As the end of camp settles in, Dave Wannstedt is now set to assemble his two-deep, with the season-opener less than 10 days away.
One of the positions under close watch this camp is the linebacker position. Scott McKillop seems to be a safe bet at the middle linebacker position. He has the most experience of anyone in the middle, by far. He had a great spring game, and has continued that play through camp.
The two outside linebacker spots are still up for grabs. Jemeel Brady moved from safety to linebacker for his senior year. Dorin Dickerson moved from offense to defense, and has made some plays this camp. Nate Nix redshirted last year, and is now able to contribute. Shane Murray has also had a good camp, making a smooth transition from safety to linebacker so far.
One player, who has taken a majority of the reps with the first team is Adam Gunn. Gunn is another intriguing prospect in the mix. Of the four players competing for those two outside linebacker spots, Nix was the only one recruited to Pitt as a linebacker. Gunn was a two-year starter at quarterback and safety for Kiski Area. He set a school-record with 21 touchdown passes and 11 career interceptions, and was an all-state player. As a senior, Gunn was ranked by Rivals as the No. 24 safety in the country in 2004, and the No. 18 player in Pennsylvania. He chose the Panthers over West Virginia, Boston College, Maryland and Nebraska, and is in excellent position to open the season starting at linebacker.
"Ever since I got here, I came in anticipating a chance to play," Gunn said. "I've been here for four years, and I'm trying to take advantage of it. They always said I'd be a linebacker. Here I am, just playing as it goes, and I'm trying to take full advantage."
Gunn's biggest asset is that he is one of the smartest players on the field. So far, in his career, he has played both safety positions, and all three linebacker positions. While there is no extensive game experience, Gunn has had to learn the plays for all five of these different positions. With all that time studying the playbook, he should be one of the smartest players.
It's the playbook that is the most difficult part, according to Gunn, in earning a starting job and playing it well. He equates learning the playbook to learning anything else. It worked in the classroom, as he has earned Big East academic honors. Now, Gunn hopes he can earn Big East honors on the field too.
"Over the summer, I spent a lot of time with the playbook so I can be the smartest guy out there," Gunn added. "I do lack some of the athletic ability as the others, but I try to make up for it with my knowledge of the game and try to continue to get better."
Gunn has played primarily on special teams to this point of his career, and has made big plays while waiting his turn. He blocked two punts in his redshirt freshman year of 2005, and has played in all 23 games to this point of his career. Last year, he finished with 21 total tackles and was a member of the Big East All-Academic Football Team. He is aware that he is in competition with two heralded members of Pitt's recruiting class of 2006, in Nate Nix and Dorin Dickerson, but he says he has found away to turn that distraction off, and focus on bettering himself.
"I don't pay attention to that," Gunn added. "I'm just playing and trying to learn as much as I can. If I focus on other stuff, my mind gets out of it, and I can't play as well as I need to. I just continue to focus and make myself better, and let everything just play off from there."
If you take a quick look at the credits of the 2007 Pitt football media guide, you will see that Gunn has his name listed as a contributor. He spent this past summer as an intern in Pitt's media relations office, and will graduate in December with a degree in communications. He will begin graduate school in December, pursuing a Master's degree in public administration.
"This summer was a lot of fun working with E.J. (Borghetti), Mendy (Nestor), and the (media relations staff)," Gunn said. "I just wanted to get my mind off football a little bit, and get my professional career in line."
Tony Greco can be contacted at email@example.com..
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