s second half collapse (their No.14 scoring offense went south against Rutgers to initiate a five-game ending skid) for Pitt’s 6-6 finish. There were five winning seasons in a row before that, and now fans would die to have Walt Harris’ 8-4 ending stanza back. We must keep our focus on Matt Cavanaugh, another alum (like Wannstedt and several other on the staff) who was supposed to be an upgrade at OC. His marginal efforts seem predictable against better defenses, with formations and schemes that sometimes appear archaic and ineffective. How else can one explain having the third-rated passer last year (Palko) but failing to produce a worthy running game when you ran it more than half the time? The talent on the front line and amongst the role-playing backs is there, for sure. This time around, a new signal caller will have nine other returning starters to help ease the learning curve. Similarly on D, the Wannstedt era has meant a downturn in results. DC Paul Rhoads has shifted his proven worth (from the well developed secondary) to the rebuilding of the linebacking corps, and, moreover, the retooling of the entire front seven after they were 107th in run stopping. With Wannstedt, an (NFL) experienced mind on defense, and Rhoads intent on helping this dimension, we feel this side of the ball will show the team’s biggest improvements. The schedule should work well seeing how winnable trips to Michigan State and Virginia are the only tough games in September. But that means the slate is back-loaded – having to go on the road to Louisville, New Brunswick and then Morgantown every other game to end is pretty brutal. Realistic goals should be set, like making fundamentals and teamwork the top priorities while aiming at double-digit wins (but being happy if they can just contend and be consistent weekly). This way, the future of Panther football won’t just be hope and promises with little results, but true building blocks that can elevate the recent strong recruiting efforts into genuine Big East contenders…same song, different year.

Projected 2007 record: 8-4
QB - 3.5 DL - 3.5
RB - 3 LB - 2.5
WR - 3.5 DB - 3
OL - 3.5 ..

Passing: Bill Stull, 6-8-0, 69 yds., 1 TD

Rushing: LaRod Stephens-Howling, 178 att., 893 yds., 9 TD

Receiving: Derek Kinder, 57 rec., 847 yds., 6 TD

Scoring: Conor Lee, 12-14 FG, 47-47 PAT, 83 pts.

Punting: Lucas Stone, 3 punts, 34.7 avg.

Kicking: Conor Lee, 12-14 FG, 47-47 PAT, 83 pts.

Tackles: Kennard Cox, 51 tot., 31 solo

Sacks: Joe Clermond, Chris McKillop - 5.5 each

Interceptions: Gus Mustakas, Eric Thatcher, Kennard Cox - 1 each

Kickoff returns: Lowell Robinson, 26 ret., 27.9 avg., 1 TD

Punt returns: Derek Kinder, 2 ret., 7.0 avg., 0 TD


RB LaRod Stephens-Howling
OFFENSE: Tyler Palko-QB, Steve Buches-TE, Joe Villani-C, John Simonitis-OG
DEFENSE: Clint Session-SLB, H.B. Blades-MLB, Brian Bennett-WLB, Sam Bryant-SS, Adam Graessle-P, Tommie Campbell-WLB (transferred), Darrelle Revis-CB (NFL)

