When defensive back Jordan Whitehead committed to Pitt, most fans assumed he would be playing at cornerback. That, however, won't be the case. Despite being ranked as Rivals' No. 6 cornerback in his recruiting class, Whitehead will play safety for the Panthers, according to Chris Peak.
For all intents and purposes, safety is not considered as difficult as the more demanding cornerback position. So why a move to safety for a player so highly regarded as a top cornerback? Well, there are some reasons.
Pitt Blather notes that he actually spent most of his time there in high school and also that it could just be a way to get him onto the field earlier. The move has to mean, at the very least, that the coaching staff is completely sold on pushing ahead with and as their starting cornerbacks. It's very likely that they see that duo as being too good (or good enough, anyway) to take off the field.
The flipside, of course, is that not only is there a lack of proven depth behind those guys, we don't even know if Pitts and Maddox are up to the task. Both (including Maddox, who I think is going to be a very good player) were up and down last season, so what happens if either or both struggle? According to the post-spring depth chart released by the PG, you've got and as their primary backups. Briggs, a converted running back, has yet to take a snap anywhere and while Lewis has some limited experience, he has never started a game ... that's despite all of the issues at corner last year. Other candidates such as and Malik Henderson that were recently mentioned in Pitt's defensive preview, are freshmen as well.
Whitehead, of course, hasn't played either yet himself, but unlike the other young players, holds the distinction of being one of the top recruits at cornerback in his class.
Also, at safety, Pitt appears to be better off. There areand , the presumed starters. , who I've always thought has done a good job, is there as a backup and he was a former starter. And, in general, I just think it's easier to find guys to play safety as opposed to cornerback.
There's always the hope that Pitt gets by with Pitts and Maddox for this year and then Whitehead steps in for Pitts after he graduates. Still, in addition to the assumption that both play injury-free and produce, moving Whitehead after a year at safety just sort of stunts his development, anyway. After all, wouldn't you rather have him learning on the job at cornerback and getting a year of experience there instead of playing him at another position and then taking over at the more demanding corner position?
With no prior track record, Pitt fans really have no choice but to trust Narduzzi here and assume that the staff is doing what's best. And since they're the ones working with these guys, only they know what they're really working with. Even going off of what Pitts/Maddox produced last year isn't fair since those guys would (presumably, anyway) be better. For that reason, there's no sense in being too critical of the move right now.
Above all, let's remember that Whitehead is going to help Pitt no matter where he plays and if corners get burned on a play, he's a nice piece of insurance to have back there at safety. We won't truly know if it worked out until the season unravels so there's no sense in trashing a decision this early in the process.
It's still something to keep an eye on, though, as we head into the fall.