Panthers hope shake-up helps Lee
On one side, there’s split end Greg Lee, whose big-play ability has yet to kick in this season for the Pitt Panthers.
Perhaps help is on the way in the form of sophomore Derek Kinder, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound flanker, who was elevated to first team this week and will make his first career start — on the other side — on Saturday at Nebraska.
After a year in which he caught 68 passes for 1,297 yards and 10 touchdowns, Lee “can’t surprise people much” this year, according to coach Dave Wannstedt. Through two games, Lee, a junior, has eight receptions for 107 yards and one TD.
“It might help me out,” Lee said Wednesday, “but I’m not sure if Nebraska will really cater to the guy on the other side, seeing as how they really don’t know that much about him or he hasn’t really done that much here. Maybe it could (help) and maybe it couldn’t. I’m not sure what they’re going to do.”
Kinder takes over for junior Joe DelSardo, who is five inches shorter than Kinder. But the decision is nothing personal, said Pitt quarterback Tyler Palko. It’s the type of thing that happens all the time, especially when a team starts its season with an 0-2 record.
“Obviously, any time you start like this, they’re going to shake up the lineup a little bit,” Palko said. “Derek’s a good player. Hopefully, he can let some of his athleticism take over and make some plays for us. That’s what we need right now.”
DelSardo (4 receptions for 48 yards), who was a starter in all 12 games for Pitt last season, and Kinder (2 for 29) built all their offensive statistics during a 42-21 season-opening loss to Notre Dame. The pair was shutout in last week’s 16-10 overtime loss to Ohio.
“Sometimes when you’re struggling, you like to shake things up a little bit, and I think that’s what coach Wannstedt’s doing,” Palko said. “Joey’s still going to play a lot. He’ll play in our (three receivers) package.”
Nebraska’s blitzing defense could work in Pitt’s favor, if Palko can unload passes before being trapped in the backfield. Lee, mindful of the speedy Kinder’s presence on the field at the same time, thinks he can be there to gather them in.
“Because they blitz a lot and don’t leave so many guys in the secondary, it gives me a better chance of making some catches,” Lee sais.
The circumstances surrounding DelSardo’s demotion didn’t escape Palko, who yesterday accepted much of the blame for the Panthers’ 0-2 start after throwing three interceptions against Ohio on passes intended for DelSardo.
“You throw three interceptions and you’re responsible for 14 points. You better be able to look yourself in the mirror and say ‘You cost your team the game,'” Palko said. “I’m not saying there’s no one else out on the field, but that’s just the position you play.”