Shayne Hale was a highly recruited prospect out of Gateway High School who had visions of becoming Pitt's next dominant middle linebacker.
But Hale, a redshirt sophomore who was a U.S. Army All-American as a high school senior, didn't make an impact his first season at Pitt, ended up taking a redshirt and then, in the offseason between 2008 and '09, approached the coaching staff about moving to defensive end.
He hadn't played the position before. So he spent most of last season learning while improving his strength and technique, but that meant he spent lots of time on the bench.
That won't be the case this year, though, as Hale is expected to back up Greg Romeus at defensive end and hopes to see plenty of playing time.
"He hasn't even played the position for a year yet, but he has really improved," said defensive line coach Greg Gattuso. "We need him to be able to play 15 to 20 snaps a game next year and that is if [the two starters] are healthy. If we get an injury, we'll need more, and if he isn't playing that many there is something wrong."
Hale, who is 6 feet 4 and 250 pounds, said he knows his time is now and he's making sure he takes full advantage of the opportunity.
"I've been staying after practice working on things, I want to work with [strength and conditioning coach] Buddy Morris on getting even stronger," Hale said. "I know I can be a big part of things in the future, but I have to start this year. Just getting on the field and making plays when my number is called, that is all that I can control."
Tight end is a position that was hit hardest by graduation, considering how much Dorin Dickerson and Nate Byham meant to the offense.
Head coach Dave Wannstedt said all three players fighting for playing time at that position are working hard.
"It's early yet, but we need for Andrew Devlin and Brock DeCicco to come on," Wannstedt said. "But I expect them to make strides. [And] Mike Cruz, it's obviously his job to lose. He's played some, but we'll need them all. And each one has their own specialty, what they bring to the table.''
Quarterback Tino Sunseri continued to work exclusively with the first team Tuesday, while Pat Bostick worked with the second team. But Wannstedt said not to read anything into it because Tuesday was the first day in pads. "They both know the offense, and they know where to go with the ball," Wannstedt said. "But once we start turning guys loose, they should separate themselves, as they start making plays under pressure." ... Two former Panthers, Hank Poteat and Shawntae Spencer, visited practice. ... Wide receiver Ed Tinker (hand) missed practice. ...Cornerback Antwuan Reed intercepted a pass and did an excellent job covering standout wide receiver Jon Baldwin.
Paul Zeise can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1720.