Friday, February 13, 2015

A Look Ahead- Defensive Backs

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.


Talent:

Excellent
VERY GOOD
Good
Average
Poor


Depth:

Excellent
VERY GOOD
Good
Average
Poor

42 comments:

  1. It has been a loooooong, loooooong time since Pitt had anyone who even resembled being a 'ballhawk' at safety. Jason Hendricks was probably Pitt's most capable safety the last decade, and he did not exactly perform at an 'elite'-level.

    Someone (more maybe more than one) out of Patrick Amara / Reggie Mitchell / Tarrish Webb / and Jay Stocker will become an NFL-prospect level player back there ---- the first in quite awhile for a Pitt defense.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I thought Jarred Holley was a pretty fair safety as well as Ray Vinopal, at least for 2014 and the 2nd part of 2013. Neither are top pro prospects but were solid college players .. at least better than most.

    I am excited about the current DBs ... funny how a weakness turned immediately to a perceived strength.

    ReplyDelete
  3. If the defense can't get any pressure on the QB, it won't matter if every kid is a future hall of famer. The talent has definitely improved, but these guys can't do it on their own.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rori Blair --- 3rd Round Pick or higher in 2-3 seasons --- first Pitt outside-pass rusher since Jabaal Sheard + Greg Romeus (shame he never had an NFL career) to get drafted. Callin' it with confidence lol.

      He's 6'3'' + and played his true-freshman year at 30 pounds less than he can easily build-on his body. Plus, even though he did have many rough moments (i.e. was dominated by more developed O-lineman) Blair actually showed some explosiveness.

      Shakir Soto --- just looked really, really over-matched at this level. Every game he was literally just flailing-around / standing-up straight off the snap / getting out of position constantly, and often just diving at ball carriers' feet when he was in position to make a play. A Paul Chryst - reach like Maclean (who is gone now??). The ultimate low point was the final Miami game ----- by the time he "blew-up" and Todd Thomas had to calm him down (lol) there might as well have only been 10 guys on the field. Soto in all likelihood will have to work really, reallllly hard to get on the field under Narduzzi.

      Basically ---- it's just Rori Blair for the 'down' edge-rush (unfortunately relying on a Sophomore)...... then it becomes who else can step-up?

      Delete
    2. Have to agree, but at least with a coach like Duzz with his defensive background and the DC that knows his defense coming in, they should be able to produce more pressure. It's no secret that House was in over his head in the first place and was reluctant to use any blitzing schemes with the talent he had.
      They have the athletes to play some pressure defense, hopefully Duzz will figure it out.

      Delete
  4. I could see this team playing up to 7 safeties/DB's in games at times to get speed on the field and to cover spread teams offenses and to support the run until LB's develop. And if the safeties are good blitzing off the edge, pressure on the QB could come from blitzes by the secondary with tight man coverage at the line of scrimmage. How novel would it be to actually blitz to sack the QB by playing press coverage instead of playing 10 yards off the receiver and giving the offense an easy completion? Part of last years' problems were due to scheme. We did not have the one guy to get to the QB but we also didn't press at the line and throw blitzes at teams to make the receiver and QB beat us. Was this because our corners and safeties couldn't hold up or because the scheme itself was not a pressure scheme?
    I believe it was the scheme because we saw the same passive defense with Donald, who was an animal. Imagine if we blitzed and played tight man while Donald was here, the defense would have been awesome but all we did was let Donald beat double teams and then play passively everywhere else. If we actually blitzed and caused havoc at the line of scrimmage that defense could have made Pitt really hard to beat in Donald's senior year. pghfan1992

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was all scheme, but take into consideration who the DC was. With Duzz and Conklin here now, I would expect to see some different alignments and schemes because they do have some athletes to work with.

      Delete
  5. Take note maybe next year but definitely the year after Jamie might have his best team

    ReplyDelete
  6. WVU just got a 2 year probation from NCAA. No doubt Ollie went easy on them. For years on here I have said that Gibson was dirty (i.e. outside the rules of recruiting). Not sure what the probation includes, but I suspect that it won't be good news for Shell's career or D. Henry's.

    It's a shame that Ollie Luck waited until after LOI day to issue the punishment. What a farce.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not sure of your agenda but from June 2010- February 2013 is when the football violations occurred. Shell was still at Pitt, Henry was a Jr in high school, & Gibson was at Michigan, Pitt, and Arizona during that time frame. The coaches who caused violations were apart of the Bill Stewart coaching staff and are long gone. No need to spread lies when the facts are staring you in the face

      Delete
    2. many of these incidents were not committed by FB. The most severe were in women's gymnastics .. but they were all secondary and tercerary ones .. texts during prohibited times, etc.

