PITTSBURGH — Is this years Pitt defense the best in the last four seasons?
Pitt safety Damar Hamlin thinks so.
“I would say so,” Hamlin said after practice on Wednesday. “We had time to grow. We are able to play faster.”
Hamlin and Dane Jackson are returning full-time starters in Pitt’s secondary, while Jason Pinnock took over midway through 2018. The big change on the back end has been the presence of redshirt sophomore Paris Ford.
Hamlin has been impressed with the way that Ford has stepped in this year to add another versatile defensive back to the back end of the Panthers defense. Through five games, Pitt has given up 209 passing yards per game, which ranks them 48th in the country.
“People got to respect his presence on the field,” Hamlin said. “With (our) other pieces on the field, it just brings a different — I don’t even know what to call it.”
Pitt’s defense has faced some stout competition in their first five games of the season. It doesn’t get much easier this week, when they travel to Durham to face head coach David Cutcliffe’s offense. Cutcliffe always seems to put points on the board against Pitt.
In three of the last six games against Pitt, the Blue Devils have scored more than 45 points. Last year, with first round pick Daniel Jones under center, the Panthers won 54-45 at Heinz Field.
Duke’s new quarterback is Quentin Harris, is a redshirt senior, who is trying to fill Jones’ big shoes. Harris is more on a mobile quarterback, who isn’t afraid to get out of the pocket and run.
Hamlin knows that Harris’ athletic ability provides an extra challenge for the Panther defense.
“Running quarterbacks give you more to prepare for,” Hamlin said. “(It would probably be easier to attack) a stationary quarterback, who really can’t move as much.”
When talking about what it’s like preparing for a top tier offense each week, Hamlin knows exactly what it takes.
“(We’re) watching film, all day long,” Hamlin said. “Locking into the meetings and game plan — and then going on the practice field and focusing on those things we just talked about in meetings. … Then, just watch more film.”
Saturday night’s test on the road at Duke will show people how this Pitt defense continues to take those necessary steps, in order to be one of the best in the country.