Football: Hutchins learned from Lee, Reed

By Kelly Flanigan

With Dion Lewis and Ray Graham slashing the opponents’ defenses, Bill Stull commanding the… With Dion Lewis and Ray Graham slashing the opponents’ defenses, Bill Stull commanding the offense and Oderick Turner, Jonathan Baldwin and Dorin Dickerson catching passes for the Panther’s offense, fans can lose sight of a player whose consistency is essential to the flow of the offense and the special teams.

Redshirt junior Dan Hutchins beat out freshman Kevin Harper for the starting kicking position this season. His role on the team is two-fold. Hutchins replaced senior place-kicker Conor Lee, who led the Big East in field goals per game in the 2008, and senior punter Dave Brytus.

“They taught me how to be consistent. They also taught me how to stay calm,” Hutchins said in an interview to “After traveling with them for three years and becoming great friends with them, I learned a lot about how to prepare for games, how to prepare for practice and how to stay healthy.”

This season, Hutchins has made 18 field goals and converted 40 extra points. His longest field goal of the season is 45 yards, which he completed against both Rutgers and Syracuse. With a kicking percentage of 78.3 percent, he has 94 points this season.

And after missing two extra point attempts against Buffalo, Hutchins quickly recovered.

He connected on a field goal against both Youngstown State and North Carolina State, two field goals against Navy and three against Connecticut — one of which was the game winner.

With no time left on the clock, Hutchins kicked an 18-yarder to conclude Pitt’s spirited 24-21 comeback against Connecticut. After this performance, he was named Big East special teams player of the week.

Hutchins hasn’t had any kicks or extra point attempts blocked to date this season.

Not only does Hutchins kick field goals and extra points, his extreme versatility combined with a powerful leg allows him to serve as the team’s punter, as well.

On the other side of the football, he averages about 41 yards per punt this season, and none have been returned for touchdowns.

Heinz Field has a reputation for being an especially tough stadium for kickers because of the wind, but Hutchins has learned to adapt.

“The wind does swirl down there. You kind of get used to it. If the wind is blowing left, kick it to the right. You’ve got to play the wind,” Hutchins said. “We’ve learned a lot from Jeff Reed. He gives us some tips on how to play the wind.”

Hutchins’ consistency will be especially important in the final game of the regular season.

The Panthers (9-2, 5-1 Big East) will take on the Cincinnati Bearcats (11-0, 6-0) Saturday in a game that will determine the Big East champion. Kickoff is set for noon.