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Lee eyes repeat performance against hometown team

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A year ago, Pitt wide receiver Greg Lee experienced perhaps his most productive game as a college football player during Pitt's 43-14 victory over South Florida in Lee's hometown of Tampa, Fla.

He'll get another chance to duplicate or better his three-touchdown effort, which included eight receptions for 153 yards, when the teams meet Saturday at Heinz Field.

"There's a lot of guys on that team that I played against in high school. It's kind of interesting to be playing against them in college," Lee said Wednesday.

Lee, the latest in a string of outstanding receivers at Pitt, leads the Big East Conference in receptions with 29, and he had a streak of three 100-yard games stopped Saturday in Pitt's 38-20 victory over Cincinnati.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior has compiled nine career 100-yard receiving games, which is the most among active Big East players.

"It doesn't look as though South Florida has been playing a lot of the same type of coverage as last season," Lee said. "I'm not expecting it, but if it happens, we'll be looking to exploit it."

While South Florida's roster is made up predominantly of players from Florida, the Sunshine State has proven to be a plentiful recruiting state for the Panthers, who boast 17 Florida high school products, including Lee and two others from Tampa.

"We'll have to make an adustment this week because of their team speed. We have to really make sure we simulate that as best we can in practice," Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "But you know, we've got 17 guys from South Florida (high schools) and our guys are looking forward to this challenge.

"We feel like we've made a little bit of headway here the last game-and-a-half with our football team. The thing I've been talking about is consistency. Can we continue to make progress? That is the challenge of the week."

In its most recent visit to Heinz Field, in 2001, South Florida shocked Pitt, 35-26. When the Panthers defeated the Bulls last year, it clinched a berth in the Fiesta Bowl.

With Lee playing in the shadows of the South Florida campus at nearby Chamberlain High School, the Bulls opted to pass over him, and he eventually wound up at Pitt, where he received much preseason recognition this year.

But, just like the Pitt offense, Lee has sputtered at times as the Panthers attempt to adjust to a new coaching staff.

South Florida (3-2, 1-0), a first-year Big East member with a huge upset victory over conference preseason favorite Louisville earlier this year, appears to be settling in under ninth-year coach Jim Leavitt. The Bulls have compiled a 31-18 record (.633) since the 2001 season.

"They've got one of the fastest defenses we've seen," Lee said. "In Florida, there's definitely talent. They're taking the right steps to get the right kind of guys to come there. People in Tampa know it's going to take a while before they can compete with powerhouses down there, but they've definitely been progressing."

Pitt (2-4, 1-1) will be playing the second of three consecutive home games during a stretch that includes 4 of 5 contests at Heinz Field. Next week, the Panthers entertain Syracuse, and Lee and Co. is hoping to gain a bit of momentum Saturday by duplicating last year's impressive showing against South Florida.

Dave Mackall can be reached at dmackall@tribweb.com or 412-380-5617.

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