By Dale Grdnic
PantherDigest.com Senior Writer
PITTSBURGH -- Matt Cavanaugh has trouble reaching a comfort level, and while that might be difficult for his family to handle it can benefit the University of Pittsburgh football team this year.
Cavanaugh, in his second season as Pitt's offensive coordinator, struggled to adapt to the college game after joining Dave Wannstedt's staff from the NFL last winter. And the Panthers offense mirrored its coach.
"I'm disappointed that we were 5-6 last year, and I take credit or blame for a couple of the losses,'' Cavanaugh said. "I thought I called some poor games offensively, and I didn't give our players a chance to execute some plays. ... So, I've got a lot of improvement to make. It's not just the players.''
But that doesn't mean Cavanaugh and the Panthers didn't learn from the experience.
"I learn a lot every year,'' Cavanaugh said. "I learned a lot the year we won the Super Bowl in Baltimore (with the Ravens). I made mistakes, but I'm also not usually someone who dwells on the great things that happen, either. I can be critical of myself and the people around me, and I want to improve all the time. When I talk about improvement, I start with myself.''
Wannstedt admitted that if some player progresses so much this spring that he absolutely is performing at the highest level then he's the clear-cut starter at his position. But he also noted that no one is that good.
"I don't know that there's anybody that good, at any position -- and I'll speak offensively -- including our quarterback,'' Cavanaugh said. "If anybody's that good, to feel like they're that good, that they don't have to compete hard every day, then somebody might come in and take your job.''
With that situation in effect, no Pitt player should be comfortable.
Dreaming of Dickerson
Even though he won't be in school until the fall and can't practice with the team until training camp, West Allegheny's Dorin Dickerson certainly is on the minds of Pitt's coaching staff.
"I think the only one that hasn't asked for him is (offensive line coach) Paul Dunn,'' Cavanaugh said. "And it probably won't be long before he does that. But (Dickerson) is a very versatile player, who obviously can run the ball and catch it, and I'm sure he can play defense if he had to. But we'd like to keep him on our side of the ball and find out where we can fit him in.''
Dickerson ran for more than 1,400 yards and scored 30 touchdowns for the Indians. He also caught 22 passes for 423 yards and six scores and added four interceptions from his cornerback spot. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Dickerson was recruited as a wideout, but don't be surprised if he is a Slash.
"I haven't ruled out putting Dorin Dickerson (in the backfield) and pitching him the ball,'' Wannstedt said. "But we can use that old theory to get the right players in the right spots and give them a chance to be successful.
"Then, the team will be successful as well. And when the other guys get here in the summer, we'll figure out what to do with them then.''
Cavanaugh did not want use up fullback Conredge Collins' redshirt year last fall, but the coaching staff decided to play him in the last five games. He also felt badly about freshman quarterback Bill Stull's situation.
"I regret burning Bill Stull's redshirt, putting him on the field just to clean up a couple games,'' Cavanaugh said. "But those are decisions that you need to make. The tradeoff is that you get some young guys on the field to get a little playing experience and take the nerves away.
"Then, you hope that they come back feeling like they've been on the field before. So, they should know how to act. You always can second-guess after the season is over. It would've been nice, but we weren't able to do it.''
Stull played in just two games and was 1-for-2 for 17 yards.
It's football all the way
Redshirt sophomore place-kicker Conor Lee was a standout soccer player at Upper St. Clair High School, but after a fall at Fork Union Military Academy he walked on and is battling senior David Abdul for Pitt's No. 1 job.
"I'm done with soccer, but I miss it,'' Lee said. "I do have aspirations to coach it some day. I played for the Beadling Soccer Club. My team was real good, and I'd love to coach kids like that.''
When starter Josh Cummings had surgery last year, Wannstedt picked Abdul -- who kicked for Pitt prior to an injury and being replaced by Cummings -- in the interim. Abdul is recovered from a badly broken leg and is neck-and-neck with Lee for place-kicking duties this spring.
Wannstedt said that linemen Doug Fulmer moved to defensive end, Vernon Botts to defensive tackle, Darrell Jones to the offensive line and Rashaad Duncan to the nose guard after starting two games at tackle as a freshman last season. ... Former Pitt basketball great Sam Clancy joined Pitt Thursday as a volunteer. He can't do any coaching, due to NCAA rules, but he is reenrolled at Pitt to complete is bachelor's degree and will help with the program in whatever way possible.