Pitt

4-1-Zoo: Breaking Down Pitt’s Wide Receivers

Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — Today is the official beginning of Pitt football season as media day and training camp begin in the Southside.

I’ll have all kinds of audio and recaps up from media day later on. In the meantime, here’s a look at how the wide receiver position looks as we enter camp and approach the regular season…

Of the offensive positions, wide receiver appears to be the deepest and most talented group. Although first-round draft pick Jon Baldwin has moved on and signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, lots of good size and hands return for the Panthers.

At the top of the list is Mike Shanahan, who will assume the top duties at wide receiver. At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, he’s a huge target for quarterback Tino Sunseri down the field. A junior, he has experience with Sunseri and showed ability to catch the ball all over the field last season.

Shanahan caught 43 balls for 589 yards and one touchdown in 2010. He’s not the fastest receiver on the team, but if last year holds true he’s the most sure-handed target of all the wide receivers.

Devin Street might be the fastest wide out on the team, and was saw glimpses of that last year. Take his 79-yard swing pass that went for a touchdown at Syracuse as a prime example of his speed.

He’ll likely fall in at No. 2 on the depth chart and, at 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, he’s another big body for Sunseri to throw to. If there’s anything former Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt left behind for new coach Todd Graham it’s tall receivers.

Street wasn’t used a ton last season, his redshirt freshman year. He had 25 catches for 318 yards and two TDs. I’d expect all of those numbers to rise dramatically.

Next is redshirt junior Cam Saddler, who was tabbed by most as a frustrating player last season. He wasn’t very involved in the passing game and regularly made errant decisions as the team’s punt returner.

If anyone is poised for a big improvement it’s him. Saddler seems like the perfect slot target in Graham’s offensive system — a small, quick, shifty target than can run routes underneath and outrun the defense.

His season may be as exciting as any. What’s certain is that he has the most room to improve.

After those three it’s rather up in the air as to how Graham will utilize his wide receivers. There are a lot of young players at the position, which is a theme throughout the depth chart.

There are three true freshmen and three redshirt freshmen entering camp with absolutely no playing experience. However some, like Salath Williams, were highly touted out of high school and could be valuable targets.

Junior Josh Brinson and redshirt sophomore Ed Tinker figure to see time as well.

POSITION GRADE: B+

Like I said above, wide receiver is the deepest and most talented position of the entire offense. Wannstedt and his staff recruited well there and even the departure of Baldwin doesn’t seem like it will have terribly negative effects on the unit.

Shanahan, Street and Saddler have the ability to be the best 1-2-3 punch at WR in the Big East. If another player or two can step up and provide quality depth it could have a trickle-down effect, opening things up for Sunseri to have a big year and forcing defenses to back off the line of scrimmage to give running back Ray Graham big lanes.

Wide receiver shouldn’t be a position Pitt fans worry about in 2011.

Other Pitt previews:

Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog
Twitter.com/Chris_Gates
Chris.Gates@cbsradio.com

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,656 other followers