      The one incident that may haunt WVU was Henry being charged with pot posession; that may influence another Beaver Valley mom whose son is being recruited.

      Delete
    3. Funny how a certain Beaver Valley mom refers to herself as a "little detective" yet has no clue her son is doing pot or hanging around people that do. She got what she asked for.

      Delete
    4. It all goes back to institutional control and obviously, there is none at WVU. 14 sports seems like a lot to me and that every coach feels like they "can" operate their respective shop however they please. If the institution looks the other way, as they obviously have, the bigger problems will be sure to follow.

      Hey, it's only pot, right? Hey, it's only assault, right? Hey, it's only .....and the list goes on and on. That is why they are always top 5 party school. It's a 5 year vacation academically and they will NEVER get away from being viewed that way unless they bring in a Paul Chryst type coach who recruits character before football skills. You are what you are. Send your kids to WVU, expect problems.

      Delete
    5. Charges against Henry and Fields were dropped because their drug test came back clean. Charges against the NC and FL guys remained because their test did not come back clean. The devil wishes bad on people @ anon 225, take that statement as you may

      Delete
    6. I wasn't wishing ill on anyone, it was statement in fact, that's all. Try reading the comment before being sanctimonious.

      Delete
    7. You said the little detective had no clue that her son was doing pot or hanging around people that do, which he wasn't. You also said she got what she asked for, which she didn't. Try knowing the situation before you form your negative comments that has no truth to it

      Delete
    8. The University of Pittsburg has Little tolerance for that in anything else ask Howard.

      Delete
    9. Pitt has a 3x and you're out policy, as does most schools. 1st time is your warning. 2nd time is your season. 3rd time is your scholarship

      Delete
    10. Really? Prove that one to me what you just said.

      Delete
    11. Jay Harris - Michigan State, Rod Smith - Ohio State, All American Bacarri Rambo - Georgia, All American Tyrann Mathieu - LSU, Randy Moss- Florida State

      Delete
    12. Who are you James Connor? Do your own damn research

      Delete
  7. Not good for any players careers if they aren't on television or going to bowl games. I am not thinking the writer wrote that Gibson broke rules with Shell and Henry.

    Didn't Gypsum shred documents with Rich Rod too?

    ReplyDelete
  8. The key to next years defense is the Dline, no pass rush will equate to disaster and the Dline is weak, the coaches have their work a head of them.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Question for Chris it seems like recruiting is getting earlier and earlier there's a lot of schools who have reached Half of there commitments for 2016 do you think that's a trend?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely. And you have to get on these kids when they're sophomores now. That's why Pitt's best chance for a really big class may be '17.

      Delete
    2. Tend to agree on this. When you hear some recent 4 and 5 stars verbal, they talk about relationships that started in 9th grade and that they have had 4-5 unofficial visits already. My sense is that Narduzzi is way behind on the 16's (except locally) and slightly more behind on the out of state prospects.

      With the 17's, I would be after them hard and getting them to campus. Typically, the first full year for a coach pays dividends in recruiting. I am not as convinced of that any more. I really think it is two years out, especially if it is a new coach, not from the same geographic location.

      Some will argue that this attitude is more accepting of mediocrity, but I think it goes more to having a long term strategic plan for success. So we are trying to out recruit 16 kids that are being introduced to our staff for the first time, versus the osu's and psu's that have an extra year on our guys. That makes a huge difference for a recruit.

      Would have preferred that we had an easier/same type schedule like last year, versus a tougher one. Wins are great and help recruiting, but there are already uphill battles ongoing for the 16's and our coaches are unproven with W's.

      Delete
  10. Titus Howard kicked off the team for good?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep.
      Just plain dumb. How do you pass up a free college education? Smoke pot!

      Delete
    2. Once your in the dog house, you have to change who you're around, if you don't, this is the result

      Delete
  11. Honestly I think that it's not too strong of a word to say we'll see a true "Shifting of Power" in College Football up to the Midwest and Northeast. Let's be truly real here:

    Michigan is coming 'Back Like It's 1997' --- and I for one am excited. Jim Harbaugh wins a National Championship there within five years, and heck he maybe to a long-termer. Ohio State will continue to flourish under Urban Meyer--- you can feel it: He's 'home', he's comfortable.

    Now, PSU: I think they will be solid, perennial 8-10 game winners. I foresee them having similar success (great success, not knocking it!!) to Wisconsin during this last decade. They may 'push-the-ceiling' every few years and knock-the-door for Big-10 titles.

