This unit is clearly the unit that's in the best shape on defense right now, and for the foreseeable future. Pat Narduzzi's specialty is defensive backs, and rising defensive coordinator Josh Conklin is also coaching the safeties, so it's safe to say that there's a good possibility this unit will be exceptional in the near future.
As for this year, there are likely three possibilities to start at corner at the moment. Lafayette Pitts, a 5'11" 195 redshirt senior, is a three year starter, but the last two years he has not performed that well. If Narduzzi, Conklin, and new cornerbacks coach Renaldo Hill can't reach him in his final season than he is officially unsalvageable. He doesn't have great speed, so maybe being forced to be aggressive with the receiver at the line of scrimmage will be good for his game. Time will tell with that one.
Returning after a one year suspension is 6'1" 180 pound redshirt sophomore Titus Howard. His length and athleticism seem like a good fit for what Narduzzi wants to do. But he, along with Pitts, will have to hold off 5'11" 185 pound freshman phenom Jordan Whitehead, the top high school prospect in PA this past year. Whitehead has very good speed and excellent athleticism. He's also strong. In other words, he's the perfect Narduzzi cornerback. If he doesn't start, then he will still play a lot.
Another fast young player that will see the field a lot again this year is 5'9" 170 pound sophomore Avonte Maddox. I'm not downplaying Maddox's talents by not putting him with the potential starters. He was forced into action as a true freshman last year and did well, but he may still be a little light to be a full-time option as long as their are other options. But he's very fast and tougher than his size so he could be an excellent option as a cover corner in the slot this year. Down the road when he gets bigger he could figure in even more.
That's four pretty talented cornerbacks, but it doesn't end there. Redshirt freshman Phillipie Motley, 5'10" 180, has good speed and he should be in the mix in the future. The same goes for two true freshmen- 6'0" 175 pound Malik Henderson and 6'0" 165 pound Dane Jackson. Both have good height at the position to go along with good speed and athleticism. Henderson enrolled early so he could always surprise and find himself getting some time this season.
At safety, things are very similar. Redshirt junior Reggie Mitchell, 6'0" 195", was forced to start the season at cornerback last season, and he did okay, but when he was forced to strong safety in the second half of the season he excelled. He should be the starter again at strong safety but the original starter at the position last year, 5'11" 180 pound junior Terrish Webb, will be back from injury and he also played well last season. It's always possible that Webb could move to free safety. But there he may have to battle 6'2" 195 pound sophomore Pat Amara who was a pleasant surprise as a true freshman last year. He has leadership skills that will help his chances.
Incoming freshman Jay Stocker may be able to make his presence felt right away. He's still a little skinny but at 6'2" and 185 pounds he's big enough to play right away, and he certainly has the ability to do so.
Rounding out the unit are 6'0" 195 pound redshirt junior Ryan Lewis, 5'11" 205 pound redshirt junior Jevonte Pitts, and 6'2" 185 pound redshirt freshman Jalen Williams.
Bottom line- This group has been woefully thin the past two years but now the growing pains are over and the unit is filled with players with experience. Not only that, but there are young players like Whitehead, Stocker, and Henderson that are capable of seeing the field this season with Whitehead especially having the opportunity to be a big factor.
And things will only get better- probably a lot better. The Panthers have already offered elite defensive backs and even the WPIAL has a few national recruits at the position. Combine that with Narduzzi's track record for turning defensive backs into stars and I would be very surprised if Pitt didn't have an elite secondary in the next few years.