Porter Pumps Up Pitt Passing Game

There was never a question about his talent level when T.J. Porter came to Pitt from Pahokee High School in Florida, but after more than a year in the Panthers football program the 6-foot-1, 185-pound sophomore wideout is finally playing up to his extensive ability.

After spot duty as a freshman last fall and playing a backup role earlier this season, Porter has started the past two games at flanker for Pittsburgh and performed pretty well with three catches in each contest.

So, what finally helped Tamarcus Porter turn the corner this season?

"It's pretty much just me listening to the coaches now,'' Porter said. "At times, I would get frustrated, but they would tell me to just be patient. My time's coming. I would listen to them, but not exactly.

"I would shrug it off and try to take things into my own hands, but once I started believing what they were telling me and going by what they said and going by their way, I've been able to reap the benefits. So, it's starting to show now, and I'm just trying to take advantage of this opportunity.''

Pitt receivers coach Aubrey Hill had a little trepidation this past week against Louisville, as Porter was making his second college start and freshman Maurice Williams was making his first start against the Cardinals. Williams got the nod when Oderick Turner was injured late last week. Turner ended up playing and doing pretty well, but Williams got the start.

"T.J. and Mo are mimicking their head coach and position coach in trying to do everything the right way. T.J. is still just a first-year starter. He just had his first start two games ago. He's trying to get better and do the right things in the running game as well as the passing game. And one thing you can say about T.J. is that he plays with a lot of emotion.

"Mo made a couple good plays, but there's still some things he needs to do to get better. (But) as a former quarterback, it's an advantage because he can retain a lot of what we tell him. There's still a lot he needs to learn as far as releases ... but as far as athletic ability and hands, he's a natural at that position. He's still a freshman, but athletically he can handle it.''

Porter still believed that he could improve in all areas of his game, but one aspect that has developed a good deal has been his downfield blocking in Pitt's running game.

"It's a lot different from high school, when you can just go out there and run your route,'' Porter said. "In college, you need to know whether they're in Cover 2 or whatever. There's just a lot more to know.

"Blocking, it's pretty much just effort and having the tenacity to go out there and do it. Like I said before, I wasn't really into it like I should have been, but now I'm buying into what the coaches are telling me. And it's much easier to go out there and give a good effort every day.''

Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt liked Porter the moment he saw him play.

"I remember watching those guys practice with (former Pitt star) Ricky Jackson at Pahokee,'' Wannstedt said. "We were sitting in the end zone, and they had their cars parked on the field and a car pulled up and it was Ricky Gary and T.J. They opened their trunk and started getting dressed, putting on their practice gear. There were no locker rooms.

"(But) they come from a program that is very successful. They win a lot of games, but the whole college atmosphere is a major change to some of these kids. I think T.J. had to buy into that you have to lift weights during the season, that you have to go to study hall, that you have to block downfield. You've got to be a complete player. We can't just throw you passes.

"Some guys figure that out, but a lot of them don't,'' Wannstedt added. "Most of the guys that aren't successful and don't make it in the college game, it's not because of talent. It's because, for whatever reason, the light never goes on. I'd like to think the light is going on with T.J. now.''

And that means the future is bright for Pitt's passing game.

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