Created on Thursday, 18 October 2012 02:36
Written by Brian Batko / Staff Writer
After struggling earlier this season, redshirt junior wide receiver Devin Street (15) has played the best football of his collegiate career. (Jihoon Baek, Senior Staff Photographer)
For the second game in a row, it seemed like every time you looked up from your computer, cell phone or nachos, Devin Street was hauling in another pass from Tino Sunseri. And for the second game in a row, a herculean effort by Street was overshadowed by what didn’t go right for the Pitt football team. An outstanding 10-reception, 130-yard performance by the redshirt junior wide receiver was lost in the Panthers’ dismal 14-13 defeat at the hands of Syracuse the Friday before last. At the time, those 10 grabs were a career high — one that he surpassed just eight days later in Saturday’s 45-35 loss to Louisville. Street outdid himself against the Cardinals, catching 11 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown in yet another impressive outing marred by an otherwise disheartening defeat. “I think the coaches are calling on me to be a big playmaker, and they’re definitely trying to get me the ball and put me in different spots, but I think with the big games, it’s not satisfying with the losses,” the Bethlehem, Pa., native said following the Louisville game. Still, it must be nice for a player like Street — considered throughout his career to be mainly a deep threat while fellow receiver Mike Shanahan did most of the heavy lifting — to finally make the pundits who predicted he would have a monster season look smart. A quick Google search of the former three-star recruit yields results such as “2014 NFL Draft Scout Player Profile” and “Devin Street — NFL First-Round Draft Pick?” “I don’t pay attention to it too much,” Street said of all the hype surrounding him prior to the season. “I just want to go out there and play and give it all I can and let that stuff fall into place.” A trendy pick for preseason rankings of top wide receivers and candidates for a breakout year, Street is on pace to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards with 514 already, at the halfway point of the Pitt season. What makes this feat even more remarkable is the rather pedestrian start with which he approached the season; the wide receiver held fewer than 75 yards in each of the first three games, including a downright atrocious season opener against Youngstown State full of penalties, dropped passes and a lost fumble late in the game. “I went back to things that were working for me last year. I tried to do some different things mentally before the game ... and I learned from it,” Street said in reference to his struggles throughout the upset loss. “I think that was a great game for me because it really humbled me.” And so what was supposed to be a breakout year for Street has become not only that, but also a bounceback story. In the last three games, he’s had 26 receptions for 336 yards and two touchdowns. To be fair, a good chunk of Street’s staggering numbers came on the final drive against Louisville with the game out of reach, but the damage he did against Syracuse occurred when it really mattered. Eight of his 10 catches came in the first half against the Orange before, like the rest of the Pitt offense, he was held in check for most of the second half. And he’d better get used to teams keying in on him — he’ll no longer be sneaking up on anyone considering that he’s already noticed increased attention from opposing defenses. “I see a lot of different looks. We’ll come out in the first quarter and see one look and see what we watched on tape, but then [the defense] will mix it up and try to confuse me,” Street said. “But I think our coaches do a great job of telling me and communicating with me and then we adjust to it.” Head coach Paul Chryst certainly knows the caliber of player he has in Street and doesn’t seem to be all that surprised by the way he’s been frustrating defenses for the past two weeks. “He did some good things, and those are things he should be doing,” Chryst said on Saturday. “You don’t take anything for granted, but Devin’s a talented player, and he should be impacting games.” Street’s strong rapport with his coaches isn’t the only reason for his recent success. Despite the losing streak, his chemistry with Sunseri is as strong as it’s ever been, and Pitt’s senior quarterback will be the first to point out the emergence of his new favorite target. “I think he’s matured a lot. I think he’s grown as a receiver and as a player and understands that film study needs to go into it and the route study that needs to go into it,” Sunseri said. “We’re talking throughout the week, making sure we’re communicating and understanding each other and just making sure we’re not surprised by anything on the field.” For a guy that was once considered a bit of a one-trick pony — perhaps reminiscent of the other speedy pass-catcher in Pittsburgh with whom Street and his Pitt teammates share a practice facility on the South Side — the 6-foot-4 receiver’s skillset is rounding into form. Late in the third quarter of the Syracuse game, Street snagged a pass on a curl route toward the sideline and managed to get two feet inbounds for an 8-yard gain that looked more like a play you’d see on Sundays.
Maybe some of those online mock draft predictions aren’t all that far off.
After a slow start, redshirt junior wide receiver Devin Street (15) has played the best football of his collegiate career. (Jihoon Baek, Senior Staff Photographer)