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Pitt Football

A Look Inside the Youthful Options In Pitt’s Secondary

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From Paris Ford and Damar Hamlin to Erick Hallett and Brandon Hill to…?

Hill opted out of the Sun Bowl and declared for the 2023 NFL Draft over the weekend, and Hallett — while he hasn’t made a decision yet — is likely to head off to join him in the NFL Draft process.

So, that’s two starting safeties off the board. Marquis Williams and A.J. Woods have decisions to make when it comes to returning to Pitt next season, but I’d expect both back. Along with M.J. Devonshire and Rashad Battle. Cornerback is filled.

It’s up to Pitt now to field the next in a line of safety duos to marshal the secondary.

There are a plethora of young cornerbacks and safeties on Pitt’s roster, and while there’s always the chance that Pitt adds a veteran option, where does each stand currently?

Cornerback

Ryland Gandy — R-Fr. cornerback

2022 stats: no recorded stats

2022 snaps: 20 defensive snaps

Gandy was a spring camp darling, earning rave reviews from the coaching staff as a player well beyond his years who was pushing the older cornerbacks ahead of him.

He only took 20 defensive snaps as a true freshman, receiving all 20 against Rhode Island early in the season, and he didn’t find himself in the action at all. But he’s a player who will grow more and more important in Pitt’s cornerbacks room.

Pittsburgh Panthers defensive back Ryland Gandy (18) September 24, 2022 David Hague/PSN

Noah Biglow — R-So. cornerback

2022 stats: one tackle

2022 snaps: 17 defensive snaps

Biglow was one of the young players that Gandy pushed over the offseason.

His first taste of action this season came in the season finale against Miami, receiving 14 snaps in limited action. He’s taken just 32 snaps during his two seasons in Pittsburgh.

Like Gandy, he should continue to grow into his role in the secondary.

Pittsburgh Panthers defensive back Noah Biglow (28) September 24, 2022 David Hague/PSN

Jahvante Royal — R-Jr. cornerback

2022 stats: One tackle (one solo)

2022 snaps: 5 snaps

Royal has largely held a special teams role over his three seasons in Pittsburgh, which is where he made his impact in 2022.

He likely will not make a significant impact in the defensive secondary next season, but he’s a depth cornerback who does have an impact on special teams.

Stephon Hall — R-So. cornerback

2022 stats: no recorded snaps

2022 snaps: 0 snaps

Hall is a hometown kid who has earned praise from the coaching staff during his short time at Pitt, but he’s also still developing.

He didn’t receive any defensive snaps in 2022, but he found himself dressed for nine games.

Stephon Hall August 11, 2022 David Hague/PSN

Tamarion Crumpley — R-So. cornerback

2022 stats: n/a

2022 snaps: 0 defensive snaps

It’s been a period of development for Crumpley, who hasn’t seen the field during his two seasons in Pittsburgh.

Safety

Javon McIntyre — R-So. safety

2022 stats: 10 tackles (seven solo), one tackle for loss, one interception and two pass breakups

2022 snaps: 129 defensive snaps

McIntyre flashed his future potential in the season finale against Miami, recording two tackles (one solo), a tackle for loss, an interception and two pass breakups in his biggest opportunity of the season.

He will feature heavily in Pitt’s defense next season, likely slotting into Hill’s vacated slot in the secondary.

Pittsburgh Panthers defensive back Javon McIntyre (20) September 24, 2022 David Hague/PSN

Donovan McMillon — Jr. safety

2022 stats: 20 tackles (12 solo) and a tackle for loss

2022 snaps: 64 snaps

McMillon wasn’t brought back home to ride the pine. He’s going to push for a starting spot in the secondary immediately.

In limited chances at Florida, he flashed an ability to make plays. He’s a hard hitter and a strong tackler. He hasn’t been tested much in coverage, but he’s the sort of physical playmaker that Pitt’s defense needs to operate.

Expect McMillon to immediately make an impact in 2023.

P.J. O’Brien — So. safety

2022 stats: eight tackles (seven solo) and one tackle for loss

2022 snaps: 76 defensive snaps

O’Brien plays with a sort of fire and level of intensity that cannot be taught, but he also needs to learn to reel it in. He made his mark, for better or worse, on special teams in 2022.

He also received his largest run of the season in the Miami win, looking good in limited chances to bring down Hurricanes’ players, and like McIntyre and McMillon, should feature more heavily next season.

Pittsburgh Panthers defensive back P.J. O’Brien (22) September 24, 2022 David Hague/PSN

2023 Verbal Commits

Shadarian Harrison — three-star cornerback from Lakeland High in Lakeland, Florida

Jesse Anderson — three-star cornerback from Cardinal Gibbons High in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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