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Pitt offers variety at wide receiver

| Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009

Pitt's high-octane offense is more than just the Big East's top-rated quarterback, a 1,000-yard rusher and a tight end tied for the NCAA lead in receiving touchdowns.

The Panthers also boast a diverse collection of wide receivers.

Some are big, some are small. Some are experienced, some are new. Some have game-breaking speed, some have great hands.

"They're all a little different," coach Dave Wannstedt said. "We've got a nice variety."

The diverse group of receivers - including Jonathan Baldwin, Cedric McGee, Oderick Turner, Mike Shanahan - is a big part of the success for No. 16 Pitt (7-1, 4-0 Big East), which is idle this week before returning to play Syracuse (3-4, 0-2) on Nov. 7 at Heinz Field.

"We've got a lot of great receivers," Baldwin said. "You never know what to expect. It's always something good happening."

The most recent contributor is Shanahan, a 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman who has returned from a broken hand to give Pitt another weapon.

"This is the most depth we've had at receiver for a long time," quarterback Bill Stull said. "I don't know how you can stop those guys."

Here is a closer look:

• Baldwin is the game-breaker. He has 34 receptions for 693 yards and four touchdowns. Among all Division I players with at least 30 receptions, only one averages more yards per catch than the 6-foot-5, 225-pound sophomore (20.4 ypc).

• Turner has slipped since being named a freshman All-American, but the senior needs only two yards to move into the top 10 in Pitt history in receptions and receiving yards.

• McGee, an outstanding blocker, has eight catches for 117 yards, giving him 45 career receptions in 42 games at Pitt. One of the team's most respected players, he was named a senior captain this week.

• Shanahan has seven receptions for 88 yards since moving into the rotation against Connecticut.

Shanahan was a training camp star but was sidelined for four weeks with a broken hand. He got his chance when Turner and freshman Cam Saddler sustained ankle injuries, leaving Pitt short at receiver.

"All of a sudden," Wannstedt said, "we're down two receivers. Mike goes in there and makes a couple plays. Every time his number has been called, he's responded."

Shanahan is becoming one of the team's most reliable possession receivers. Four of his seven catches have been third-down grabs that kept a drive alive. The former Norwin two-sport star made two diving third-down catches of wayward Stull passes during eventual scoring drives against USF.

In the past three games, Shanahan, who was Baldwin's longtime teammate in AAU basketball, has one fewer reception than Turner and McGee combined (8 to 7).

"We have great diversity," offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr. said, "and we're very fortunate that we have depth."

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