Pitt's Cam Saddler is nearly out of time to make an impact on the field. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Even with Mike Shanahan and Devin Street missing a big chunk of training camp with injury, both players' spot in the starting lineup is pretty secure. Mike Shanahan is an experienced three-year contributor while Devin Street is coming off a 53-catch season - one of the few bright spots in last year's mess of a passing offense.
Even though Pitt returns it's top two receivers, the third receiver spot is wide open. That position very might well end up being filled by sophomore Ronald Jones who is producing at camp after producing on the field as a freshman. But for Pitt's two other senior wide receivers - Cameron Saddler and Joshua Brinson - it's their last chance to make an impact on the field.
Fifth year senior Cam Saddler understands what's at stake and is putting in the work mentally as well as physically:
"Details," said Saddler, when asked how Chryst’s offense differs from last year’s no-huddle attack. "Last year, it was, ‘Get to a spot and hope to get the ball.’ Now you have to be in the right spot to get the ball.
"You have to hone in on the details — route depths, splits, little things. That’s kind of the part I struggle with. I’m having a little trouble the first week and a half."
"Coach Chryst always says, ‘Try to understand the concept of the play.’ If I can do that, I have a better chance of getting open. Now I have to notice little stuff. I am looking at coverages, seeing what leverages guys are playing. I have to pay a little bit more attention.
"No more fun and games. It’s business. This is my fifth year."
That's good because this season will be Saddler's last chance to build a solid season at Pitt. The former four-star recruit famously committed to Pitt after an official visit to West Virginia or the 13-9 game and since then, he's been one of the off-the-field voices of the program. On the field, however, Saddler has struggled to to crack the starting lineup and to take advantage of his chances. Last season, he had 19 catches in eight games (which, to be fair, wasn't so bad in last year's passing "attack"). He's clearly working hard in practice - maybe a bit too hard in light of a fight with freshman corner Jahmahl Pardner - and seems to be fully recovered from the sternum injury that ended his 2011 season early.
Saddler has his work cut out for him, however. Even if he can fend off sophomore Ronald Jones, there's still fellow senior Joshua Brinson to deal with. Brinson has had a nice camp and the senior from Florida certainly looks the part from what I was able to observe in practice. At 6'2", he has a solid build and some speed to his game. Brinson also has practiced several receiver positions this summer, and offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph made it clear that his versatility is going to be an asset for him this year.