From day one of the Wannstedt-Cavanaugh era, loudly trumpeted promises of establishing the run as the centerpiece of the offense have been heard. But so far, that promise has only meant a scant improvement – in 2005, the Panthers ranked 93rd with 117 rushing yards per game, and in ’06, they were 78th with 123 per game. And neither year has seen rashes of injuries or sub-par backfields, so what gives? In their third year as the organizers of this offense, this campaign can accept no excuses as this regime’s own recruits are now in the majority. Junior tailback LaRod Stevens-Howling has that proven burst that effectively scats him through holes and around corners. True fullback Conredge Collins contributes not only physically, but also with his soft hands. But the guy we think needs more touches is soph Shane Brooks, whose combination of size and shiftiness should make him more popular (every down back) due to how his presence doesn’t telegraph what kind of play Pitt is running. Also more of a hybrid is incoming LeSean McCoy – using these two can help to stem the predictability factor that elicited the team’s marginal 3.9 ypc average. The optimistic version of replacing Tyler Palko: establishing the immediate passing worth of their new starter at quarterback will go a long way toward improving the ground game. The glass half-empty version: if the running game struggled so with the nation’s No.4 passer under center, what could happen now with three unestablished diamonds-in-the-rough, all still far from being mistake-free in just practice, probably keeps all of Western Pennsylvania up at night. Incumbent Bill Stull is a local junior who has a solid grasp of the offense after being Palko’s understudy for two years and gets the penciled-in start due to this. More physically gifted, RS frosh Kevan Smith has struggled with consistency (center exchange) but just needs to see the field more to iron out his kinks. But it is Lancaster’s Pat Bostick, this year’s No.6 pro-style recruit, who makes the future so unpredictable. Stull will start, but he will be on a short leash before the other Panthers get their chances to continue the Marino-Cavanaugh-Palko legend. The receivers are established – physical senior Derek Kinder leads a young, experienced corps that features an all six-foot-plus two-deep. Freshman All-American Oderick Turner started and produced right away, but T.J Porter (finally committed to fulfilling his potential) and solid junior Marcel Pestano made it a three-way race for the other starting receiver slot with their strong spring showings. The TE-tandem of senior Darrell Strong and last year’s No.7 prospect Nate Byham will often be seen together since this is likely Pitt’s top offensive unit (as it is helped/complimented by the depth at receiver). Now all the new QB needs is time to throw to this arsenal of snarlers, and senior hulkster Jeff Otah at left tackle really helps there. With a right-handed QB for the first time in four years, former JUCO-transfer Otah won the most improved player tag (Ed Conway Award) this spring, and versatile classmate and vocal leader Mark McGlynn, though tagged for his 32nd-straight start (opposite Otah), could move anywhere play is lacking once his shoulder heals. Jason Pinkston faired extremely well in McGlynn’s place, making true soph guard Joe Thomas expendable if his inconsistencies haven’t been smoothed out by September. With solid insider C.J. Davis a fit at center if need be, the improvements to the line seem real enough to think that overall improvements can eventually happen. What this offense needs from a schematic standpoint is more creative play-calling that will keep foes from crowding the box. Ergo, expect lots of passing early both to help sort out the QB conundrum and keep defenses honest.


WR Derek Kinder


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Bill Stull-Jr (6-3, 185) Kevan Smith-Fr (6-3, 215)
FB Conredge Collins-Jr (6-0, 235) Shane Brooks-So (5-11, 220)
TB LaRod Stephens-Howling-Jr (5-7, 175) Kevin Collier-So (5-11, 180)
WR Derek Kinder-Sr (6-1, 205) Marcel Pestano-Jr (6-1, 190)
WR Oderick Turner-So (6-3, 200) Tamarcus Porter-So (6-1, 185)
TE Darrell Strong-Sr (6-5, 260) Nate Byham-So (6-3, 240)
OT Jeff Otah-Sr (6-6, 340) Chase Clowser-Jr (6-7, 330)
OG C.J. Davis-Jr (6-2, 300) John Brown-So (6-4, 285)
C Chris Vangas-Sr (6-2, 295) John Bachman-So (6-4, 280)
OG Joe Thomas-So (6-5, 285) Dominic Williams-Jr (6-4, 300)
OT Mike McGlynn-Sr (6-5, 315) Jason Pinkston-So (6-4, 315)
K Conor Lee-Jr (5-11, 195) Dan Hutchins-Fr (5-11, 190)



