Ready or not, from here on in, it will be go time for Pitt cornerback Damar Hamlin.
After seeing Phillipe Motley go down with an injury and his other cornerbacks just getting torched, Pat Narduzzi decided to do something he didn’t want to do and that was use Hamlin this season.
The hope in training camp was that Hamlin would win the starting job but an injury sidelined him for much of the first half of the season.
Then the question became, can they get away with not using Hamlin the remaining part of the season and thus not burning his redshirt season.
I guess Narduzzi found out that you don’t always get what you want.
The Virginia Tech coaching staff just followed the game plan of every offensive coordinator this season and had QB Jerod Evans throw the ball up to his receivers and challenge the Pitt secondary.
Evans finished the night 24 of 40 for 406 yards and 2 TDs. His three receivers, Isaiah Ford, Bucky Hodges and Cam Phillips, all finished the night with over 100 yards receiving.
Ford had 10 catches for 143 yards, Hodges had 6 catches for 145 yards while Phillips finished with 6 catches and 109 yards. That was the first time in Virginia Tech history that three receivers finished with over 100 yards.
I feel bad for Hamlin because the expectations from the fan base for him are going to be ridiculous. In their minds, he’s a 4-star cornerback that shut everyone down at Central Catholic and he’ll immediately do that here.
Unfortunately, that’s not likely to be the case this season for Hamlin because one, he’s an 18-year-old kid jumping into a secondary for a Power 5 school. My guess is that doesn’t happen very often, especially in the middle of a season. Two, Pitt’s upcoming opponents, Miami and Clemson and three, frankly, he’s not going to have a lot of help in the secondary.
People can start criticizing and questioning Narduzzi and Josh Conklin all they want but the reality is the talent level in the secondary needs to improve.
Hamlin is definitely a good start but plenty more is needed. Help is on the way with future secondary help like Therran Coleman, Paris Ford, Henry Miller and possibly Bricen Garner but that won’t be till 2017.
Until then Hamlin will no doubt improve the Panther secondary but fans shouldn’t immediately expect the second coming of Rod Woodson. He’s going to make some plays and is also going to get beat. That’s just the reality of the cornerback position.
No doubt though it’s going to be fun over the next few years watching Hamlin play and hopefully develop into the star that many are expecting.
Can I ask one favor? Please have some patience with him.