2017’s DBs; Upgrade, Downgrade or Draw

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.

Defensive Backs

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 #):

2 Maurice Ffrench 5-11/185 SO
3 Damar Hamlin 6-1/185 SO
7 Henry Miller 6-3/205 RS FR
9 Jordan Whitehead 5-11/190 JR
11 Dane Jackson 6-0/180 RS SO
14 Avonte Maddox 5-9/175 SR
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…

16 dbs

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.



39 thoughts on “2017’s DBs; Upgrade, Downgrade or Draw

  1. Upgrade because they have too many good athletes in the secondary to play better this season.


  2. I’m voting upgrade also. Maddox is not a bad corner just a little short. Hopefully Whitehead returns to his freshman form this year. As for the rest, much better athletes as Deep South has posted.


  3. I’ve been stating this since the end of the season, our defensive secondary will go through a metamorphosis this year. Addition by graduation. A definite upgrade, even with all the new blood that will be seeing their first playing time opportunities this season. If guys like Malik Henderson pan out, this group could end up being a game changer battalion.

    Unlike you Reed, I don’t think that Paris Ford’s services will be essential to employ this season. A RS for him would be to Pitt’s benefit long term IMO, since I see him leaving early, but probably not until he’s had three seasons of playing time under his belt as a RS Junior. There is just too much talent ready to contribute now in front of him at this point in the secondary.

    I love the move in Whitehead’s safety position too. The kid has ball hawking skills, USE THEM!

    We’ll be hearing the names of Henderson, Coleman, Campbell, Garner & Miller all getter playing time this season. By the end of the year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Avonte Maddox providing his leadership from the sideline as a pseudo secondary coach if one of these young guys come on like gang busters at the cornerback spot. A 5’9″ corner is going to lose his starting spot to a equally talented 6’1″ corner consistently. You just can’t ignore that advantage that height gives you.

    This is the most exciting part of the team to follow this s a son, while we watch their individual developments.

    Last but not least, Damar Hamlin is a future Pitt star. The only question is when? 2017 would be a good year to begin that legend if he’s recovered fully from his hernia surgery.


  4. I think the first thing we all need to do is agree that the loss of Webb, Mitchell and Lewis should not necessarily be considered a bad thing or should we?

    From my eyes I saw a lot of good coverage that for a couple reasons still allowed passes to be caught at an alarming rate and yards. We like to point at the size of the D-Backs and rightfully so. As Reed points out though, being a little taller doesn’t mean you can cover better.

    Physicality is another reason that passes didn’t get knocked down. So maybe bigger will be better?

    I think the Whitehead move will make for a big improvement as well. I look for him to have a year even better than his freshman season. Which brings up another point. The coaches. Say what you want but that is a change they have decided on as well as moving Hamlin to the other Safety spot. You think they may have known a little something about Ford for awhile now?

    Garner is a ball hawk plain and simple. He may have been overlooked by the star-makers because of all the great players on that PCC team. I’ve seen him play and he’s always around the ball. BALL SKILLS!

    Lewis was fast but he really didn’t make many plays. The psu interception aside and running like a scared deer at the combine he really did not stand out imo.

    Maddox is needed, he’s a team leader and has the experience and could benefit from the JW move to safety.

    Only two seniors on the roster bodes well for PITT’s future.

    Coleman and Miller could be sleepers as well. Speed and size but do they have ball skills. imo, here’s where Narduzzi’s recruiting comes into play. We keep talking about a higher level 3 star player being recruited and I agree with this 100%. Narduzzi is cherry picking the better athlete’s from that group.

    Motely, Briggs, Jackson and Henderson will provide better depth being one year older and wiser.

    Stocker could very well be the other starter at safety but PITT will play more than 4 guys in the D-Backfield a good bit against a few of these passing teams. So many of these guys should see ample playing time this coming season.

    One player I have my eye on is Phil Campbell. Good size who can run and is a flat out player… He’s my sleeper pick.

    Finally, I think the coaches will be better just like many of the players….. through experience. I may have to eat my words which I will do but some others may have to swallow crow as well…

    Upgrade without a question imo.


  5. Definite up-grade athletically, therefore, at the end of this season we will know if it is
    The Jimmy n Joes or X’s n O’s… I see the guys playing better ball( couldnt get any worse than’16) Hope Duzz’s system works in the best conference in the country… if not, does Duzz have it in him to change?


