Pitt Wide receiver Jon Baldwin appeared to be developing with quarterback Tino Sunseri in the first two games of the season.
However, recent games against Miami and Florida International have shown the exact opposite. Baldwin has just five receptions for 40 yards in those contests. As the clear No. 1 receiver for Pitt and one of the most talented in the country, coach Dave Wannstedt says Baldwin has to get more involved.
“For us to take our offense to another level, which we need to, Jonathan needs to get his hands on the football,” Wannstedt said in Monday’s press conference. “He had probably as good a week of practice (last) week as he’s had since he’s been here from an execution standpoint. Three plays that we felt were touchdown plays for him – one we jump offsides, one we get pressure in our face and we can’t get the ball to him and the third one they rolled the coverage on us and we were uncertain.
“So one was a coverage, one was a blitz pressure that took us out of it and the third one we jump offsides and move the ball back and have to change the play. That was just three plays that we thought were perfect set ups when we dialed ‘em up that could’ve been touchdowns and we don’t get a chance.”
Baldwin had a couple drops against FIU, failing to pull in two different fade attempts in the corner of the endzone.
While Baldwin has struggled to pile up catches, Mike Shanahan has been a reliable target for Sunseri. Shanahan has 7 catches over the past two games for 101 yards. Three different times Sunseri and Shanahan connected for passes of 18 yards or longer to convert first downs against FIU.
Wannstedt said part of why Baldwin has been quiet and Shanahan and others have seen more passes is that opponents are throwing different looks at Baldwin every game.
“We pretty much can look ahead and say, ‘OK, this is what we’re going to see coverage-wise versus Mike Shanahan and Mike Cruz and our other receivers, but every week we kind of see a new wrinkle for Jonathan,” Wannstedt said. “It may be one guy pressing him, another guy on top of him, one guy inside, one guy playing outside coverage, but they’re always gonna come up with a different look.
“We’ve got a few new offensive linemen, as we know, and a new quarterback and we’re trying to progress but at the same time be smart. It’s been a challenge.”
Notre Dame is Pitt’s final non-conference opponent of the season and, despite a 2-3 record, boasts talented players on both sides of the ball. Then the Big East schedule begins, with every game having added importance.
“Jonathan, as the games get tougher and tougher, we’re gonna need more from him without a doubt,” Wannstedt said. “We gotta find ways to get him the ball and he’ll make plays.”
Other Pitt News:
- The Post-Gazette’s Paul Zeise wrote about Baldwin’s production, or lack thereof, if today’s paper. He quotes Baldwin, who seems confident he’ll play well at Notre Dame this weekend.
- Zeise also writes about Dom DeCicco’s move from safety to linebacker. It makes the defense more similar to last year, and the move seemed to be effective as Saturday’s game progressed.
- If you didn’t catch a glimpse of Pitt’s 44-17 win over FIU, Pitt Script has highlights for you.
- Going to Notre Dame this weekend? So are The Fighting Wannstaches! Print out their ‘Fear the Stache’ posters for the game.
- Ray Graham’s performance against FIU did nothing to detract controversy.
- The USA Today writes that Ashton Gibbs and the Pitt basketball team is ready to use its strong preparation and give the Big East hell in 2010-11.