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Pitt football notebook: Pat Narduzzi says Quadree Henderson needs to become 'elite receiver'

| Friday, July 14, 2017, 3:03 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Quadree Henderson steps out of the tackle attempt by Quintin Wirginis during the spring game Saturday, April 15, 2017 at Heinz Field.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Pitt's Quadree Henderson was one of college football's top kick returners a year ago. He also was an explosive change-of-pace rusher.

All along, his listed position was wide receiver, and that's where Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi hopes the junior can make the most strides this fall.

“He needs to become an elite receiver,” Narduzzi said Friday at the ACC's football kickoff event. “It's great to hand the ball off if he wants to be a running back. But if he wants to play at the next level, he's not going to do it just as a return guy. If he wants to be a tailback, be a tailback. But he needs to be better on the field reading coverages, getting vertical and making big plays down the field. That's been a major focus in the offseason.”

Henderson had 60 rushing attempts for 631 yards and five touchdowns last season, and collected 26 receptions for 286 yards and one TD. He is the Panthers' second-leading returning receiver, and a breakout year in that facet could prove vital both for Pitt and Henderson's long-term prospects.

“He wants it, too,” Narduzzi said. “He understands that. It's not something where he's satisfied with getting handoffs and maybe catching a bubble once in a while. He has to be a deep threat to play at the next level.”

Browne leads at QB

Little has changed for Pitt at quarterback since its spring game. Graduate transfer Max Browne will enter camp atop the depth chart, with redshirt sophomore Ben DiNucci as the top backup.

Browne, who started three games for Southern California last season, impressed teammates during the spring and the offseason.

“His ability to get people in the right places (is a strength),” tackle Brian O'Neill said. “He's not afraid to hit the check-down guy if the deep ball's not there. He's not afraid to try to throw the ball into a tight window.”

Hendrix set for impact

Dewayne Hendrix was supposed to be one of Pitt's most productive newcomers last season. The Tennessee transfer drew the start at defensive end in the season opener but suffered a season-ending foot injury on his third series.

Nearly a year later, there is again anticipation about the redshirt junior.

“Dewayne is ready — 100 percent ready,” cornerback Avonte Maddox said. “I know he's going to have a good season. Just the glimpse we've seen from him just showed he's going to be ready to play.”

Hendrix's return bolsters a line that lost three of its four starters, including All-ACC end Ejuan Price.

“He could answer a lot of questions,” Maddox said.

Narduzzi mum on Bookser

Narduzzi did not reveal a decision on any discipline for offensive lineman Alex Bookser. The junior, who started all 13 games last season at right guard, was charged with DUI in May.

Narduzzi said he might have an announcement about Bookser just before the start of preseason camp, with the week prior to the Sept. 2 opener against Youngstown State another option.

Patrick Stevens is a freelance writer.

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