Byham Best "Co-Starter''

Pitt football coach Dave Wannstedt has made a big deal about the Panthers' depth at tight end with three "co-starters'' listed at the position.

However, while that is believed to be a copout to some and a way to appease all three to others, it truly does not tell the entire story about juniors Nate Byham, Dorin Dickerson and John Pelusi, as each supplies a different talent to the Pittsburgh offense.

The 6-foot-3, 260-pound Pelusi clearly is the best blocker in the group, while 6-2, 230-pound Dickerson is the fastest and most athletic with better blocking skills. However, the 6-3, 255-pound Byham is a more complete player and has been the Panthers' starting tight end in both games this season, as well as 11 games last season (missing West Virginia with a knee injury) and once in 2006.

"Ever since he's come in here, I was always able to put it where he can catch it,'' Pitt redshirt junior quarterback Bill Stull said. "He's bailed me out more than a couple times with good catches. Against Buffalo, we had a hot route. I saw it late, but knew it was there. And I knew Nate would be ready for it.

"So, I just put it where he could catch it, and he came through with a big catch and pushed ahead for the first down. It was a big play. He's a workhorse, and he wants to make every play. He definitely is a go-to guy for me and someone we run plays for, but also someone I feel comfortable going to all the time.''

Byham had 15 catches for 210 yards a year ago, including one spectacular 50-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown during Pitt's win against Grambling. He also caught a scoring pass from Tyler Palko against WVU in 2006, but he has yet to find the end zone in two games this season despite eight grabs for 78 yards.

Stull has spread the ball around to seven different receivers in the two games, but several players -- Pelusi, freshman wideout Jonathan Baldwin and tailback LaRod Stephens-Howling -- haven't even caught one yet.

"Our offense can be very diverse,'' Byham said. "That's just how I feel. We have so many talented players, and we just need to keep utilizing them the way we've done so far. But it all starts up front. It all depends on how well the offensive line plays. If they're playing well, our offense will play well.

"When they got pressure on us (against Bowling Green), that messed up our whole offense, but that really changed (against Buffalo). We played very well overall. Everybody made plays, and that was the difference. We need to let teams know that they can't beat us by stopping just one guy.''

Once Byham gets his hands on the football, he's certainly tough to stop. And it's not because he has breakaway speed. On one occasion this year, Stull appeared to throw up a jump-ball situation during a third-down play, but Byham leaped and pulled it down away from two defenders to secure a first down. And on another third down last week, he hauled in a short toss and carried two defenders deep into the red zone to move the sticks and set up a score.

"I was very determined on that play,'' Byham understated. "If everything's going our way on offense, I believe we're tough to stop. We have the size, speed and athleticism in our passing game and running game, so we can be very balanced. And I'm just glad I can do my part to help us out.''

Byham's success in that area has made him the top "co-starter'' at tight end.

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