    ........And, the grand finale: Pitt. Guys, guys......am I saying National Title hunt every year these next few years? Here's what I'll say, what my intuition tells me: Narduzzi runs builds on the foundations of solid-character and true-accountability among the young-players that Paul Chryst was vying to create at THE University of Pittsburgh ---- along with 8 hard-fought wins this first season, and a gritty bowl win against a solid Power-5 team.

    And in 2016 (even after Tyler Boyd is a 1st round pick, and James Conner goes in the mid-2nd around where LeSean McCoy went) --- Pitt "Thumps" PSU --- and (Hail to!!) Pitt goes 3-1 against PSU in the first four games in this renewal of the series....

    You fill in the rest of the narrative as you wish :))

    ReplyDelete
  12. My name is Conner get it right john lol! Should I say Mr. anonymous!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And Pittsburgh is spelled with a gh, get it right James lol!

      Delete
  13. I've been hearing a lot about these preferred walk on's is that the same as a gray shirt recruit?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No. Gray shirt delays admission until the second semester and then gets a scholarship. A preferred walk on does not have a scholarship but he's guaranteed a spot on the team unlike other walk ons that have to try out.

      Delete
  14. Is it time to temper enthusiasm about next year's recruiting class? Narduzzi has come in and done everything right so far. Hired the right people, created a nice buzz, really gave the program a nice jolt. That being said, the enthusiasm hasn't trickled down to next year's recruiting class. No big wpial talent seems like a lock for pitt. Aaron Mathews even made a comment that he wanted to commit but didn't know where and that psu hasn't offered him yet. Miami already has 18 or 19 commitments for 2016. Is it time that we start thinking a good showing next year might produce a top 35 class but probably won't set the world on fire. The relationships weren't built in time to own the wpial. Although I think narduzzi is doing a good job of changing that for the future.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Umm, no. They've been on the job for less than two months and we just got into March today. Relax.

      Delete
    2. Not getting bent out of shape over it. I think we are pulling some talent via transfers and the recruiting will come. I'm saying that because they have only been on for two months, they might not be able to catch up for some of these kids around the country. I'm sure it will be a fine class, maybe just not one to match the buzz going on. Can you tell me there is at least a 50 percent chance of pitt landing....Mathews, hamlin, Pugh, Hudson. .....I think it's 50/50 between pitt and psu but throw in osu WVU and the rest and I'm not sure any of them come to pitt. I don't think you get a top 25 class without the wpial this year. We will pul l some kids from FL. And nc. Sure it's all specuLation but I think everyone was pumped and ready to keep the momentum going.

      Delete
    3. Pitt is in very good shape with all of those players. I think they'll end up with Matthews and Pugh, unless Pugh's grades are too bad. And Hamlin and Hudson are possibilities too.

      Delete
  15. Why is Dixon's recruiting so bad? Lack of effort, lack of ability, standards too high? Just don't understand how a top-25 coach who seems to be an excellent teacher and high-character guy can't put a few top 50 players on the court.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Jerry "The Mole"March 2, 2015 at 9:43 AM

    It's not that Dixon is a bad recruiter, the caliber of players that you are putting in the NBA speaks volumes to these kids. Dixon has a great system and a good program, but what Pitt does isn't catered to a 4 or 5 Star talent that wants to be 1 & done. With Dixon, most guys are geared to be there all 4 to 5 years and usually show growth with each year in his system. Most 4 and 5 star kids already think they have to only play a year of college hoop so they're no fully committed to being in for the long haul.

    Watch how many players leave Kentucky, Arizona, Duke, and Kansas this year. Those systems are fast paced, get up and down the court teams that model what NBA teams do. They're more equipped to cater to a 4 or 5 star kid, that's why alot of people in those programs have kids that are 1 and done.

    Pitt's best player in the NBA right now is probably Steven Adams, and when he left Pitt, most people would say he was very underdeveloped at the time. When you're mailing out letters to recruits, who are we putting on the letters that's recognizable to a 15-17 year old kid: Steven Adams, DeJuan Blair, Charles Williams, Jerome Lane? None of these names are recognized by a kids that's 15-17 because none of them are/were stars in the league. Until we get an Ambassador in the NBA from Pitt, don't expect Dixon to be pulling in any 4 & 5 star recruits.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Chris I have a question here I think Jamie is a good coach but He seems not to change in his teams seem to play very poorly when under pressure when they were on their run they had nothing to lose the last three games it looks like they played tight in there better in the open court then they are setting up a play what do you feel about that thanks

    ReplyDelete
  18. In another question not the bash somebody but how do you play five years of D1 basketball and have such an un Orthodox jumpshot like cam wright I mean really somebody fix that .

    ReplyDelete