Thanks to a rigorous offseason conditioning program, Derek Kinder appeared to be stronger and quicker during recent 7-on-7 drills with his teammates, and that doesn't bode too well for Big East defenses this fall.
With redshirt sophomore Oderick Turner, sophomore T.J. Porter, redshirt junior Marcel Pestano and redshirt sophomore Cedric McGee, as well as several incoming freshmen, Pitt is as deep at wideout as it has been in years.
"I think that since a lot of the wideouts got some playing time last year, our position is an area that the offense will really be able to count on this season,'' Kinder said. "We have some experience and a lot of different talents, so we're all looking forward to contributing in some way.
"That's why all the receivers are working real hard this year to improve on what they accomplished last year. So, I have no doubt that the receiving corps is an area of strength on our offense, and our depth at that position is going to be a tremendous benefit for the team.''
Kinder and Turner were the starters last season, but the emergence of Porter as a deep threat gives Pitt more options in the passing game. And the quarterbacks have continued to work on spreading out the ball in workouts so far this summer.
"I think we're on the right page right now,'' Kinder said. "We ended off spring ball on a good note, and things are going really well so far this summer. Buddy definitely has done a great job with us, and I see improvements happening. So, we're definitely going to be ready for camp this August.
"Buddy and James have done a great job with the speed training aspect of our program, and I definitely feel a couple steps faster already. I hope to improve on that, too, but I'm just trying to keep my conditioning at a high level and getting bigger and stronger, just like everybody else.''
Kinder noted that the Panthers appear to be head of where they were at this time last year, so they won't have to make up a lot of ground when training camp begins in August. But there is one area that took a big hit last year. Several seniors -- most notably Tyler Palko and Steve Buches on offense and H.B. Blades and Clint Session on defense -- will need to be replaced on the field and in the locker room.
"With the loss of Tyler, the offense lost a real vocal leader on and off the field,'' Kinder said. "So, that's a role that I'm trying to step into to try to motivate people a little more than I did last year. I think I was more a leader by example last year, but I'll have to do a little more talking this year.
"I'll try to help guys as much as I can, but talking about things isn't my strong point. So, (in May), I went to this leadership conference at Pitt-Johnstown with Bill Stull and KC (Kennard Cox). That definitely helped us get different techniques on trying to motivate and lead this team in different ways.''
Kinder had 94 receptions and nine touchdown catches the past two seasons, but he still expects to have an even better senior year this fall.
"I think we're looking for better seasons from everyone,'' Kinder said. "If each player works on improving himself as an individual this summer, then when we get together as an entire team in August we'll be ready to go.
"And I think that's what we're doing. Everyone is improving his speed and strength and conditioning, and we're spending a lot of time together. I really believe this is going to be a big year for everyone here at Pitt.''
Kinder Primed For Big Year
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