Pitt looks to add depth at receiver
Redshirt sophomore Cam Saddler says he hasn't felt this good since high school, and the timing seems perfect.
Through the first two days of Pitt's spring practices, the 5-foot-7, 170-pounder from Monroeville has flashed his playmaking ability as a kick-returner and versatile receiver.
Running free of a brace on his left knee for the anterior cruciate ligament he tore two years ago and without pain from the ankle injury he suffered last season, Saddler is leading a group of Pitt receivers hoping to replicate the numbers of a departed tight end.
"We lost Dorin Dickerson, and we lost his production," said offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti. "You can't replace Dorin, but you have to find new ways to get the production. We feel like we can get more production out of (the receivers). We take a look at each guy and ask ourselves: 'What does he do great?' and put him in those positions to make plays.
"The last couple days, we've gotten Cam the ball, and he's been very productive. Cam's time is now."
Saddler was primarily a kick returner last year, averaging 25.3 yards on 25 returns and also catching three passes for 41 yards and a score.
That's a long way from Dickerson's 2009 stats, which included 529 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns.
But the explosiveness Saddler showcased at Gateway High School is still evident, even despite his injuries the past two years.
"It's the best feeling in the world, just being able to show that I can make plays," Saddler said. "Showing I'm capable of getting touches in games is real important."
Pitt's top returners at receiver are Jonathan Baldwin and Mike Shanahan. Gone to graduation are Cedric McGee and Oderick Turner, but the Panthers hope to build depth with Saddler, redshirt freshman Devin Street and redshirt senior Greg Cross, a converted quarterback.
"We feel like we have a very good receiver group," Cignetti said. "(Thursday), Cam had a tremendous day. Devin came out and showed what he can do. We all know what Baldwin and Shanahan can do, and Cross is getting better every day. We have quality depth."