A Little Self-Evaluation

Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said this past week was used for self-evaluation by the coaching staff, so I thought it was a good idea for Panther Digest and the readers to do the same to the Panthers football program after its 1-1 start.

So, there's several things we'd like to see differently from Pittsburgh when it faces Iowa Saturday at noon at Heinz Field.

First, even though Pitt lost its opener, I do not believe the Panthers overlooked or underestimated Bowling Green. However, I do believe the Pitt coaches were too stubborn to adjust their offensive and defensive calls during the game.

There's no reason to stick with something when it's not working. Game adjustments are a big part of coaching, obviously, but that doesn't appear to be this staff's best asset. But we're looking ahead more than back, so hopefully some things got cleaned up by the staff during the bye week.

On offense, it's time to stop holding back. I'm not saying Pitt needs to be the BYU or Texas Tech of the East, but please throw the ball downfield more often. I'm not talking about stretching the field with long bombs, clearly not a strong suit for quarterback Bill Stull, but more medium-range passes are needed.

With the athletes the Panthers have on offense, in particular in the passing game, sideways passes or bubble screens just do not work. The offense barely has enough room to get out of its own way in time to make the play work, and the defensive players are still in their lanes. So, please bag those plays.

Specifically on offense, get Jonathan Baldwin the ball. Surely, he will run the correct route occasionally if given a chance, and he certainly should be able to catch the ball if thrown anywhere in his vicinity. And Baldwin is 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds. He should be able to make something happen after catching it.

Also, get Greg Cross into the game. I know his passing skills are below par, but by running a couple plays with him might be successful since he's big, strong and fast, and it certainly would give opposing defenses something else to game-plan for when looking at Pitt.

I tried to watch for this in the first two games, but don't believe I got an accurate count. However, there were just a few times that fullback Conredge Collins was in the backfield with LeSean McCoy. Collins' blocking was exceptional during camp and could prove to be an effective lead blocker. Not just that, but he has been extremely underutilized during the first two games, actually, during his career for that matter.

Collins is a multifaceted weapon with tremendous running, catching and blocking skills, and Pitt needs him on the field more often. I'm not saying he needs as many carries as McCoy and Stephens-Howling, but he needs to get a couple shots at some point.

Please try to get Dorin Dickerson the ball downfield as well. We got a glimpse of the ways he can be used against Buffalo with a run and pass his way, so please keep it up. He's going to break one sooner or later.

Defensively, where's the heat? Pitt defensive coordinator Phil Bennett is known for his pressure defense, and Wannstedt needs to let him let loose. Bring Elijah Fields from the middle, the linebackers from the outside and a corner here or there. Stunt the defensive linemen and mix things up. Put the heat on opposing quarterbacks.

I know they got rid of the ball quickly in the first two games to minimize Pitt's pass-rush, but a few more blitzes -- disguised or not -- could help the inexperienced outside linebackers. Sure, they'll get better with time, but the time is now for this defense to take it up a notch.

The same can be said for the Pitt football program. Iowa isn't the premier team in the Big Ten, but the Hawkeyes are 3-0 and would be a big win for the Panthers.

So, Wannstedt and the Pitt coaching staff shouldn't hold back on offense or defense any more.

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