Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said yesterday that running back LeSean McCoy would play for the Panthers next season.
After speaking with McCoy, McCoy's family, and a number of NFL talent evaluators, all agreed, Wannstedt said, that it is in McCoy's best interest -- and it is his desire -- to return to school for at least one more season.
"I had a good talk with his parents and several talks with LeSean," Wannstedt said. "LeSean believes, and his mom and dad believe, that he's excited about being here and we all believe that this next year will do nothing but enhance his opportunities for the National Football League."
Wannstedt talked about McCoy during his season-ending news conference, when he also took the opportunity to say he will retain offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh for next season. Pitt's season ended with a 3-0 loss to Oregon State in the Sun Bowl Wednesday.
Wannstedt said that Cavanaugh has been unfairly criticized and that the Panthers' problems on offense are mostly because of poor execution and are not Cavanaugh's fault. Despite the struggles of Pitt's quarterbacks, he said, Cavanaugh is one of the best quarterbacks coaches in the country.
"Are you kidding me? We're not going to base anything off of just one game," Wannstedt said. "Matt has forgotten more about coaching quarterbacks than most of the other guys out there will ever know. And you can quote me on that one."
Other news from Wannstedt included:
• Redshirt junior Bill Stull will be the starting quarterback heading into the spring, but the competition will be wide open and will be a three-way race among Stull, sophomore Pat Bostick and freshman Tino Sunseri.
• The two other scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, junior Greg Cross and redshirt sophomore Kevan Smith, have asked to move to different positions. Wannstedt said the staff is considering the possibilities of Cross at safety and Smith at H-back/tight end. He said the staff's inability to find a role for Cross this year was one of his biggest regrets.
• Freshman tackle Lucas Nix and redshirt freshman guard Chris Jacobson will play a big role for the team next season.
• The battle for Scott Mc-Killop's replacement at middle linebacker in the spring will be among Steve Dell, Max Gruder and Brandon Lindsay. He said that he does not expect senior linebacker Adam Gunn (broken neck) to get a sixth year of eligibility.
• Wannstedt admitted the staff didn't do a good of preparing for the Sun Bowl and said there will be changes next year if they make a bowl.
• He is optimistic that left tackle Jason Pinkston, who missed the Sun Bowl with a shoulder injury, will not need surgery. Tight end Nate Byham (shoulder) will undergo surgery this week and cornerback Jarred Holley will have arthroscopic surgery on a knee.
• Incoming freshman running back Dion Lewis from Blair Academy in New Jersey graduated from high school in December and already has enrolled at Pitt and will participate in spring drills.
Paul Zeise can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1720.