This is the eighth of a longer POV series looking at the individual positions which need to be re-filled in 2017 and whether we will meet the PRODUCTION we had in those positions. We will not factor in true freshman at this point.
Even though we are excluding true freshmen from the conversation in these pre-camp articles some breaking news was just reported by Rivals.com’s Chris Peak; 2017 recruit All-Everything 4* big-time Safety Paris Ford will not be enrolling for classes at Pitt that start on Monday. Recruits (and the staffs) tend to want to get a jump on the fall camp by enrolling early and being able to use the Pitt weight room, training table, partake in peer drills & exercises, etc… before the August training camp and the September semester.
Not every recruit does this though I believe but the majority do. This is almost certainly a case of non-qualifying academically so keep fingers crossed that Ford can resolve this problem and report before or during camp. One thing to note though is that Pitt cannot offer any services to Ford in terms of tutoring, study, etc… because he isn’t a student yet.
All-in-all it is not a great beginning for the DB unit as he was figured to be heavily involved as a true FR at the Safety position. Especially as his Rivals.com rating was a 6.0 which is .1 away from being a 5* kid. Let’s hope Hamlin is healthy finally to alleviate the blow if Ford has to be absent.
I’m already bummed about this unit due to the above even though Ford is a case of the ‘unknown qualities’ that I talk about all the time on here. But the intent of these articles is to discuss who we have returning in this specific unit so here goes…
On Pitt’s roster as we speak are the following defensive backs (listed by #):
|7||Henry Miller||6-3/205||RS FR|
|11||Dane Jackson||6-0/180||RS SO|
|16||Therran Coleman||6-0/190||RS FR|
|20||Dennis Briggs||5-10/190||RS JR|
|21||Malik Henderson||6-0/185||RS SO|
|24||Phil Campbell||6-1/195||RS FR|
|27||Bricen Garner||6-1/175||RS FR|
|32||Phillipie Motley||5-10/175||RS JR|
|35||Rob Boatright||5-10/185||RS SR|
|43||Jazzee Stocker||6-2/185||RS SO|
|46||Rimoni Dorsey||6-0/190||RS SO|
One important thing to note is that “Jay” Stocker went back to his given name of “Jayzee“. Why, I couldn’t tell you, but there it is. That might be the best news we have heard in the offseason for this group. I may as well do the same and you can address me by my true first name: “Reedeepio”.
Perhaps the best thing about our returning players are their first names: Rimoni; Phillipe; Bricen; Malik; Avonte; Therran; Dane, Damar, Jayzee and Maurice… awesome!
To recap the 2016 season for this unit- we sucked hind tit at pass defense to the tune of giving up 333 ypg and a total of 28 TDs in the air. That showing put us in almost-last place at #127 just in front of HC Beelzebub Grahams Arizona State. To say that it was an embarrassment for reputed defense-guru Pat Narduzzi is the understatement of the year.
But more importantly they (and the DC Conklin and DB coach Renaldo Hill) also lost us games. It is hard to be anymore clear about how truly terrible they played overall.
Here was the DB two-deep going into the bowl game against NW – remember that Whitehead was injured and didn’t play in that game…
You can see that losing three out of four starters in the last game of the year looks pretty bleak, but is it really? Especially in light of the poor play those same players produced.
But that was last season – what about ’17?
The first thing for Pitt fans to consider is not holding your breath until the defensive backs, and their coaches, show improvement as a group because that isn’t guaranteed at all. We lost a three-year starter (all 13 games last year) in Cornerback Terrish Webb and one-year starter in speedster CB Ryan Lewis (12 starts) along with Safety Reggie Mitchell (four starts).
CB Avonte’ Maddox is returning as a senior along with Safety Jordan Whitehead as a JR. Whitehead was a ‘Freshman All-American’ two years ago and did well last season also, even if his play dipped a bit from his previous season. He’s being moved over to the Free Safety slot which covers more open spaces and is more of a pass defender than the Strong Safety is that he played the last two years.
