Pitt’s defensive unit was the strength of the team in 2019 and with so many starters returning next year, it should once again be one of the top units in college football.
What could drastically change things is if the Panthers lose one of their top players.
Paris Ford will be a junior next season, but is eligible to enter the 2020 NFL Draft if he chooses to declare and that’s something that he will consider.
Pittsburgh Sports Now has learned that Ford has submitted paperwork to the NFL in order to get a graded evaluation and is expected to get those results in the next two weeks. Those evaluation requests are commonplace for juniors, and Pitt typically submits multiple requests per year for underclassmen. They are less common for draft-eligible sophomores like Ford.
That evaluation could end up being very important for Pitt. PSN has been told that told that if Ford is given a first- or second-round grade, he would then choose to leave for the NFL. If he gets a third-round grade, Ford would consider leaving, but anything beyond that would prompt a return to Pitt.
This season, in his first year as a starter, Ford recorded 53 tackles, three interceptions, nine pass breakups and three forced fumbles as he was named to the first-team All-ACC defense. He finished tied for third in the ACC in forced fumbles, fifth in interceptions, eighth in passes defended and ninth in solo tackles, despite missing nearly an entire game of the season after two targeting ejections.
Pitt is already slated to lose fellow safety Damar Hamlin and cornerback Dane Jackson to graduation in the secondary.