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March 20, 2006

Pitt opens spring football practice

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PITTSBURGH - After a 5-6 record in his first season at alma mater Pittsburgh, Dave Wannstedt made sure the Panthers were ready for spring workouts with a tough offseason program.

He didn't lighten the workload on the first day of spring ball, either.

''We had a good practice,'' junior cornerback Darrelle Revis said Sunday. ''There was a lot of effort, the intensity was up, and we were moving really fast. Everyone was into it. ... We had a tough offseason, but it was done on purpose to get us ready for next season.

''They wanted to let us know that we don't want to go 5-6 any more. We don't want to have a losing season. We want to try to change the program by working hard, and this is the place to start. So, I think we're ready to have a real good spring.''

Wannstedt said no position has a starter penciled in for the fall, and he believes that outlook has created more competition. At wide receiver, for example, several freshman recruits could find themselves playing this fall if the holdover players don't improve, he said.

''We've got some great competition going in a lot of spots but, at the receiver spot, you have guys with experience like (Joe) DelSardo and (Derek) Kinder,'' Wannstedt said.

''Then, you've got (Marcel) Pestano, who played a little bit (as a redshirt freshman). And you've got Oderick Turner and Cedric McGee there. So, we've got some good competition at receiver.''

Kinder, a junior next season, made eight starts - including the final seven games and finished second to Greg Lee with 37 catches for 374 yards and three touchdowns. Lee left a void at split end when he declared for the NFL draft next month.

DelSardo, who was replaced by the bigger, faster Kinder, dropped to just 15 catches and no TDs after making 49 catches with four scores as a sophomore. Pestano made one catch for five yards, while Turner and McGee both redshirted last season.

''We've got a group of guys here who are very capable of putting up a lot of yards, a lot of catches and putting the ball in the end zone,'' senior-to-be quarterback Tyler Palko said. ''So, we're not going to rely on just the freshmen that are coming in. These guys are the vets. They've been here, and hopefully they'll (come through).''

Notes: Pitt has 15 spring practices, mostly on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. ... There also are two night practices at high schools that are open to the public - Friday at Center, and April 7 at Thomas Jefferson. ... The spring game is April 15, a 1 p.m. kickoff at Heinz Field.

For more coverage of the Pittsburgh Panthers, check out PantherLair.com.

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