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Pitt building depth in its secondary


While Pitt progresses through the final days of spring practice — Thursday was No. 11 of 15 — it’s becoming clear that coaches will have choices (maybe even some good ones) when piecing together the depth chart in the secondary.
Perhaps the biggest decision will be where to play Jordan Whitehead, free or strong safety. The move to free may help coverage, but weaken the run defense. That’s what coaches are trying to determine now and will continue to explore over the summer and into training camp in August.
Junior Dennis Briggs, an experienced hand, could play the strong position, but redshirt freshman Phil Campbell also must and has been considered strongly. You also hear good things about sophomore Jay Stocker and redshirt freshman Bricen Garner. If Whitehead moves to strong, Stocker could replace him at free, with Briggs moving to his accustomed nickel position.
Then, we shouldn’t forget about Paris Ford, who can play safety (either spot) or cornerback. He’s still at Steel Valley High School, but his world — and maybe Pitt’s — changes dramatically the minute he takes off that cap and gown two months from now.
That’s a lot of names in bold for only two starting spots.
At cornerback, Avonte Maddox, 5-foot-9, is the only scholarship senior in the secondary, and (I think) the toughest of the group. This will be his fourth year as a starter, and you have great respect for his longevity and durability. If he stays healthy and Pitt reaches the ACC Championship game, he will have played in 50 games in his career.
Maddox is the shortest player on defense, but also the quickest, which makes him a candidate to move to the slot on third down. There may be enough depth at cornerback to make that happen. That list goes on for a while and includes Therran Coleman, Dane Jackson, Phillipie Motley, Maurice Ffrench (when he’s not playing wide receiver) and Henry Miller.
I’d keep an eye on Ffrench. Coaches believe he can be special.
All of these guys are athletic and all flash the skills coach Pat Narduzzi craves in his defensive backs.
The question: Can enough of them make plays on the ball (both with PBUs and INTs) to make Pitt a contender in the ACC?



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