Cavanaugh Has Talent To Open Up Offense

There's been some talk that Pitt football coach Dave Wannstedt is on the hot seat this year after non-winning, bowl-less seasons at his alma mater.

If that's true, things have to be pretty warm as well for offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh. And with the talent Pittsburgh has on offense this season, Cavanaugh and the Panthers need to produce.

"We have a lot of confidence in Coach Cav, that he'll call the right plays and put all of us in a position to make plays for this football team,'' starting quarterback Bill Stull said. "We just have so many weapons, it's incredible.''

Tailback LeSean McCoy certainly should see a steady dose of stacked defenses to stop him this season, until Pitt proves it can protect Stull and move the ball through the air. As long as he gets time to throw, good things should happen for Stull with wideouts like Derek Kinder, Oderick Turner, Cedric McGee and big-play Jonathan Baldwin, as well as tight ends like Nate Byham and Dorin Dickerson.

Cavanaugh quickly rattled off the names and initially forgot fullback Conredge Collins, a senior who should be equally as dangerous this season running the ball or coming out of the backfield and catching passes. And behind McCoy is hot LaRod Stephens-Howling, the Johnstown Jet, and powerful Shariff Harris, who will run over an opponent just as easily as run past him.

"I would say that it would be nice to have more than one ball on the field,'' Cavanaugh said. "I would be very confident to get the ball to Kinder, Turner, McGee, Byham, Dickerson, Pelusi, McCoy, Stephens, Collins, Baldwin, we've got guys who our quarterback would be very comfortable getting the ball to them.

"So, if we can do that, I'm sure they're athletic enough to make some people miss and get positive yards. I don't think that'll be an issue. We'll have enough guys to make plays. I'm excited about our skill positions. I think we've got some playmakers, and that should take some pressure off McCoy.''

"And I think our line's starting to jell,'' Cavanaugh added. "There were some new pieces that needed to be fit in there, but they're coming along now the past 2 1/2 weeks (in camp). And Stull, he's had a good camp again, it's the second year in a row, and we're all excited that he's the guy.''

Cavanaugh noted that while he isn't thrilled about entrusting the right tackle spot to a freshman, Lucas Nix, if he beats out junior Joe Thomas.

"(But) I didn't want to entrust the quarterback position to a true freshman last year, either,'' Cavanaugh said, "but we had to do it. So, if we need to put a true freshman at right tackle we'll do it. We know Lucas is talented.

"And he's going to be a good player for us. But he's got a lot to learn yet and is still developing physically. He looks mature, but he's still young. Another year or two with Buddy would help that, but we'll play him if we need to do that.''

Cavanaugh added what already has been said about Thomas. Occasionally, he plays well enough to be a successful right tackle. However, he is extremely inconsistent, but the coach added that he is at a new position and should improve with time. He has another week.

The same for the backup quarterback prospects, Pat Bostick and Kevan Smith.

"I'm not convinced, yet, with our other two quarterbacks, on who will be the backup,'' Cavanaugh said. "But Stull needs to get most of the reps. The next guy, and we'll determine who that is, will not get too many anyway. Bostick and Smith will split up he remaining reps.

"I just wish one of them would have clearly, head and shoulders, play better than the other one in camp. They both did some really good things. We went about seven practices without turning the ball over, and that's good. But we had one today. An underthrown ball got picked.''

Finally, Cavanaugh was asked if having Baldwin splitting out brings out the mad scientist in him, drawing up different plays to take advantage of his size.

"I don't know about that,'' Cavanaugh said. "He's (6-foot-5) with a 40-inch vertical and 37-inch arms and can run. So, I don't think it's a secret what he can do. We have to try to get him the ball in the red zone, so he'll have a role.

"What he does is work really hard, but he has a lot to learn yet. He's just now getting to move at a fast enough speed to get himself open. Before, he was running and thinking and looking for the ball. But he's getting there, and when the time is right we'll use him.''

With all the talent Pitt has on offense this season, the time is now for Cavanaugh and the Panthers to succeed, or things could be getting a lot hotter for the head coach and his top assistant.

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