Maddox is getting some pre-season publicity at CB. Mainly because he’s the only returning CB who has any real starting experience. And that is it; of our four (!) returning defenders Whitehead and Maddox make up half.
That my friends is scary as hell.
But Pitt fans are praising Pat Narduzzi’s recruiting to high heavens as being what Pitt needs and if that is true we’ll see it play out, hopefully, in the defensive backfield with some talented and athletic (and taller) defensive backs coming into their own.
Those most likely will be SO Damar Hamlin (6’1″ & 185) who was a highly rated 4* back out of local Central Catholic and who has been switched over to fill the Safety spot this year, along with CB JR Phillipe Motley who played in nine games with two starts last year. Throw rsSO Malik Henderson into that mix also…
Or we could see 3* rsSO Jayzee Stocker who kind of came out of nowhere to get some decent playing time at Safety. Stocker, who was our reserve QB’s younger brother, was a highly thought of recruit – 8th in the state overall by ESPN, 11th by Rivals and 14th by 247- so he’s pedigreed to some extent… and his size is ideal at 6’2′ and 185.
He’ll have to battle returning JR Dennis Briggs for that back-up position; maybe. Briggs played in all 13 games as a reserve last season and made some key plays. Pitt fans tend to discount him – mainly due to us not wanting any more 5’10” kids in the defensive backfield, but Narduzzi has singled him out s few time in spring practices so he may slip in there – at least on the two-deep.
Narduzzi has also mentioned Bricen Garner a bunch in the spring. He’s a rsFR who has decent size at 6’1″ but seems to be a fan favorite if you read the message boards and comments on various blogs.
Which I find interesting, and a bit hypocritical, as Garner is a 3* recruit whose scholarship offers fall directly in line with all those Paul Chryst DBs Pitt fans bitched about with them not having the Power five offers. Well, aside from Pitt and WVU this kid’s offers look hauntingly familiar.
Personally I don’t put a ton of stock on offers anyway for reasons I have given on here earlier – there are so many variables which go into success at college football for these young men we never really know who will pan out and who won’t. Think Paris Ford here – he was offered by every big program in the country it seems and still there is a good chance he won’t see the field in a Pitt uniform for some time..
CB Dane Jackson, SO, had a nice amount of playing time last year also with three starts (Miami, Duke & SYR) so he’s ready to compete in fall camp also. He’s middling size at 6’0″ and 180 but not a Smurf as some other DBs are. Which game was it that the opposing QB just lofted jump ball after jump ball down the left sideline and completed almost every one?
North Carolina I believe, and in that game our DBs averaged 6’0″ tall across the two-deep. Well, say what you will about Narduzzi’s recruiting he’s targeted more height in the defensive backfield with ’15 & ’16 recruits Stocker (6’2″), Henry Miller (6’3″) and four other 6’1″ DBs. In the 2017 class he got 6’3″ Albert Tucker so he’s looking at more arm length along with that height also. We got killed on high-point passes last year.
But those taller kids have to be able to actually play the position also and since these last two years have seen our, mostly, upperclassmen in the backfield those recruits haven’t gotten much playing time.
There are other players on roster who can, and we hope will, contribute so I think the defensive backfield should be the most closely watched unit in fall camp. It is that important and more so than another other team unit in my opinion.
If we can’t get better play out of different and new DB players then we’ll stay at the bottom of the heap in pass defense… and with a retooled offense that is uncertain itself… that would be a kiss of death.
With that I’m going with my gut and stating that fresh faces and better athletes will make this a slight upgrade to start the season, and grow better each game.
Happy birthday to the Pitt POV!! We are exactly one year old today. Thanks so much to everyone for working so hard to make this the success that it is. And thanks so much the The Dark Knight for his very generous birthday present.
I’m putting the Roundtable Call-ins on hold for a while, maybe not too long, but we have to work out what has gone wrong. Last night we had Pittman4ever, Pittcocks and Ike onboard and what was a good discussion was unpostable due to technical discussion.