The Pitt Panthers would like to be a run-first team under head coach Paul Chryst. However, that hasn’t worked so well for them after finishing No. 94 in rushing offense last season despite Ray Graham‘s 1,000-yard effort. This year, with Graham graduated and top projected running back Rushel Shell opting to transfer, things don’t appear like they’ll be any easier in the running game. That means the passing game will have to pick up some of the slack in 2013, but can Pitt count on at wide receiver?
The No. 1 receiver is locked down nice and tight by Devin Street. The senior wideout led the team in receptions last season, catching 73 passes for 975 yards with five touchdowns. He was named to the All-Big East team and will transition nicely into the featured receiver role following the graduation of Mike Shanahan, who caught 62 passes last season for 983 yards with six touchdowns.
After that, however, things get a little murkier. Senior Ed Tinker is one of the oldest members of the receiving corps and returns this season after catching five passes for 68 yards and a touchdown in 2012. He flahsed some nice ability in moments of last season, but hasn’t proven that he can be relied on in the passing game for any extended period of time.
Also returning this season will be junior Ronald Jones, who has 24 career catches including seven in 2012 for 66 yards. He saw his production drop in his sophomore season after catching 17 passes for 143 yards in 2011 as a freshman. He could be called on to do even more than his 2011 effort if someone doesn’t step up and take control of the No. 2 receiver position.
The name to watch in this race, however, could be redshirt freshman Chris Wuestner. The young receiver lost his entire 2012 season due to a displaced collarbone and he is still recovering from it. He continues to work on his technique and route running, which he admits are still not to where they were before his injury. He has flashed great hands this spring to go along with nice speed and excellent size, though, which could make him a breakout star in 2013.
With the running game seemingly getting weaker next fall, Pitt may have to turn to it’s passing game to carry them into the ACC. Will Chryst be able to find a second wide receiver to run alongside Street?