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Pitt S Cruce Brookins Making Noise This Offseason



Pitt safety Cruce Brookins.

Javon McIntyre didn’t hesitate. He was asked last week which young defensive player was going to be a difference-maker in the defense, and he didn’t pause for a second.

It’s Cruce Brookins.

“He’s going to be that playmaker,” McIntyre said last week at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. “He’s that safety behind (Donovan McMillon), he’s that second boundary safety, he’s going to be a player. Trust me, he’s going to be a player.”

Brookins — a 6-foot-2, 195-pound second-year freshman from Pittsburgh — played in two games last season. He saw action against Florida State and Syracuse and recorded 11 defensive snaps in the process. One assisted tackle in the process. But it was still work as a true freshman.

It’s very difficult for true freshman defensive backs to get on the field for the Panthers.

Brookins, who flipped to Pitt following heavy interest during his senior season at Steel Valley, has always been a star. He led Steel Valley to a WPIAL title as a senior, racking up 771 yards and seven touchdowns through the air and 1,625 yards and 33 touchdowns on the ground. And he was just as good on the other side of the ball, recording 41 tackles, six interceptions and eight pass breakups.

It remains to be seen exactly what Brookins’ role in the defense will be this season, with McIntyre, Donovan McMillon and P.J. O’Brien Jr. already in place, but McIntyre isn’t alone in believing that Brookins will be a star once again at Pitt, too.

“Cruce Brookins is a dude,” Pat Narduzzi said last week. “He’s going to be a really good player. We saw that at the end of the year, he started getting in and playing. He’s smart, he understands the defense and he plays with an attitude. He’s a guy that you’re going to see a lot of football next fall, for sure.”

It’s the first full offseason for Brookins, who did not arrive early last spring, so it’s the first chance to truly dive into being a college football player. Narduzzi was very complimentary of Brookins down the stretch run of last season, talking about how he wanted to get Brookins on the field if possible — and doing so.

He has all the skill — the physical tools and mental processing — in the world. It’s about continuing to grow in the system, mastering the defensive playbook and gaining that much-needed experience going forward to set himself up on the field.

“He’s competitive, he’s smart and he’s physical,” Narduzzi said. “He’s a football player. Not to take anything away from our coaches, but he’s got a lot of innate skills that his mom and dad have given him growing up. He’s a football player. There are some guys that are great athletes and they’re not great football players, and you have to teach them how to be a great football player. He’s a guy that’s a great athlete that’s also a really good football player. And he plays like it for a young guy.”

It will be interesting to follow Brookins’ growth this spring. The Panthers are off this week, but practice will resume next Tuesday — building up for the April 13 Blue-Gold Spring Game.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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