One of the best recruiting assets out there for a coach is the promise of playing time as a true freshman, and Paul Chryst and the previous regime often used it. In fact, in the first two years of his Pitt tenure, Chryst used a number of different of freshmen in prominent roles, mainly out of need. Last year we still saw some true freshmen find the field, but with the depth being stronger - it was less widespread. With National Signing Day approaching, and a new group of recruits coming, here is a look back at some freshmen contributors from last season.
Chris James was probably the most notable freshman to find the field last season. James was a four-star recruit out of the Chicago area, and he was one expected to see the field early. He finished third on the team in rushing yards with 437 yards on 87 carries, and scored four touchdowns. He is expected to continue to serve as the understudy for James Conner next season, with his eyes set on being the full-time starter in 2016.
Adonis Jennings was another four-star recruit on offense, and his time as a true freshmen was quite the mystery, even to this day. He was a player pegged in Fall camp as one expected to see some playing time, but it took until fifth game until he registered his first career reception. His playing time continued to be a hot topic of conversation all season long, as he finished with just six receptions for 55 yards. Jennings subsequently transferred after the season, probably due to Pitt's mishandling of him.
The defense saw four different players find the field as true freshmen. Rori Blair rotated in at defensive end throughout the season, and showed great promise at times as he finished with five sacks on the year. He will be looked upon to contribute again as a sophomore. Patrick Amara was another featured player as a freshman, and he responded with 18 total tackles and an interception. Amara will be competing for a bigger role this season in the secondary.
Avonte Maddox found the field at cornerback and as a return man as well. He was picked on early and allowed some big plays, but improved as the season progressed. Quintin Wirginis played a little linebacker, and was listed on the two-deep depth chart all year long.
Six true freshmen managed to find the field last season, it remains to be seen how many will be used this season. But the opportunity will be there for players to step in immediately. While many starters return, this isn't a team that is loaded with quality depth at every position. Jordan Whitehead is obviously a guy that can step in and play right away, but others could as well. It will be something we can discuss once the letters of intent are faxed in on Wednesday.