On the Panthers: Narduzzi mum on whether he's likely to burn redshirts of DBs
October 14, 2016 12:00 AM
Pitt freshman defensive back Damar Hamlin.
Pitt freshman defensive back Therran Coleman.
By Jenn Menendez / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
If Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi is inching closer to activating freshman cornerback Damar Hamlin — thus burning his redshirt halfway through the season — don’t expect to know before kickoff Saturday against Virginia.
For that matter, until the defense is on the field.
Or even when the secondary makes a first substitution.
Narduzzi, famously tight-lipped when it comes to such matters, finally put Hamlin and fellow freshman Therran Coleman on the depth chart Monday after an injury to Avonte Maddox.
“Just thought I would mess with you guys, shake it up this week and throw them out there,” Narduzzi said Monday. “You know, they have been there all year. ... You could put them on a depth chart all you want. I just thought with Avonte not finishing the game, it would cause some stir.”
Maddox appeared to sustain a pretty severe injury right before halftime Saturday in the Georgia Tech game. He was writhing in pain for several minutes before finally heading down the tunnel for treatment and evaluation.
Enter Dane Jackson, a 6-foot, 180-pound redshirt sophomore who got involved in the game immediately, making a tackle on a running play.
“I was kind of nervous going in, but, after the first drive I started to get a little comfortable and just went with the flow of the game,” Jackson said. “I’ve kind of felt like one of the guys all year because they make me feel welcome, whether I’m with the twos or whatever. It was just a great feeling being out on the field with those guys.”
Jackson is the logical starter with Maddox expected to be out, but he said he hasn’t put any additional pressure on himself. Maddox was listed as “doubtful” Thursday on the ACC injury report with an upper extremity injury.
“No. I try not to put a lot of pressure on myself, just play my game like how I’ve been practicing all year,” Jackson said.
Narduzzi said he was impressed with Jackson’s play against the Yellow Jackets.
“Dane did a really good job of coming in and making — it wasn’t like he was tentative. I think the first play he came in, it was run his way, and he stuck his head and [dived] in the pile and got in on the action,” Narduzzi said. “So you didn’t see a timid guy out there going, ‘Oh, my gosh, what am I going to do?’ He’s shown, you know, we practice a lot, so we’ve seen that. I was impressed with what he did.”
The question is, who would fall in next?
By Monday morning, the depth chart had the two new names — Hamlin was listed behind Maddox and Jackson, and Coleman behind Ryan Lewis and Phillipie Motley at the opposite corner position.
Narduzzi said a couple of weeks ago that Hamlin is healthy. He spent preseason football dealing with an undisclosed health problem that required the services of a specialist.
Narduzzi basically said now it is simply a matter of getting him ready for the college game and not thrusting him into a situation that would waste a year of eligibility if it’s not absolutely necessary.
Hamlin (6-1, 185) of Central Catholic, and Coleman (6-0, 190) who played at Brashear, were highly rated out of high school.
“Damar and Therran, for really the last three weeks, have been battling back and forth,” Narduzzi said. “And you know, we’ve traveled [with] both of them I think the last two or three weeks, and they are just getting closer. They are freshmen, and we’ll see how much closer they are.”
That’s a classic Narduzzi riddle, meant to almost reveal some news, then stop short, to keep everyone guessing.
Narduzzi had to leave town for personal reasons, cancelling a Thursday briefing — usually the last of the week when he would have been peppered with more questions about Hamlin.
So don’t expect this question to be answered until Saturday afternoon.
Jenn Menendez: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @JennMenendez.
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