Pitt Points

Here are some leftover notes from Pitt football coach Dave Wannstedt's weekly press conference Monday afternoon:

Pittsburgh (2-1) visits Syracuse (1-3) Saturday at noon at the Carrier Dome.

"When you look at Syracuse, they had a nice win on Saturday,'' Wannstedt said. "I think that when you look at their history and tradition up there and playing at the Carrier Dome, we'll have a lot of work to do.

"Last week we had a nice win but we're still not doing things as well as we'd like and as well as I think we're capable of. It was a win, and I think we can learn from that win. We'll regroup and get ready for Syracuse.''

When asked about freshman offensive tackle Lucas Nix, Wannstedt said that he played well, but admitted that the coaches didn't get him in the game enough. Nix is talented and needs the experience, but Wannstedt said that it was difficult due to the flow of the game.

"You're driving, it's third-and-long, and it's a one-point game,'' Wannstedt said, referring to no series in particular. "So, what's fair to the kid and what's fair to the team? That's what you're balancing when you're a head coach. When somebody gets hurt, it's easy (to substitute). But when you're trying to get some young kids playing time because they're going to be good players for you, my first responsibility is to this football team.

"And I'm not going to do anything that wouldn't be right. (And) Joe Thomas actually has played pretty good the past couple of weeks. He's gotten better, and he went up against a real good player. I thought John Malecki and C.J. Davis played well against two tough players. So, we're making some progress on the offensive line. ... We just have to get the running game going where we're consistently running the football well and getting some big chunks.''

The Panthers primarily have been moving the ball with their passing game and not with the run. In particular, tailback LeSean McCoy has not broken too many big runs. However, McCoy's scintillating 27-yard burst won the Iowa game.

"(McCoy) is close,'' Wannstedt said. "He has to be, because he's too good of a player. He and LaRod (Stephens-Howling) are too good of players, and they work too hard not to. LaRod's been playing well, so we've been giving him the ball some. We're trying all kinds of different things to (product) a big play.''

Wannstedt added that the Panthers will continue to work on strip drills with McCoy, helping him hold onto the football, since he fumbled again against the Hawkeyes. Pitt also will try to loosen the opposition's front seven by providing more options on offense. However, he downplayed the use of Greg Cross. The junior quarterback has a series of plays he can run, and he'll be used depending on "how things unfold in the game.''

Wannstedt admitted that Cross was supposed to get in during the third series against Iowa, but was uncertain why he didn't play until later. Freshman wideout Jonathan Baldwin also was discussed. Wannstedt noted that he played 10 snaps against the Hawkeyes.

"The first time we tried to get him the ball, they jumped the coverage and jammed him, and he wasn't able to get open,'' Wannstedt said. "We're going to try and get him a little more action. He had a good practice Sunday, so we'll see what happens this week.''

Fifth-year senior Austin Ransom is listed as the starting weak-side linebacker for the first time this season, even though redshirt junior Shane Murray (right knee strain) was supposed to play. Murray entered the game, but after a timeout was called he never returned. Wannstedt said that Ransom and Murray should be listed as co-starters, and both should play this week.

"Austin deserved to be the starter after the way he's progressed,'' Wannstedt said. "Shane is close to being 100 percent, so we'll evaluate him this week in practice and see how he is at the end of the week.''

Wannstedt praised the play of both strong safeties, Dom DeCicco and Elijah Fields, who made his first start against Iowa.

"I thought Dom stepped up and played real well last week, so he'll probably split time with Elijah this week,'' Wannstedt said. "Elijah did well in his first start. There are some things we'll look to improve on, but I think he did a good job.''

Wannstedt also said he would like to involve redshirt freshman wideout Aundre Wright in the offense a bit more. Wright ran a reverse for 14 yards, but basically is the No. 6 receiver and has not gotten a pass thrown his way.

"Right now, we're struggling to get all these guys the ball,'' Wannstedt said. "I wanted to get Cedric McGee on the field more and get Derek Kinder more work. We're trying to get Baldwin on the field more often.

"T.J. Porter is making plays when we get him the ball. Oderick Turner ... so, we've got some guys here who can make plays. But, unfortunately, there's only one football. The same thing with the tight ends. I'd love to get Dorin Dickerson some more opportunities. So, we'll keep working at it.''

Wright also has proven to be a dangerous kickoff returner, but don't expect him to be involved in the punt-return game anytime soon.

"(Berry) is the most consistent catching the football,'' Wannstedt said. "Trust me on that. We have T.J., who's done it, and Kinder has done it. Aundre has done it some, but he's more of a kick returner. He doesn't work at it as much as the other guys. Last week, we did not do a good job (blocking) their (gunners). Their punter did a good job (with) hang time. He had two for five seconds.''

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