It's not that he didn't contribute as a fuzzy-faced freshman last fall, but 18 catches for 404 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games just won't cut it for Jonathan Baldwin this season. Sure, he was the clear leader in yards per catch at 22.4, and his total yards were only 18 behind leader Derek Kinder, who had twice as many catches to top Pittsburgh's receivers.
After spending just a few minutes with Baldwin going into his second training camp, a prediction for those numbers to triple wouldn't be out of line.
"I've been working really hard since the season ended, and I've got the offense down a lot more than I did last season,'' Baldwin said. "I'm also looking forward to working with our new offensive coordinator a lot more to get our offense going, so I hope this will be a big year for me and the Pitt offense.''
To say that Baldwin was brought along slowly would be an understatement. He didn't catch a pass until Game 4 at Syracuse and rarely had anything thrown his way before then. Baldwin's performance at South Florida in the next game gave a taste of what to expect for Pitt fans everywhere, as the stage was a national telecast against the Bulls.
Baldwin caught just two passes for 59 yards, but one was a game-changing touchdown reception and several other tosses his way forced pass-interference penalties against the USF secondary. The Panthers' long-distance threat was born that night, but was underutilized for various reasons the rest of the way.
"When I first got here, it was a little tougher for me than I thought it would be,'' Baldwin said. "High school ball was so slow, but by comparison things in college were just a blur. That's a big difference. I wasn't used to that speed. I had to let things soak in and understand the speed of the game, and once I did that things went a lot better for me. And I expect them to be a lot better this season.''
The 6-foot-5, nearly 230-pound Baldwin -- with about 10 pounds of muscle added from last season -- further explained his slow development last year and what could make the biggest difference this season. Remember, Baldwin was a big, fast and athletic player who dominated at the Class AA level at Aliquippa, Pa. High School, but he wasn't much into weight training or studying film.
"A lot of it comes from experience and being young,'' Baldwin said. "I'm still young, but I'm a lot more experienced than I was. And I feel a lot more comfortable in our offense. I've been with the team about a year now, and I learned a lot in that time. I didn't play a lot last season, at first, but they did a good job slotting me in there as the season went on.
"The game was much faster for me when I got here last summer, but now that I've watched a lot of film and know how to study film things are starting to slow down for me. And I know a lot more about what I need to do. In the beginning, I watched film, but I really didn't know everything to look for. I needed to learn that stuff off the field the same way I had to learn things on the field.
"That's why I did a lot of extra work with Coach Bo (receivers coach Bryan Bossard),'' Baldwin added, "and he sat down with me to tell me what to look for in different coverages and things like that. So, learning what to watch and how to take advantage of it, and working hard with Buddy on my strength and conditioning, that really made it a lot easier for me.''
And that also should make it a lot tougher on opposing defenses.
Baldwin Expects Production Burst
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