  6. Need more pressure from the front seven on the opponents quarterback this year… If this defense of scheme is going to work


  7. I think its also notable that George Hill 4* would be in this group, which would further show the increase in talent duzz has brought in at this position.

    I think Maddox is actually solid, he would be perfect in the slot but PITT doesn’t have enough other outside guys to play him there unfortunately


  8. Notrocket – that is a story which is written over and over again every day somewhere. Sad but I think the writer soft pedaled some of this also. There wasn’t a sense of the personal responsibility every addict has with their illness. As understanding as I am about these issues, and I am very experienced in dealing with addicts, I also know that you have to look each one in the eye and tell them their future is up to them – not up to theparents, brother or rehab staff.

    Because it is an illness it needs to be treated like one – but addicts who won’t take those steps to do so and like cancer patients who refuse to take the needed medications/treatments that will help them overcome their illness.

    It always comes back to the person themselves. That’s why I hate to read or hear when people say “it was not him… but the drugs that did that” because it most certainly was him (or her) that is the root cause.

    That isn’t assigning blame – there are tons of that to go around – but being honest in the fact that the human being is the one who needs to help himself – with a push and support from his family, peers and community (and government – I strongly believe that).

    Finally, we have to get over the idea that just because someone is using heroin they are worthless to society – the opposite is the case really. I have seen so many successful men and women in all walks of life and every profession get straight and keep straight as long as there are avenues of help available to them.

    I believe it starts with us – the non-addicts who know in their hearts we are only a few bad breaks away from maybe finding ourselves in the same circumstances. We have no idea what goes on inside people’s minds when they start their addictions – but I can say that I have come to believe it stems from some variation of mental illness in almost every case that I have seen. Usually an inferiority complex or chronic depression… especially men who re reluctant to ask for help as they believe it shows weakness.

    I believe the opposite – I think anyone who has the ability to recognize they are bent and ill and have the guts to ask for help are courageous as hell… and they are the ones who have the best chance of kicking the habit. But we have to be right in front of them when that moment comes for them to ask for that help – if not it’s right back to the needle, pipe or pill.


  9. Right Doc, it’s a part of each and everyone of us…

    …but where was south Oakland in that inspiring video….? After-all isn’t Mad Mex still dawn ner and nat? (I hear it went down hill)

    Seriously it is a beautiful campus and it’s been home to many… ike

    I actually never lived there but I did put my hours, days, sweat and tears there.


  10. I agree in most part with your comment Reed with just a couple of points aside.

    Addicts are way more helpless than a cancer patient. They are prisoners in their own minds.

    On the other hand, in many cases, a cancer patient’s fate has been sealed BEFORE they take their FIRST dose of meds or has surgery. They try and try but there is really nothing anyone can do but give them false hope. (which is good)… but cancer patients know.

    Addicts are given hope if they reach out and grab hold of it. Too many don’t!

    On the other hand, an addicts fate is sealed AFTER they take their FIRST dose. << This is where we need to start the stopping of addiction in this country!

    I absolutely understand that I do not have all the answers to either of these problems but I do know what it feels like to be told in your life that you have an addiction and then cancer. There is no comparison. (thank God I could beat one before the other diagnosis) still waiting on the other..

    Not trying to be dramatic as I’m doing fine…


  11. why are they showing the southside and dahntown in this video. Need to show south and north oakland. shadyside would even be more relevant. And of course the Hill. Fortunately this video doesnt bring you the smell of Atwood on a Sunday morning…beer, puke, piss and garbage. I’ve seen rats the size of cats in south oakland.


  12. On the topic of addiction, I am against the Commonwealth facilitating gambling at home. I suspect legitimized sports gambling, on-line, will at some point be available as the Commonwealth attempts to ease the impending pension nightmare.
    Lots of seemingly high functioning folks lose their houses, families and their lives to gambling. And while I have no problem taking UPitts coin about Rockports future record, allowing people to drop thousands simply by clicking a mouse in skivvies worries me.
    That said, it never stopped me from losing money on my stock picks. Thank goodness for index funds.


  13. Prediction: Not only won’t he lose his job, but Avonte Maddox will be an all-ACC first-team CB after this season.

    Go Pitt.


    Why? Because our D back unit last year was lower than whale dung -(and that’s at the bottom of the ocean!).
    We have MUCH better available athletes this year at DB and I suspect there may be a total 180 for this unit. ( or at least one level above whale dirt).


