A Tall Order

At first glance, it might appear that Pitt cornerbacks Aaron Berry and Jovani Chappel are badly overmatched against Rutgers wide receivers Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood, as the 17th-ranked Panthers (5-1 overall, 2-0 in the Big East) meet the Scarlet Knights (2-5, 1-2) Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Heinz Field.

Kenny Britt is 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, while Tiquan Underwood is 6-2 and 185. The Pittsburgh corners are much smaller. Aaron Berry is listed at 5-11 and 175 pounds, while Jovani Chappel is 5-9 and 180. The two might not even be that tall, but they certainly play a lot bigger.

And they're used to being matched against taller wideouts.

"We're going to have that every week with me and A.B. being two of the shorter corners,'' Chappel said. "But we look at it as a challenge that we definitely accept. And our defense, we're very physical.

"So, we want to be physical with their receivers and be sure with our tackles. That's what sets our defense apart from others in the Big East. We're going to hit you and make you think about catching the football.''

Berry actually believed that the Panthers weren't overmatched at all.

"I think we match up pretty well against them, but they have a couple pretty good receivers (with) some size and speed, Britt and Underwood,'' Berry said. "And they have some little fast guys in (Dennis) Campbell and (Tim) Brown.

"But with me and Jovani and even Scoot (safety Elijah Fields) in there, we can man-up pretty well against them. So, we're preparing to go up against those guys this week, and we're looking forward to the matchup against them.''

Fields has the speed and athleticism to be successful in single coverage, but at 6-2 and 220 pounds he can hit like a linebacker. While he sat last week against Navy, since Pitt's defense was more assignment-oriented, Fields should play extensively against Rutgers. In fact, it's a good bet that the Panthers will utilize their Bandit package with extra defensive backs, the line and middle linebacker Scott McKillop. Fields and corner Ricky Gary replace the outside linebackers.

Britt leads Rutgers with 46 catches for 571 yards, but no touchdowns in six games. He is quarterback Mike Teel's top target by far. Backup tight end Kevin Brock is next with 21 catches and one score. Underwood and Brown have 18 and 14 catches, respectively, with zero and two TD receptions.

"Our D-line has been doing a great job this year, and ... I believe we'll get after (Teel),'' Berry said. "Scoot, he can play corner as well as safety, and he should play a big role this week. That will allow us to leave Thatch and Dom (Eric Thatcher and Dom DeCicco) up top, so you'll probably see a lot of nickel and dime and our Bandit package this week.

"They used to be more of a power running team last year, but I think they're more of a shot-gun team with some empty sets. They don't have Ray Rice in there anymore, and that makes a difference. But they have some young backs in (Mason) Robinson and (Kordell) Young, so their experience is with Teel and the wideouts.''

Berry likely will be matched against Britt more often than not, since he's basically Teel's go-to guy this season. But that doesn't bother him too much because he knows a lot about the Rutgers junior wideout.

"He kind of has deceptive speed, and you can't really tell by the route he's running,'' Berry said. "He gets by corners pretty fast, so you have to respect his go route and be ready for anything. I'd put him up there with all the other big guys I've faced in the Big East. He's definitely as good as any of them.''

Teel connected with Britt for a 53-yard touchdown last season, torching Pitt corner Kennard Cox in single coverage, but Berry doesn't see that happening this year. Teel has completed 55.6 percent of his passes for 1,362 yards and just three touchdowns with seven interceptions.

"He hasn't been real accurate this year, but the leadership he has back there can't be discounted,'' Berry said. "He can come in and really light it up, so we have to respect his arm at all times. So, we want to make him as uncomfortable as possible in the pocket and man-up on their receivers.''

Chappel believed that Pitt's defense has shown its versatility in recent games.

"The past few games, I feel has really shown the character of our defense,'' Chappel said. "The South Florida game, we were all the way spread out to defend Grothe and their offense. Then, we changed up for the Navy game.

"We faced an offense that a lot of defenses tend to struggle with, and we did a good job. Then, we get a chance play Rutgers (and) more of a conventional style of offense. I think it'll be another good challenge for our defense.''

And as usual, Berry and Chappel will be up against another big challenge.

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