A knife, a screw driver and a can opener are all great tools. However, each is specifically crafted to perform a singular purpose. Hence, the beauty of the Swiss Army knife, which contains all three — and more. None of those tools is equipped to cover the entire spectrum of what you might need it for individually, but the Swiss Army knife’s versatility increases its usefulness.
Much like a Swiss Army knife, the key to a balanced football offense is versatility.
Having dynamic players capable of making big plays in a variety of different ways amplifies the burden placed on opposing defenses. From the looks of their first two victories, the Pittsburgh Panthers’ offense appears to have a bunch of that kind of players at their disposal.
In the rivalry game victory with Penn State last week, Pitt damn near executed a clinic on utilizing all a team’s best playmakers in multiple facets of an offensive attack.
Star running back James Conner looked more like his normal self against the Nittany Lions. Conner undoubtedly showed signs of rust in the opener against Villanova, following a year away from football while undergoing chemotherapy. Against Penn State he imposed his will on the ground and displayed newfound sure hands in the air — he had 117 rushing yards and one touchdown, and he had seven catches for 45 yards.
Trying to stop a player who rushed for 1,765 yards and 26 TDs as a sophomore and who just added improved mitts in the passing game should be the stuff of nightmares for defensive coordinators.
Receiver Qadree Henderson has exceeded expectations about the kind of force he would be for Pitt in the return game this season. On four kickoff returns this year, he’s averaging 53 yards per return, as well as 14.5 yards on punt returns.
Not only is he flipping the field, he’s providing instant offense. Henderson took a kick to the house for a touchdown against Villanova, and, against Penn State, he took off for 84 to the Nittany Lions’ 10-yard line. The Panthers took three plays to score.
Henderson took to gashing Penn State for big gains on plays from scrimmage, too, especially on jet sweeps where he racked up 58 yards on just four carries. He also had three catches for 47 yards and one touchdown, a 7-yard reception in the first quarter.
Quarterback Nate Peterman has played a tidy game so far this season, tossing two touchdowns against Villanova and three in the game against Penn State, despite failing to top 100 yards in the air in the latter. His mobility has been a key factor on roll outs and play action fakes, and he’s kept the ball for himself. Against the Nittany Lions, Peterman toted the rock eight times for 52 yards, the longest a 30-yard scamper.
Tight end Scott Orndoff has performed well, looking poised for a breakout senior season. Now, in his lone season as Pitt’s main tight end, the coaching staff moved Orndoff all over the field, even out of the Panthers’ back field. Peterman hit Orndoff on an option shovel pass for 10 yards in the red zone, nearly taking it to pay dirt before getting dragged down at the Penn State 2-yard line.
Not to be outdone, dynamo safety Jordan Whitehead took his first carry of the season for 28 yards. He came up only a sideline tip-toe away from the end zone, stepping out of bounds at the 2-yard marker. This, while double shifting after his normal day job, where he picked up seven tackles and a fumble recovery on defense.
Pitt’s full cupboard of offensive versatility could push this group to new heights. At the very least, Pitt’s offensive coordinator Matt Canada should be able to put plenty of points on the board with his pocket full of Swiss Army knives.
Image credit: Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo