August 9, 2007

D-line has depth

Two years ago, Dave Wannstedt's first game as head coach at Pitt against Notre Dame, he was faced with a task of playing freshmen along the defensive line. Sure, they were good enough, but it is typically thought the toughest place for a true freshman to play in a college game is along the offensive and defensive line. That night, Gus Mustakas and Rashaad Duncan made their collegiate debuts on national television. We all know the result. Since then, Pitt is in a much stronger situation at defensive tackle than it has been in quite some time.

"I think my freshman year, I always felt 'I can't mess up' and 'I have to do everything perfect,'" Mustakas said. "I was more scared to mess up, but now I'm taking more chances and trying to make more plays. Now, we're just trying to make plays in a leadership role. I feel like I help lead the d-line, me, JoJo (Clermond), Chris, are trying to be leaders on the defense as a whole."

It's been obvious for Mustakas, who was a recipient of the Ed Conway Award this spring, given to the most improved offensive and defensive player at the conclusion of the spring game.

Playing time is a huge factor in the career of a college football player. The best quarterbacks want to throw all the time. Running backs want to run the ball when the game is on the line. This would call for being on the field at all times. Playing on the defensive line is a little different. Coach Wannstedt and Coach Gattuso want a solid rotation of eight guys, which will keep them fresh. Even though it may mean sharing a position, they are all aware that any time is their time to make a big play.

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