Pitt football coach Dave Wannstedt may have received some good news yesterday when running back LeSean McCoy announced that he will return for his junior season with the Panthers.
Because McCoy spent one season at prep school (Milford Academy in New York after a career at Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg), he is eligible to enter the NFL draft, according to league rules, even though he is a sophomore.
Speculation has been that McCoy would declare himself eligible for the NFL draft after this season. The coaching staff had been bracing for his departure.
But yesterday, as Pitt (7-3, 3-2 Big East) prepared to play West Virginia (7-3, 4-1) Friday in the 101st edition of the Backyard Brawl, McCoy was asked if it would be his last game at Heinz Field in a Panthers uniform.
McCoy said he wanted to set the record straight and end all of the speculation. He said he doesn't think he's ready for the NFL life, meaning the business aspect of football, that he enjoys being a college student and -- most importantly -- that the Panthers likely will be a highly-ranked team next year and should contend for the Big East championship.
"Everyone keeps trying to push that idea that this is my last game at Heinz Field. I'm not going anywhere," McCoy said. "There is a lot of stuff I have to prove, and the thing is I don't think I've done enough here at this university and there is a lot of stuff I have to achieve here. It is something I want to squash and get it over with and not have to talk about it because I am kind of getting a little fed up with it.
"When you look at them [NFL] guys, that's what they do, that is their job. When you play college football, you just come out to have fun and play ball, but to those guys, it is their job. I feel I am not ready yet. Right now, I'm in school, I'm enjoying myself, I'm looking to stay here. I'm not pushing to go anywhere."
Wannstedt, when asked to react to McCoy's comments, was not ready to celebrate because he knows a lot can happen between now and when it comes time for McCoy to make his official decision. Wannstedt said he has not advised McCoy on the subject, but that he will when the two meet in December and he'll help McCoy make the right decision.
"I have no reaction," Wannstedt said. "That is something that LeSean and I will talk about at the appropriate time, and I think the way that LeSean responded is the way he should have responded. He has been nothing but outstanding in everything he has said and done, and my focus, as is LeSean's, is on West Virginia.
"I'm going to be honest with him, but we'll have this discussion a month from now. Of course, [Pitt would love to have him back], but I'm truly interested in what is best for him as I am with all these kids."
McCoy, who has rushed for 1,125 yards and is the nation's leading scorer on average with 10.8 points per game, was asked about what will happen when the draft projections come out and he is projected to be a first-round pick or what he will think if Wannstedt tells him NFL scouts think he'll be one of the first running backs taken.
McCoy said his decision really isn't based on money or draft projections, but rather it is based more on his feelings about the idea of football becoming a business and how ready he really is for that lifestyle, not just mentally and emotionally, but physically.
"I'm the one who has to take [those] hits and that. I'm a young kid. I need to get a little bigger, a little stronger and become a better blocker," said McCoy, who is 5 feet 11 and 210 pounds. "I think my knowledge of the game is coming on faster than I thought, and that's been pretty good. But my size and blocking need to get a little better, and I think with more size I'll become a better blocker.
"I mean, all I do is school, practice and hanging out with my friends. I love my guys here, a lot of my best friends are the guys on this team and I just love messing around, and it is fun. I don't really have to get into all that. ... It is just that's the real world once you get in the league, that's the real world, and I'm just here having fun."
McCoy spoke at length about next year's team, which, if he does come back, should be loaded and favored to win the Big East.
Counting McCoy, the Panthers will have eight of 11 starters returning on offense and seven of 11 on defense.
"We're talking about a young offense this year. Some of these guys, this is our first year playing with each other," McCoy said.
"I'm kind of anxious to see where we are going to be ranked at next year, to be honest. Definitely a BCS game and a Big East championship. A lot of guys who have the chance to leave for the NFL and come back, a lot of the reasons are how good the team will be next year, and I'm looking at the team next year and know we'll be stacked."
West Virginia vs. Pitt
Noon Friday, Heinz Field
First Published November 26, 2008 5:00 AM