Wannstedt wants better screen execution
• Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said the screen passes can be an offensive staple if the Panthers properly execute their downfield blocking. That was a problem against Connecticut, when the lead blockers failed to clear defenders for running backs Dion Lewis and Ray Graham. “They were wide open, but we really didn’t block them very well,” Wannstedt said. “We had people there. They were great calls. When you caught the ball, you said to yourself, ‘This is going to be a 20-yard gain.’ And we make 3. We just didn’t execute.” Wannstedt said the problems stemmed from the Panthers needing to make cut blocks, something they can’t practice. Left guard Chris Jacobson said the difficulty is simulating the tempo of the game during group work in practice, but believes Pitt is “one block away from that screen breaking loose.” “Sometimes, you have to be able to adjust,” Jacobson said. “It’ll break soon, it’s just getting it right. There could be just one step or cut or turn up a little closer and you’re like, ‘Man, he could be gone.'”
• Wannstedt isn’t worried about punter Dan Hutchins, a Ray Guy Award semifinalist who shanked a pair of punts in the second half against Connecticut. One went 15 yards, from the Pitt 46-yard-line to the UConn 39, in the third quarter; another went 29 yards, from the Pitt 26 to the UConn 45, in the fourth quarter and gave the Huskies position to kick the go-ahead field goal. Hutchins leads the Big East and ranks sixth nationally with a 45.54 average. “Dan’s having a great year,” Wannstedt said. “I think it was a situation where he was trying to be too perfect. We were pooch-punting, and he was trying to position the ball exactly in the corner and missed it a little bit. He’ll be fine. He’s the least of my problems right now.”
• The USF game will be a homecoming for Pitt linebackers coach Bernard “Tiger” Clark, a Tampa native and Leto High graduate who played on Miami’s 1987 and ’89 national championship teams. The Panthers have eight seniors from Florida: senior cornerback Ricky Gary (Pahokee), redshirt freshman linebacker Shane Gordon (Ft. Lauderdale), junior cornerback Buddy Jackson (Plantation), freshman linebacker Emanuel Rackard (Belle Glade), senior defensive ends Greg Romeus (Coral Springs) and Jabaal Sheard (Hollywood Hills), sophomore linebacker Joe Trebitz (Boca Raton) and junior linebacker Greg Williams (Naples).