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Pitt’s Garner adjusting to receiver role after moving from tight end |

Pitt’s Garner adjusting to receiver role after moving from tight end

| Tuesday, August 12, 2014 9:30 p.m
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt receiver Manasseh Garner makes a catch during practice Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, on Pittsburgh's South Side.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt receiver Manasseh Garner makes catch during practice Friday, Aug. 8, 2014 on Pittsburgh's South Side.

Pitt wide receiver Manasseh Garner ran into a corner of the end zone, twisting his 6-foot-2 frame so he could elude cornerback Ryan Lewis and make a catch.

Both players were off their feet as the ball arrived, but Garner caught it, falling to the turf with the force one might expect from a 230-pound boulder.

Touchdown, or it would have been if it were a Saturday afternoon at Heinz Field. This was practice Tuesday in Pitt’s indoor facility, 18 days before the start of the season.

“It felt kind of hard,” Garner said, smiling. “But it was worth it, making the catch.”

Garner, a senior from Brashear, has ascended into Pitt’s starting lineup with two important tasks:

• Become a leader on a team dominated by freshmen and sophomores.

• Take heat off receiver Tyler Boyd, who will need to make repeated big plays for Pitt to succeed.

Garner said he is honored to be considered a leader.

“It’s not easy,” he said. “My coaches push me every day to step up to that job.”

Garner’s advantage is that his father, Marcellus, was a military man. “He put that in me,” he said.

Garner doesn’t lead by calling meetings or hollering at freshmen.

“Camp is hard on your body,” he said. “Everybody’s hurting. The coaches stress every day to strain, and I feel like me being out there and pushing myself through aches and bruises, that’s an example.”It started in the offseason for Garner, who has made a smooth transition from tight end to wide receiver.

Forced to play in space, Garner didn’t worry about losing weight to become faster. Since the spring, he gained 10 pounds.

The goal: “Make (defenders) feel your presence,” he said.

Coach Paul Chryst wanted a bigger team, anyway.

“Sometimes coaches, or whoever it may be, come up with these ideal weights (for players),” Chryst said. “What do we know?

“He’s got a feel for his body. He did a great job of working in the offseason, and I think you kind of find your natural weight.”

The extra work is admirable, but Garner must make it count. He will line up opposite Boyd, who will draw repeated double teams.

“When Tyler is not making plays, maybe it’s because he is double-teamed,” Garner said. “I have to step up … so they have to play us true.”

Notes: Senior outside linebacker Todd Thomas missed practice Tuesday with an apparent leg injury suffered Monday. Chryst said it’s not serious. “I don’t know if (Thomas’ return) will be (Wednesday) or the next day, but it’s sooner rather than later,” he said. … Chryst said the focus on the quarterback position is the players’ improvement, not identifying a starter between presumed No. 1 Chad Voytik and Trey Anderson. “Timetable? No. Not overly concerned yet, and I don’t think they are, which is good,” Chryst said.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

Categories: Pitt
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