Street makes good on hype, enters final season

Street makes good on hype, enters final season

By Nate Barnes / Sports Editor

Devin Street entered the University of Pittsburgh in former head coach Dave Wannstedt’s penultimate recruiting class, and he is one of the few players who remain from that era. Street redshirted his freshman year in 2009 and made a splash in 2010 while playing in all 13 of Pitt’s games that season. 

Street’s biggest performance of 2010 came with perhaps the most eyes watching, when he caught five passes for 48 yards and a touchdown in the final Backyard Brawl played at Heinz Field. 

It was a fitting way for Street to end his season after he burst onto the scene at the Carrier Dome against Syracuse on Oct. 16 of that year by taking a screen pass 79 yards to the house on Pitt’s first play from scrimmage. 

That’s the year the whispers began: “first-round NFL draft pick,” “No. 1 receiver in the pro game.”

Street followed his 25-catch, 318-yard debut by starting every game in 2011 and hauling in 53 passes for 754 yards. He scored twice that season and racked up three 100-yard receiving performances. 

Now, entering his redshirt senior season, Street deserves the hype.

Street led the Big East in receptions last year with 73 grabs for 975 yards and five touchdowns — all career-highs. The fanfare was so justified that Street considered entering the NFL Draft, but he chose to return to Pitt. 

“I was talking to Coach [Chryst] about that,” Street said. “It’s a blessing for me to come back, and it was the right decision, for sure.”

It’s a blessing not just for Street, but one that should make the normally reserved Chryst ecstatic.

“It’s a tremendous feeling having Devin here,” Chryst said. “He did a lot of really good things, because I still believe he can continue to get better. He realizes what he’s got in the value of [wide receivers] Coach [Bobby] Engram coaching him day-in and day-out.”

The improvement Chryst discusses is what could very well turn Pitt’s No. 1 receiver into a first-round pick, and an NFL team’s starter at the position in the near-future. While Jonathan Baldwin left Pitt early for the pro ranks, his decision proved a blessing in disguise for the development of Street. 

Two years later, after Baldwin was selected in the first round by the Kansas City Chiefs, he want on to total just 41 receptions for 579 yards. On the other side, Street is on the verge of becoming nationally renowned. ranks street as the No. 9 receiver in the 2014 NFL Draft and player No. 138 overall, which would project him as about a fourth-round selection. But a big year this season is what could push him to first-round status. 

And this season is exactly what Street is focused on, especially when leading the offense. 

Offensively, after Pitt lost 3,000-yard passer Tino Sunseri (who ever thought people would talk about losing Tino?), 1000-yard rusher Ray Graham and Street’s mate on the outside, Mike Shanahan, who registered over 900 receiving yards last season, Pitt’s offensive fortunes may not be tied to another player more closely than they are to Street. 

“Obviously, Devin is a very good player,” Chryst said. “Certainly he is going to be one of those guys we need to play at a high level and lead at a high level.”

From the perspective of freshman Tyler Boyd, who will start with Street at the receiver position Monday, Street’s done a pretty good job so far. 

“I know that he respects me as a teammate, on the field and off the field,” Boyd said. “I’ve been waiting since I got here to get all of my tips off him. He’s a role model and a leader to me right now, so I’m thankful for it.”

Boyd should be thankful, as he’s playing behind the player who will become Pitt’s all-time leader in receptions possibly by the end of the season’s first month. Street only needs 28 more, and averaged nearly six catches per game last season — a number that should improve again this year, just as it has between each one of his previous three seasons.

While Pitt brings little production in behind Street, the wide receiver has high expectations for what the receiving corps can do this season despite losing Shanahan and Cam Saddler to graduation and Ronald Jones to suspension. 

“I want us to be the core of that offense,” Street said. “I want us to be the main focus, and getting guys going. Guys can watch us going 100 percent, and that motivates them.”

Street is apparently a focus point for the Seminoles as they prepare to visit the panthers at Heinz Field Monday. At the very least, he is a main focus for FSU defensive back Karlos Williams, who said Street is “not a great receiver.”

What Williams, or anyone else, has to say about Street likely goes in one ear and out the other. If Street remembers anything, it’ll be what he does on Monday. 

As Pitt begins a new era in program history, it has a nice piece to start with to lead the program through its first year, while leaving an impact on players like Boyd.

“It’s a different culture around here,” Street said. “Guys are ready to go and I’m happy where I’m at right now.”