That changed when Derek Kinder got banged up a bit early in the game at South Florida, so Bill Stull and the Pittsburgh coaching staff had to alter their passing plans a bit. Enter freshman sensation Jonathan Baldwin.
On the Panthers' third series against USF, Baldwin quickly became a favorite for Stull and pain to the Bulls' defense. He caught two passes in the drive, a seven-yarder on a quick slant and 52-yard bomb for a touchdown. Baldwin also drew several penalties from USF defenders.
"That was huge for our offense,'' Stull said. "It really jump-started things for us. He was a presence the entire game, and he'll be a key receiver for us in the future. He draws a lot of attention when he's in the game.''
Baldwin might not have realized at first, but he's well aware now.
"The TV was on in the locker room, and I saw the replay,'' Baldwin said. "And when I checked my cell phone, there were lots of texts and messages.''
Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt certainly knows that Baldwin can have an impact.
"Because he's so big, they have a tendency to underestimate how fast he is,'' Wannstedt said. "He's so much further along today than he was even two weeks ago. He's so much more confident.
"As long as he keeps working, which he will, like he is now, then we've got to find a way to get him in there. When he's on the field, everybody knows it. He's not hiding from anybody.''
The Panthers were the ones hiding Baldwin in the beginning. He played sparingly and rarely had balls thrown his way in Pitt's opening few games. However, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound speedster is getting closer all the time.
And Baldwin's blocking and route-running has shown marked improvement.
"I learn more things with every practice and every game,'' Baldwin said. "I'm definitely getting more confident. In high school, you mainly just blocked the person across from you. When you get to college, you have different people.
"Sometimes you block a safety, and sometimes you block a corner. And a couple times, you even have to block a linebacker. You have to make sure you know those things. I had a slow start in that area, but it's better now.''
Things should be looking up for the Pitt offense with Baldwin in it as well.
Baldwin A Presence In Pitt's Offense
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