Pitt secondary coach Douglas makes needed adjustments
No one knows the Pitt defensive backs better than secondary coach Troy Douglas.
OK, maybe the players’ parents trump the position coach, but these days, Douglas spends more time with them.
That gives Douglas the right and the knowledge to praise, criticize and defend his guys.
And he’s not shy about it.
Of 5-foot-9, 165-pound freshman cornerback Avonte Maddox’s adventures in the North Carolina game:
“Little man’s getting pillaged out there,” Douglas said of a holding penalty he believed should have been called during Ryan Switzer’s 63-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown.
Duke’s receivers in the previous game? “They push off, and (officials) let them get away with it,” he said.
Maddox has caught Douglas’ eye since training camp.
“I’m proud of that young man,” he said after Maddox helped hold North Carolina’s 6-3, 200-pound wide receiver Mack Hollins to four receptions, none longer than 12 yards.
“In our lingo, he has a little dog in him. He’s competitive, and he competes. These guys (opposing receivers) are grown men. Six months ago, Avonte was going to the prom.”
Maddox wasn’t perfect against Hollins, who turned that 12-yard catch into a big third-down conversion on North Carolina’s winning touchdown drive.
“He’s got to be more aggressive,” Douglas said.
If that sounds a bit contradictory, it’s because the Pitt pass defense has struggled the past two games, allowing four touchdowns and an average of 271 yards through the air.
Douglas has done as much shuffling as teaching after losing four players to a variety of issues — transfers, injury and suspension — since the spring.
The resulting alignment might be one he can take into the next season (minus senior safety Ray Vinopal), with freshmen Maddox and nickel back Patrick Amara playing key roles.
Also sophomore Reggie Mitchell has returned to his natural safety position after playing cornerback in eight games.
“I wish I had 10 Reggie Mitchells,” Douglas said. “He leaves it on the field. When we moved him back (when Terrish Webb was lost to injury), he kind of exhaled because that’s where he envisions himself playing. It was like he came home.”
Amara has been pushed into a regular position and has recorded Pitt’s only interception since Oct. 4.
“I don’t think he likes me too much because I get on him,” Douglas said, laughing.
Senior safety Vinopal, though, said Douglas cares about his players.
“He lets you know when you messed up, and he gets it corrected,” Vinopal said. “He takes the heat for us if we mess up. You respect that out of a coach.”
But Douglas also demands accountability.
He said three-year starting cornerback Lafayette Pitts’ coverage skills have improved, but he needs better ball skills and practice habits.
“How many times have you seen we had the guy covered and somehow or another the receiver catches the ball?” Douglas asked. “He’s got to practice. There’s no switch that on Saturday, it comes on, you just show up and be Deion Sanders.”