The Pittsburgh football team's version, at least as far as its offense is concerned, could be termed "Where's Dorin.'' Senior tight end Dorin Dickerson has lined up in several places to create matchup problems for the opposition.
While this situation doesn't necessarily bring out the mad scientist in Panthers offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, it certainly allows him to be creative. And Dickerson is someone that the Navy defense must account for when it faces Pitt Saturday at 6 p.m. at Heinz Field.
"We have some good personnel here,'' Cignetti said. "Coach Wannstedt and the staff have done a good job recruiting. ... Our tailback has been very productive so far, and our wide receivers -- including a guy like Jonathan Baldwin -- make it very tough to cover just one guy. Then you have a guy like Dorin Dickerson.
"(He's) a guy who can play on the line, in the backfield and out wide. He can create matchups. Then, you've still got to stop guys like Nate Byham, the other wide receivers and backs. So, I think we've got a pretty good offensive system going right now in terms of getting our offensive players touches.
"And Dorin gives us the flexibility to be very creative in our formations, shifts and motions,'' Cignetti added. "You can line him up anywhere on the field and create matchups, and that's on an outside linebacker, an inside linebacker or a drop safety. Dorin Dickerson gives us that ability to be very multiple.''
As a senior West Allegheny (Pa.) High School, Dickerson basically was a Slash-type of player. He was a tailback in a one-back set, split out wide and ran the Wildcat where he took a direct snap and took off. He was quite effective in that role with 36 total touchdowns on offense, including 30 on the ground. Dickerson looks forward to continuing that role at Pitt.
"I like that a lot,'' Dickerson said. "It's what I did in high school, and it can cause some matchup problems for a defense, so it's a good deal for me right now. (The Wildcat) would be real nice, but I can't think about that right now. We all just want to win the Big East and go to a BCS bowl game, so that's our focus right now. Winning our Conference and going to a BCS game.''
While they have been friends since high school, Dickerson and Pitt fifth-year senior quarterback Bill Stull weren't roommates until this year. Spending that much time together could unnerve some players, but these two use it to go over game plans and study the playbook.
That additional work might have led to the second touchdown at Buffalo, as the Panthers went for the score immediately after a turnover. Stull noted that the Bulls lined up exactly how Pitt hoped, as Dickerson lined up. And the two were able to exploit the matchup against a linebacker he could out-run.
"We go over all the plays and know our matchups when he's in there, and Coach Cignetti gives him a green light to beat a defender,'' Stull said. "So, when Dorin gets in that type of matchup, he's going to win it. And that definitely happened more than a couple times so far this season.
"(So), we always work together to make sure we're on the same page as much as possible, and we're definitely going to execute on those matchups every chance that we get.''
While Dickerson has benefitted from Stull's more precise passing and has a team-high 12 catches for 97 yards and four touchdowns, some believe that senior tight end Nate Byham has been overlooked. However, Dickerson, Cignetti and even Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said that's not the case.
The key, Cignetti noted, is that Stull is doing a good job going through his play progressions, and Dickerson has been open when he looks at him. Wannstedt believed Byham could break out any time now.
"Nate Byham, it may be this week that he gets eight catches,'' Wannstedt said. "You don't know. He's involved in all these routes. On those passes to Dorin Dickerson, he was going out, it was just that Dorin was open quicker. He's involved in everything. The first week he wasn't as much, he was coming of the concussion. But last week and this week, he's in the middle of everything.
"(And) he's a major part of what we are doing on this football team. (But) we did a couple things with (Dickerson) that you might see a wide receiver do. We did a couple things with him that a fullback or running back might do out of the backfield. And we did some things with him that are strictly (for) tight ends.
"So, I think when you've got a guy who has been around and who has experience and understands the offense,'' Wannstedt added, "and then has the ability, you can't give him too much. And we won't, but I think if you're defending, you better know where he's at all the time.''
And that's why the Midshipmen defense likely will wonder where Dickerson is located more often than not Saturday night.
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