  15. Upgrade if the Narduzzi recruited players are the majority on a he field.

    Draw if the Chryst recruited players are in the majority.

    J.Whitehead should be primed to have an All-American year and Captain Maddox will show us fans how the Narduzzi D is meant to be played. He’s a playa with heart.

    There are many good athletes that were recruited by Duzz that should see the field and upgrade this unit for 2017 and beyond.



  16. Pitt4ever great comment on whale dung – if you are 127 in the NCAA anything is an upgrade. Keep in mind Nard doesn’t like to play FR rFr, prefers players at least in their third year. I agree with Big B the line and LB drive the bus in this defense and IMO we are not close on this yet..


  17. I too see the DBs as an upgrade this year but incrementally. If our DBs were ranked 127 last year (I know that was the entire pass defense ), I would expect a ranking in the 80s this year .


  18. The video makes the point that I made a month ago. We are the University of Pittsburgh, not the Uof Oakland. Much more for students all over the city. Kids have cars and PAT will take them all over.


  19. DB seems to be the position that Narduzzi’s recruiting has focused on. This needs to be the year where we see some results. Still, the backfield will never be great without a pass rush and linebackers that stop the run.


  20. Last year 5 of the top 7 tacklers were D-Backs. That says more about our front seven than our back 4.


  21. Just look at the difference in size of the Chryst vs. Duzz recruits. If they can generate a more consistent pass rush … doesn’t have to be sacks … just hurries … this defense will be a 180 compared to last year. As great as the offense was last year, it didn’t compliment the defense. The defense was not able to compete in a track race. This defense will be better suited.


  22. I patiently await for the 2nd coming of BOB JURY.. 21 career interceptions including 10 in one season ” back in the day” where there way less passing attempts!
    Front 7 pressure will determine how the DBs perform…
    Looking closely at Reeds picture at the beginning of this thread… did any of you POVerts notice his eyes ate closed… our secondary will be improved with his absence alone


    1. Unless he has eyes 👀 in the back of his head,,,, who cares? Cause if he never turns his head around in anticipation of the ball coming his way in the first place, he’s already playing blind anyhow.


  23. BigB – of course his eyes are closed. He knew what was coming, and he didn’t want to be witness to it!


  24. DB’s are clearly an upgrade. My hope is that Maddox becomes a nickel back. That would mean a huge upgrade. With regard to P. Ford, it is what it is. If he gets in, great. He will be behind on the learning curve. I don’t necessarily believes that it means a redshirt is in his immediate future. If he is as good as advertised, I play him this year because we won’t have him for all 4 years anyway. Again, that is an “IF”.

    Speed and length are great. Being a football player also helps. This is why I think the Flurrrida recruiting is so important. Kids from the south work on their craft 365 days a year. Plus they train with others that are similarly situated. We don’t have the numbers up north. A couple 4 stars a year locally, but nothing like in Flurrrrrida.


  25. I’m still trying to figure out Narduzzi and I’m not sure I ever will. Is it that he will always prefer to play upper class-man or was he trying to NOT come into PITT like a gang-buster? I get the fact you really don’t want to take a true freshman’s red-shirt unless they are lights out, which I guess Whitehead was. Playing Hamlin turns out was a big mistake and BTW I’m hearing he’s OK, pretty much ready to go..


  26. ike – I don’t think you can count the Whitehead recruiting class. It was last minute and hurried. I think Duzz wanted his true first class to redshirt and have a year in the program with the trainers to get in D1 shape.

    Hamlin was really only out of necessity and it’s unlikely to hurt Pitt (or Hamlin) since he’s a candidate to leave early and, if doesn’t leave early, there is a very good chance he gets a medical red shirt and still has that year of eligibility.

    I think moving forward it will be the best players play but the goal is for at least a red-shirt year.


  27. Look hardly any of these recruits leave before their fourth year in college anyway so I think it’s kind of strange to be talking about them as if they will.


  28. Reed – was that directed at me?I only stated that he could be a candidate to leave early but he’d most likely get a medical exception if he didn’t. Not intended as a prediction or assumption.


  29. this year is the year the DB’s athleticism and size begin to make a difference. Gaining experience and seasoning will pay off big time. Coleman, Garner, Miller, Whitehead, Hamlin are to athletic to not make a material difference. Mitchel’s knee was a killer and Webb just was bad. Night and day speed now. ,


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