The Pitt defense could be minus a veteran leader for the remainder of the 2008 season, as head coach Dave Wannstedt announced on Wednesday that redshirt senior linebacker Adam Gunn will be on the sidelines indefinitely.
Gunn left Saturday's season-opener against Bowling Green early in the third quarter and did not return.
"He had an MRI and the final diagnosis is that he does have a small fracture in one of his vertebrae and he will most likely be out indefinitely," Wannstedt said. "We're not going to say it's the year, but it's going to be indefinite. It's going to be awhile."
Gunn moved into the Pitt starting lineup at strong-side linebacker in 2007 after earning two previous letters for his work on special teams. Last season he started all 12 games and recorded 59 total tackles, 31 solo stops, 6 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 2 pass breakups, and 1 fumble recovery.
In just over two quarters of work on Saturday, Gunn was credited with 4 tackles, 2 solo, 1 forced fumble, and 1 quarterback hurry.
"He was one of our leaders," Wannstedt said. "He was as good a leader and role model off the field as he was a player on the field. Last week when we were looking for special teams guys, he was already starting and playing every down and he volunteered to be on the kickoff team.
"Adam's a heck of a guy, a heck of a player, and hopefully we'll get him back here before the year's out."
In place of Gunn, the Pitt staff will turn to redshirt sophomore Nate Nix and redshirt freshmen Greg Williams and Brandon Lindsey. After Gunn left Saturday's game, he was replaced first by Nix and then by Williams. Nix recorded 2 tackles, while Williams was credited with three solo stops and two quarterback hurries. Lindsey's only appearance was on special teams.
"We've been rotating all of those guys," Wannstedt said. "They all do a little something different and they're all getting reps. We'll probably play them all, to be honest with you, and if somebody gets a hot hand, we'll stick with him."
Gunn is the second returning starter from the linebacking corps to take up residence on the sidelines this season. Redshirt junior Shane Murray suffered a knee injury in training camp and was held out of the Bowling Green game. Wannstedt said Wednesday that Murray is "day-to-day; however, it is unlikely that he will play against Buffalo.