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Pitt senior receiver Saddler gets serious this season

Pitt wide receiver Cam Saddler still likes a good joke.

When asked if he chased girls during his spring break vacation in Key West, Fla., he said with a smile, "They were chasing me."

And of offensive lineman Chris Jacobson, who has been at Pitt since 2007, he said: "I think he's in his mid-30s."

But Saddler said he has changed and become more serious while approaching his senior season.

"I'm taking it a little too serious," he said earlier this week a day after the defense dominated the offense during spring drills. "I was just in a bad mood (that day). Man, we just got pummeled.

"But that's how I have to be because it's now or never for me. There isn't any next year. I refuse to be 6-7 again. We aren't going to let that happen. That's my mindset, and I feel a lot of guys in my class feel the same way."

Saddler came to Pitt from Gateway High School only one year after Jacobson left Keystone Oaks. You'd never know it by his constantly upbeat personality, but Sadder has suffered more than his share of adversity.

During the first week of training camp his freshman season, he suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Last year, he was lost for the season Oct. 26 while falling awkwardly after a 40-yard reception, the longest of his career, against Connecticut.

The result is that he totaled only 29 receptions and three touchdowns in his first three seasons.

To help prepare for his final season, Saddler got together with 15 teammates, including quarterback Tino Sunseri, running back Ray Graham and wide receiver Mike Shanahan, and rented a big house in Key West for spring break. The trip was mostly about relaxation, but Saddler said some serious conversations arose during the four-day excursion.

"We were talking about how tight our team has become, and a lot of it is because of the things that have been happening. My class is taking the bulk of it ... coaching changes and all that.

"That was a great bonding experience, a lot of fun, guys getting a feel for each other."

His head clear, Saddler came to spring practice hoping to become a bigger part of the offense. Losing former coach Todd Graham's fast-paced spread, in which running a play every 15 seconds seemed to the players to be more important than the outcome, might help.

"I feel like we have the freedom to go play football," Saddler said, "and not be worried about little stuff, stuff that doesn't pertain to football."

Nothing is promised, however, with a new coaching staff and talented underclassmen Ronald Jones, Ed Tinker, Salath Williams and others competing with veterans Saddler, Devin Street and Mike Shanahan.

"Right now, there is no depth chart," wide receivers coach Bobby Engram said.

Saddler and Street are getting plenty of opportunities while Shanahan recovers from a back injury, and Engram believes there may be more to come.

"I saw some film last year and they both made plays," Engram said. "They are two guys, that if they do the right thing, we are going to be counting on them."

2012 Pitt schedule

Pitt's 2012 football schedule was completed Tuesday after the Big East portion was revealed:

Date, Opponent Time

Sept. 1, Youngstown State 6 p.m.

Sept. 6, At Cincinnati (ESPN) 8 p.m.

Sept. 15, Virginia Tech TBA

Sept. 22, Gardner-Webb TBA

Oct. 5, At Syracuse (ESPN) 7 p.m.

Oct. 13, Louisville TBA

Oct. 20, At Buffalo TBA

Oct. 27, Temple TBA

Nov. 3, At Notre Dame (NBC) 3:30 p.m.

Nov. 9, At Connecticut (ESPN2) 8 p.m.

Nov. 24, Rutgers TBA

Dec. 1, South Florida (ABC, ESPN or ESPN2) TBA

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