August 21, 2007
Pestano assumes a bigger role
The loss of Derek Kinder, just nine days ago, figured to have a big impact on Pitt's offense. Their first-team All-Big East receiver gone for the year, it's not as if the Panthers had another proven offensive weapon. The team is also trying to break in a new starting quarterback.
When Kinder stepped in a year ago, he had the task of replacing Greg Lee, who chose to enter the NFL draft after his junior year. When Lee stepped in, he was replacing Larry Fitzgerald, who entered the draft after just two years of college football.
Marcel Pestano is facing a more challenging task. He is the next most experienced receiver, after Kinder. Kinder and Lee both had an entire offseason to prepare for assuming the role of taking over as the veteran leader of the receiving corps. Pestano was given less than three weeks from the time of Kinder's season-ending diagnosis to Pitt's opening kickoff. So far, he has passed with flying colors. He is assuming the leadership role of the receiving corps, and is looking to take over Kinder's spot on the depth chart.
"At the beginning of camp, my heart was broken with the loss of Derek Kinder," receivers coach Aubrey Hill said. "My first thought is 'How are we going to regroup?' You have to have a guy within a group who is going to lead, and dictate and show these young guys how to go. Marcel Pestano has done an excellent job of leadership.
"To have some of those leadership qualities, you need a guy who has done it and been there. Marcel and Oderick (Turner) have been there and done that. To be able to do the things you need to do, offensively, you need that kind of experience and leadership."
Pestano finished third on the team last season in receiving, playing in 11 of the 12 contests. He capped his
sophomore season, with a career-best six catches for 70 yards in the season-finale against Louisville. Even with Kinder as one of the Big East's leading receivers, offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh was able to utilize Kinder, Pestano, as well as Oderick Turner and T.J. Porter. While Pestano was third on the team in receiving, he is the oldest by class, aside from Kinder. Naturally he should step up and take that leadership role, and so far, he has.
"Being the old guy, being the veteran, I'm trying to show the young guys the right things and teach them the game," Pestano said. "It's a big difference when Derek is out there. When Derek is out there, he draws a lot of attention. Right now, we can just throw anyone else in the rotation, and get the job done."
Last year, and even up to the time Kinder was injured, Kinder was clearly the leader of the receiving corps, if not the entire offense. Pestano has stepped in unfazed, and in addition to making plays on the field, has made sure the rest of the receivers are also doing their job. That is the role a little more challenging from making the plays, but to this point in camp, he has excelled in both areas.
"Marcel Pestano has matured so much," Head Coach Dave Wannstedt added. "Two years ago, I didn't know if he was a guy who could make it, from a mental toughness standpoint. He has had a very good camp. The receivers have (been resilient). We have enough talent there to be a very good receiving corps. We do have a lot of depth, starting off with Marcel."
Last fall Pestano caught 29 passes for 429 yards and 2 touchdowns. He averaged 15.1 yards per reception and his longest covered 42 yards.
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