Pitt receiver Manasseh Garner exudes confidence
Thoughtful and soft-spoken, tight end Manasseh Garner was not trying to brag Tuesday when he was asked to describe his duties in the Pitt offense.
“Linebackers, cornerbacks, safeties, I feel like, personally, you line me up against anybody and I'm going to win,” he said.
Strong words from Garner, a Brashear graduate who scored a touchdown against Florida State, his first game at Pitt since transferring from Wisconsin.
Garner, a junior, has much to prove in his remaining time, but at 6-foot-2, 230-pounds he combines the requisite size and speed that attracts attention from opposing defenses and has the potential to confuse them.
Especially when you consider how Pitt offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph uses him — splitting him out like a wide receiver and lining him up tight against the linemen to block. Garner said he's a receiver 40 percent of the time.
“That's something that is really in his wheelhouse,” Rudolph said of lining up wide, “and he adapts to it easily.
“It gives you multiplicity when you are setting up formations. Is he inside? Is he going to be the single receiver? All those things we are pretty comfortable with.”
On a team desperate for depth at wide receiver, Garner will have plenty of opportunities to show off his ball skills. Senior Devin Street and freshman Tyler Boyd are the only wide receivers with receptions —19 of the team's 29 and 381 of Pitt's 445 aerial yards. Garner is third (four for 37).
At Wisconsin, he enjoyed most of his success at defensive end, totaling 10 tackles as a freshman in 2010 while also playing wide receiver and covering kicks. Pitt could have used some veteran help at defensive end, but coaches preferred that he try to score points, rather than prevent them.
Putting him in the slot has forced opponents to try to stop him with smaller players, which opens up areas of the field for other players.
“Lining up in different spots, it actually creates mismatches on the field and different players are put in different situations,” Garner said. “It's not only good for me, but it's good for the rest of the players.”
Street is grateful.
“Teams aren't going to be able to just bracket me,” he said.
Through two games, Pitt is trying to find itself on offense. The Panthers struggled against Florida State, scoring only one touchdown, but flourished against a dramatically weaker opponent in the 49-27 victory against New Mexico.
“I feel like we have an identity amongst ourselves,” Garner said. “It's up to us to keep grinding and put it on film.”
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
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