If you all remember I did a series of articles in June of 2017 that looked at the departing starters from the 2016 season and who I thought would be replacing them for 2017. With that I assigned a grade of “Upgrade“, “Downgrade” or “Draw‘.
What I’ll do first is look at each position, or unit, along the offense as of today and write down who I think will be the starter and why it will be that guy. Then I’ll assign a ranking of “Upgrade” if I see an upgrade in player quality, “Downgrade’ if I see a lessening of talent or “Draw” if I think we’ll match last year’s player(s) in the position or unit.
This Defensive Backs article is written by our fellow reader and commenter Erie Express (Rick Caldwell) and thanks to him for a well-written comprehensive coverage of this important unit.
TURN YOUR HEAD AND COUGH
Let’s start right off by naming who exited the program and the significance of their departure. First, the coach of this dreadful three-year run of DB play, Renaldo Hill has move on to take the same position in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins. Second, the defensive coordinator, Josh Conklin, left to take the head coaching position at Elon University. Good riddance to both – I wish them much success. New leadership in this area is a huge positive in my mind.
We also lost a team captain in Avonte Maddox, who was a low 3* Rivals rated athlete from Michigan. He committed to Pitt and Paul Chryst in June 2013 and proceeded to start 28 games over the course of his 4 year career at Pitt. He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2018 NFL draft by the Eagles.
Jordan Whitehead also will not be back after forgoing his senior season at Pitt to enter the NFL draft and being selected in the 4th round by the Tampa Bay Bucs. Jordan verbally committed to Pitt and Paul Chryst in October 2014 and signed with Pat Narduzzi in January 2015. He played in 31 games and started 30 over his three years at Pitt, missing three games due to injury and four via suspension. As quoted by Reed – “…losing Maddox and Whitehead is a big deal.”
While researching which players may start and provide depth on the 2018 DB squad, I came across this “overlooked” fact about the start to the 2017 season. Pitt started last season with less than a full deck – not just that Whitehead was suspended for the 1st three games, but that four other significant contributors were on the bench to start 2017.
Phillipie Motely (projected starter) & Therran Coleman were injured in Fall camp, Damar Hamlin (4* recruit) was still recovering from off-season surgery and Paris Ford (4* recruit) was not in camp. Pitt did not have these five players available for the Penn State and Oklahoma State games.
Pitt finished 2017 as the 103rd ranked Pass D – there were 13 P5 teams ranked 104 or higher. Of the 65 P5 teams, Pitt ranked at # 52 regarding Pass D. (emphasis Editor)
On to 2018, where I predict HCPN will begin the season with a starting four of seasoned veterans with Dane Jackson RS JR and Phillipie Motley RS SR starting at the two CB positions. Damar Hamlin JR and Dennis Briggs RS SR will start at FS and SS, respectively.
I do believe we have impactful youth & depth that will see this starting line-up change by game # 2. FWIW, Ourlads.com has a two-deep at CB1 of Jackson/Ford, CB2 of Motley/Coleman, SS of Briggs as starter/Campbell as back up and FS of Hamlin as starter/Garner as back up, per Ourlads’ update on July 19, 2018. In both starting scenarios, there is a heavy presence of WPIAL stars.