Pitt defensive coordinator Josh Conklin said Tuesday in his first chat with reporters since the start of the season that he and Pat Narduzzi have had “long conversations” about Pitt’s style of defense.
With Pitt traveling to Clemson on Saturday, Conklin suggested a slight philosophical shift in Narduzzi’s insistence on putting cornerbacks in nothing but risky one-on-one situations.
Emphasis on the word slight.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re Nick Saban or Dave Aranda (LSU defensive coordinator) or Pat Narduzzi (Conklin said he has worked with, studied and/or consulted with all three coaches and their staffs), the things that make these guys good is they believe in what they do. They believe in their system,” Conklin said.
“(Narduzzi) is not ever going to be a Tampa 2, cover 2 guy (where safeties offer cornerbacks continuous help). That’s not who he is.”
Conklin said Pitt’s defensive scheme for the Miami game called for safety help and there will be some Saturday, too.
But there will be limits, especially with the threat of Clemson running back Wayne Gallman.
“You’re not going to be able to cover up (the cornerbacks) all game,” he said. “Sometimes, they are going to have to step up and make a play.”
The key for Pitt’s success on defense, of course, is and always has been the need to find and develop athletic cornerbacks. Narduzzi’s defense won’t work without them. That’s an ongoing process that needs more time than the 23 months Narduzzi has been on the job.
Meanwhile, keep an eye on Central Catholic graduate Damar Hamlin, who has proven to the best of the freshman crop of cornerbacks. Circumstances (injuries and spotty play) have forced Hamlin into the lineup, something Pitt’s coaches did reluctantly.
“We would have loved not to have to play (Hamlin) and develop him a year, get him in the strength and conditioning program because that’s what we’re doing: We’re building for the future,” Conklin said.
Instead, Hamlin will be in the Pitt secondary Saturday trying to keep up with Clemson wide receivers Mike Williams and Artavis Scott, who will enter next year’s NFL Draft as underclassmen, coach Dabo Swinney said Tuesday. Quarterback Deshaun Watson and Gallman also are going early.
The College Football Playoff committee released its second rankings Tuesday night, putting Alabama, Clemson, Michigan and Washington first through fourth and into the semifinals at the moment, followed by Ohio State, Louisville, Wisconsin, Texas A&M, Auburn and Penn State.
The Top 10 in my AP ballot is identical, except I put Ohio State four and Washington five. One-loss Ohio State has the better resume in my mind, with victories against Oklahoma and Nebraska that total 80 points and a seven-point overtime decision against Wisconsin.
Undefeated Washington’s only victory against a ranked team occurred against Utah.