Freshmen adapting to each other, Pitt

PITT FOOTBALL

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CLAYSVILLE, Pa. -- From classwork to workout sessions, everything just seems to be moving at a slightly quicker pace.

That's the biggest difference Pitt freshman cornerback Avonte Maddox noticed from his first four weeks as a Panthers football player.

Maddox and 20 other incoming Pitt freshmen have spent the past month acclimating to college life, and while it has certainly been a transition, Maddox said it hasn't been too overwhelming.

"It's not really a tough transition, it's just trying to keep up with the program," Maddox said. "It's a lot faster than high school, even in the classes everything's moving faster. Just keep up, don't fall back."

Freshman running back Chris James, an Illinois native, said he's glad he went to college somewhat far away from home, as the past few weeks have taught him a lesson in maturity and responsibility.

"At home, my grandma comes knocking on my door to wake me up," he said. "Here, if your alarm clock goes off, you better wake up. You can't hit snooze anymore."

The 21 Pitt freshmen currently enrolled spent Friday at the Mel Blount Youth Home in Claysville working on football drills and team-building activities with the disadvantaged boys who live at the facility.

One thing evident in watching the new Panthers go through drills is the bond they have already formed. First virtually via Twitter and text messages, and then in person as they have lived in Oakland for the past few weeks.

"I feel like we're brothers already," Maddox said. "Every day, we're working out, pushing each other. When we're in the dorms, we're always with each other. One person doesn't go out to eat alone, we always have someone else there."

In little more than two weeks, those bonds will begin to forge deeper as the freshmen start their first college training camp.

Coaches have been warning the freshmen that the two-a-day practices will be grueling, but that playing time is available for younger players who show they deserve it. Last year, the Panthers played 12 freshmen.

"For the freshmen, I expect [training camp] to be a lot harder, but throughout the weeks it's going to get easier for us," freshman safety Patrick Amara said. "[We expect] nothing but perfection, even during training camp. We want nothing but perfection because if it's not 10 wins for me, that's a disappointing season."

Two of the most likely candidates for early playing time are receiver Adonis Jennings and James, both of whom were four-star prospects and play at positions where freshmen can usually make the transition to college relatively easily.

For his part, James didn't shy away from his expectations for this season.

"I'd be lying if I said I don't want to start this year," he said. "That's the goal. I can't wait to go to camp. It's going to be a blast. I know it's tough, but at the end of the day I know it's all mental."

For any personal goals, though, these freshmen know that their goal, ultimately, is to raise the profile of Pitt football within the ACC and nationally over the next four years.

"Coach Chryst is recruiting a lot of good guys," Amara said. "We just want to show the world, show the NCAA who we are and how many great personalities we have on this team.

"I think it's really great what we're building here."

Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.


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