Losing half of the secondary in Jason Hendricks and K'Waun Williams, there are some strong questions in the secondary. The Panthers do return starters Lafayette Pitts and Ray Vinopal, but there are even some questions there as Pitts seemed to regress last year.
Both guys figure to start again this season so that means Pitt will have to find another cornerback and another safety to join them. Titus Howard looked to be a favorite at cornerback, but he was suspended recently for the entire season.
That leaves the job opposite Pitts open and while a guy like Trenton Coles could be the favorite, it's starting to sound like a surprise guy may be getting in the mix - true freshman Avonte Maddox.
Maddox drew some high praise from defensive backs coach Troy Douglas in a recent practice. Not only does Douglas think Maddox is a good cover guy, but he says he may be the best guy on the team:
"He's a competitor," Douglas said after the second full-gear practice. "Probably, out and out, he might be our best (man-to-man) guy, but you have to do more than play man. He's got a chance."
In addition, according to Sam Werner's report at the PG says that Maddox even got some first-team reps on Saturday.
Maddox has talent - there's no question there. As I wrote when he committed, the kid has crazy speed. And while he may be partial, his high school coach said he was the best athlete in the entire state of Michigan.
Expecting him to start at cornerback would have sounded like a big reach. Heck, it still may be. But when the position coach starts talking about him being the best man-to-man cornerback and with some lack of depth there with the Williams and Howard losses, I mean, it sounds like it can't be ruled out.
If nothing else, though, it sounds like he's headed towards some playing time as a true freshman.
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