Pitt Football: Former QB making gains as a receiver
Pitt fans haven't seen the last of junior college transfer Greg Cross, who is working at receiver this spring.
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The first play of Saturday's Pitt scrimmage had a little bit of razzle-dazzle to it much to the delight of those assembled to watch. It involved Jon Baldwin catching a 65-yard pass for a touchdown.
The guy on the other end of the throw was senior Greg Cross, which is somewhat surprising because coaches are hoping that the former quarterback makes an impact on the team catching, not throwing, the football.
And to that end Cross has been a pleasant surprise this spring in his first attempt to play wide receiver.
If he continues to progress, Cross will have plenty of opportunities to get on the field in the fall. That would be bad news for opposing defensive coordinators because his skill set is so diverse.
• What: Annual Blue-Gold Game that traditionally ends spring drills.
• When: 2 p.m. Saturday.
• Where: Heinz Field.
• Admission: Free.
"I want to do whatever it takes to help the team win," Cross said. "I was excited when we first talked about moving to receiver -- I never played this position before but I always wanted to because I always believed I could do some things catching passes, returning kicks and blocking.
"Really, I felt like, when I first was talking to the coaches about moving, all I needed was just some extra time and that's why redshirting last year as a junior was so important."
Cross caught only one pass for 15 yards in the scrimmage Saturday but showed a glimpse of the weapon he could be. He ran a reverse and also threw the touchdown pass to Baldwin on a trick play.
He ran only 4 yards on the reverse. The truth is the play should have been an 8-yard loss but he made two tacklers miss with a little shuffle of his feet and made a positive play out of nothing.
"He's a very good football player and he is definitely going to have a role on our team," receivers coach Scott Turner said. "He is playing hard, he knows his assignments and you see today, we throw the reverse pass with him and he has always been good running the football. We've known that since he was being recruited.
"I think he understands he only has one year to play and he is really focused. He has a great feel for running the ball and making guys miss and a lot of that is from his background as a running quarterback."
Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said of Cross, "Most definitely [he will have a role], he wants it bad, he's made progress."
Cross, who is the backup to Mike Shanahan at the X receiver position, said he can't worry about how much or little he will be used and all he can do is work hard and hope he gets some opportunities when the season starts.
"[Offensive coordinator] Frank Cignetti is a master mind of drawing things up and coming up with ways to get me involved," Cross said. "I think that is someone else's decision. I'm just excited, I am happy for this opportunity. I will get my degree in June, which is the most important thing, and then have a chance to play one more year of football."
NOTES -- Wannstedt was pleased with the defense and said it might have been that unit's best outing of the spring. "I thought our front seven showed up and made big plays the way we need them to for us to be able to play good defense," he said. ... Tailback Ray Graham (shoulder) and tight end Henry Hynoski (shoulder) were held out of the scrimmage for precautionary reasons. Also, starting tailback Dion Lewis played only a handful of plays. That left Chris Burns the bulk of the work at tailback and he rushed for 87 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries. "He had an opportunity today, and he showed up and did some good things," Wannstedt said. ... The Blue-Gold spring game is at 2 p.m. Saturday at Heinz Field. Like last year, there will be a kids clinic on the field at 12:30 a.m. as well as a "coaches chalk talk" for fans. Admission is free.
First Published April 11, 2010 12:00 am