Fall Camp Preview: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

This is the third in a series of articles reviewing the Panthers units going into fall camp. This article features the tight ends and wide receivers. Offense, defense, and special teams will be covered. Returning players and incoming freshmen will be included.

The tight end position should be among the most talented and deepest on the entire team this fall. Senior Kris Wilson (6-3/240) returns as the starting tight end. Kris has been ranked among the top 10 tight ends in the country this preseason. He has excellent hands and speed and even beat star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald in a 40-yard dash last season. Kris made 18 catches for 389 yards and 2 touchdowns last season, with an impressive 21.6 yards per catch average.

Sophomore Erik Gill (6-5/255) will be the backup once again. Erik saw action in all 13 games last season as a redshirt freshman. Gill is a threat as a receiver and is also a strong blocker. He could see much more playing time this season with the overall uncertainty at receiver.

Another tight end that could see some playing time is redshirt freshman Steve Buches (6-3/230). Buches had a strong spring and was one of the stars of the Blue/Gold game, where he caught everything thrown in his direction. He is still a little undersized for a tight end, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Steve lining up in the slot if some receivers do not step up this fall. He has similar size and athletic ability as Lamar Slade.

The wide receiver position features sophomore superstar Larry Fitzgerald (6-3/210), who was the first true freshman to be named a unanimous First Team All-Big East selection. Larry was spectacular last year, earning Freshman All-American honors and breaking just about every Pittsburgh receiving record for a freshman. Fitzgerald finished the season with 69 catches for 1,005 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Pitt coaches have gone on record this summer saying that Fitzgerald is bigger, stronger, faster, and has a much better understanding of the game now as compared to last season. That spells trouble for opposing defenses.

One of the biggest challenges for the Panthers coaching staff this fall is to find receivers to line up opposite of Fitzgerald and keep the defenses honest. It's no secret that opposing teams will look to double team Fitzgerald. The leading candidate to start opposite Fitzgerald is senior Chris Curd (6-3/215). Curd had an outstanding spring and won the Ed Conway Award for most improved player, along with Josh Lay and Malcolm Pinder. Curd has NFL size, good speed, and also runs precise routes.

Another standout during the spring drills was sophomore Joe Stephens (6-0/190). Stephens showed soft hands and the ability to separate from his defender at spring drills. He finished the Blue/Gold game with 3 catches for 58 yards and 1 touchdown. Stephens has that Florida speed that could make a difference this fall.

JUCO transfer Princell Brockenbrough (6-3/200) was considered the #1 JUCO receiver in the country per many recruiting publications a year ago. Princell spent the early part of last season rehabbing a knee injury and ended up taking a redshirt. He struggled some this past spring, getting his confidence back, but he should be ready to challenge for playing time this fall. Senior Yogi Roth (5-10/195) also looks to earn playing time in the Panthers three and four receiver sets.

Pittsburgh has five incoming recruits who could all end up playing wide receiver during their Pitt careers.

Terrell Allen (6-0/180) from Duncan, South Carolina was the star of last year's recruiting class and could see playing time as a true freshman. Allen has sub-4.4 speed and plays a very physical style of football. He is known to be a crunching blocker who opens up lanes for his teammates. Terrell was ranked among the top 30 wide receivers in the country per several recruiting publications.

Donald Brooks from Galveston, Texas was involved in a serious car accident last year and won't enroll at Pitt until January.

Greg Lee (6-3/185) from Tampa, Florida was selected 2nd Team All-State Florida 5-A classification last season. Lee was a 3-year starter and may be one of the dark horses of last year's recruiting class.

Kennard Cox (5-8/165) from Miami, Florida was recruited as an athlete, and could end up playing wide receiver or in the secondary. The cousin of former Pitt star Torrie Cox, Kenard has excellent speed and should also be a special teams demon just like his cousin was during his Pitt career.

Windell Brown (6-0/195) was recruited as a running back, but many think this Duquesne High School star will end up playing wide receiver. Brown has the speed and shifty moves to earn the reputation of a dangerous player in the open field. He also has the talent to be a top-notch kick returner during his Panther career also.

Overall, the tight end and wide receiver units could wind up being the strengths of the Panther offense. The tight end position looks to be as deep and talented as it has been in many years. Wide receiver has a lot of questions once you look past Larry Fitzgerald, but there are several prospects with very good speed and NFL size to choose from, and that's not a bad place to start.

Brian Gold
PittInsiders.com


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