Coordinator Paul Rhoads enters his eighth season at the defensive helm, but his ‘06 showing has some wishing he had been replaced. The Panthers dropped from 31st in 2005 to 87th in 2006 in total defense, and even worse was the drop from 94th to 107th in run stopping with last year’s senior-laden front seven. Well, many of those seniors were accordingly displaced by capable backups who are a year older, and who now need to be a year wiser and that much better for Pitt to gain more wins. Big end Joe Clermond is the prime example – he was all-conference as a sophomore with 16.5 tackles-for-loss out of his 48 total. Freshman Greg Romeus’ impressive spring means he should challenge starting workman senior end Chris McKillop for reps. On paper and in measuring toughness, the tackles seem formidable (Mustakas had a huge spring), but size issues may again spell disaster inside against any bigger, quicker offensive counterparts (Louisville, WVU, USF). Two four-star recruits join the line this fall – the youth amongst the two-deep could make for volatile times, either good or bad. Still, the biggest project has been filling all three holes at linebacker, which is why Rhoads moved his specialty from helping the DBs (his efforts made them a top unit) over to rebuilding the corps and helping the entire front seven. Last year’s group only saw MLB Blades play to his potential, so his understudy, Scott McKillop (younger brother of Chris), has his work cut out. Heady-determined Shane Murray seems to have the SAM slot – for now – with his gutsy style, and toughie Adam Gunn has seen very little spiking in his efforts. But neither seems to command their positions, leaving room for two capable wanna-be’s - extremely athletic, Imperial-native (ex-QB/RB/WR/DB) Dorin Dickerson and ex-scout team terror Nate Nix - to play their way into the starting lineup. All of these new faces can actually far exceed their predecessors as a group, playing together to make their whole effort worth much more than the sum of their parts. Miami-native Kennard Cox should have a better season as the established senior corner, making super fast soph Aaron Berry the new guy likely to be picked on. Berry showed in limited action last year he has the wares to be as good as first round NFL pick Revis. Likely nickel Jovani Chappel is a bruiser who can secure the corner on runs well, making him an ideal fifth DB. Head hunter Eric Thatcher, like strong safety compliment Mike Phillips, has returned from 2006’s ankle injury (Thatcher’s was season-ending) more determined and more vocal than ever. These two will be leaders on this young defense, though injuries to either/both would mean very green subs. This has the looks of an improved bunch, as does every area on D. Regardless, with a master defensive coach like Wannstedt running the show, something has to give before the shortcomings on this side of the ball travel all the way back to coach Dave.


CB Kennard Cox


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Joe Clermond-Sr (6-3, 260) Greg Romeus-Fr (6-5, 255)
NT Rashaad Duncan-Jr (6-2, 290) Craig Bokor-So (6-3, 290)
DT Gus Mustakas-Jr (6-3, 265) John Malecki-So (6-3, 270)
DE Chris McKillop-Sr (6-3, 250) Doug Fulmer-So (6-4, 240)
LB Shane Murray-So (6-1, 210) Dorin Dickerson-So (6-2, 217)
LB Scott McKillop-Jr (6-2, 245) Dan Loheyde-Fr (6-0, 200)
LB Adam Gunn-Jr (6-2, 225) Nate Nix-Fr (6-3, 210)
CB Aaron Berry-So (5-11, 175) Aaron Smith-Fr (6-0, 180)
CB Kennard Cox-Sr (6-1, 195) Jovani Chappel-So (5-9, 185)
SS Mike Phillips-Sr (5-11, 200) Elijah Fields-So (6-2, 210)
FS Eric Thatcher-Jr (5-9, 190) Irvan Brown-So (6-0, 190)
P Dave Brytus-Jr (6-4, 225) Lucas Stone-So (6-1, 190)




Kicker Conor Lee missed only two of his 14 tries - ironically enough, both were from under 30 yards. Big junior Dave Brytus, the No.5 kicking prospect a few years back, gets the nod at punter over worthy walk-on Lucas Stone. Aaron Berry, who also replaces Revis here, should mean no drop off in punt return results, while former-JUCO All-American Lowell Robinson finished ninth in I-A for kick runbacks.