PITTSBURGH — Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said on Monday that freshman cornerback Damar Hamlin was “progressing nicely” from his undisclosed injury that had sidelined him for the first four weeks of the season.
Tuesday and Wednesday, Hamlin was as full participant in the portion of the team’s practice that is open to the media. Thursday, I asked Pat Narduzzi what even puts Hamlin the conversation to be playing as a freshman after being limited in almost all of training camp and the first four weeks of the season.
“He’s a good a player,” Narduzzi said. “He’s smart. He has great football intelligence. He’s athletic. He’s got the loosest hips I’ve seen. But that doesn’t mean he can go out and play and help us right now.”
Narduzzi said that he didn’t expect to see any faces that “you haven’t seen before” on defense against Marshall this Saturday. One of the reasons is that he would rather pick a starter and stick with them instead of attempting to rotate players in and out.
“We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “I don’t like rotating many guys back there. It’s tough. You want to get into the rhythm of the game. … I don’t like rotating guys if we don’t have to. That’s for if a need occurs and a guy needs a blow, then we’ll get them in there. If not, then we’re going to go.”
He also doesn’t want to put the pressure of being the savior of the passing defense on the young shoulders of Hamlin, especially considering his lack of preparation time.
“There’s a lot of football to be played and I want to take care of Damar Hamlin,” Narduzzi said. “To put that on his shoulders … I just know he’s going to be better in another year. Would you like to redshirt him? Yes. Do you need him this year? We’ll see how healthy we’ll stay and how we continue to make or not make plays on defense. It’ll be based on that.”
So far, the Panthers have given up 990 passing yards over the last two games, but it hasn’t all come the same way. After Oklahoma State took the top off the defense with long passes, North Carolina took it apart piecemeal by finding mismatches and seams in zones.
It’s possible that the Panthers can improve their defense without personnel changes. Only time will tell.