Pitt Back To Drawing Board

Before anybody breaks their legs jumping off the Pitt football team's bandwagon another disheartening loss to Connecticut Saturday night, don't give up on the Panthers just yet.

Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt is at a crossroad, for this season and maybe his stay at his alma mater, and it will be interesting to see what Wannstedt and his assistant coaches do next. By no means would I give up on this season, maybe it's time to blow things up and start fresh.

That means scrap offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh's West Coast, dink-and-dunk, sideways-passing offense and throw the ball downfield with strong-armed freshman Pat Bostick. Of course, redshirt frosh Kevan Smith had trouble connecting on those lobs (re: touch passes) to the sideline and was better-suited to longer throws downfield as well, but the passing game needs to be redesigned a bit to take advantage of the quarterback's skills.

Also, the Wildcat formation must be used more often. The opposition certainly knows that the Panthers are doing in that set, so just run it. This topic was discussed ad nauseam this past week, but it didn't appear to be used enough against the Huskies. And freshman LeSean McCoy certainly didn't touch the ball enough.

After running wild at Michigan State the previous week, McCoy ran for 54 yards on eight carries in the first half and tallied just three second-half runs for 16 yards to finish with 11 for 70 and one dazzling 19-yard touchdown. The Wildcat was caged. Shady was shelved, the Pitt offense was left with the passing attack to win the game.

While neither Bostick nor Smith was sharp by any means, they got little help from their receivers. Tight end Darrell Strong and McCoy led the Panthers with six catches each, while wideout Oderick Turner and LaRod Stephens-Howling had four receptions apiece with Turner securing the only touchdown on a 21-yard toss from Bostick in the fourth quarter.

But Strong dropped a couple, and so did Turner. Neither blocked especially well, and that goes for Marcel Pestano and T.J. Porter as well. As it was stated last week, this wideout group needs to make more plays downfield.

Other than the moves with Jason Pinkston out, Mike McGlynn to right tackle and Joe Thomas back to right guard, there doesn't appear to be more that can be made to the offensive line. So, the play there just needs to improve markedly for the offense to have a chance.

Defensively, Pitt didn't get bad in just one week. There were some problems before, a lack of physical play by the secondary and no turnovers forced, that have continued. So, changes need to be made. Would Dom DeCicco be a worse option at a safety spot. He backs up Eric Thatcher, and Irvan Brown plays behind fifth-year senior Mike Phillips. The young guys need to play more. That includes Aaron Berry and Ricky Gary at cornerback.

The linebacking corps and line have been solid, as three sacks were recorded, but more pressure needs to be generated and the younger guys need to play more as well in these spots. That means redshirt freshman defensive end Greg Romeus, who was second to Scott McKillop with eight tackles, seven solo stops, a sack and two total stops behind the line, needs to get more snaps. Freshman defensive end Jabaal Sheard should be turned loose as well, and the same with sophomore Tommie Duhart at defensive tackle. He had his first start, had three solo tackles and a quarterback hit.

In the linebacking corps, it's time for sophomore Dorin Dickerson to be on the field more often. Sure, he makes some mistakes, but he also can make things happen. His speed and athleticism make him a dangerous pass-rusher, and he needs to be turned loose as well. Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads must be allowed to blitz more often to make plays. With no turnovers forced in three games, a change needs to be made to force the issue.

The future of the program is now, so changes need to be made to reflect that philosophy. And they need to be made now before the wheels fall completed off that bandwagon.

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