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Pitt wins against Georgia Tech, but injury bug continues to bite Panthers

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt pulled out a big win against Georgia Tech on Saturday, but also had to deal with yet another key injury. Starting cornerback Avonte Maddox was knocked out of the game and redshirt freshman, Dane Jackson, stepped in for him. Also out for the game was starting linebacker Mike Caprara, who didn't dress.

Maddox and Caprara are just the latest in a long line of starters to be injured. The team already lost starting defensive end Dewayne Hendrix for the season. Also out for the year is Elijah Zeise, who started for the team at linebacker in the opener against Villanova. On offense, the team is without starting No. 1 wide receiver Dontez Ford, out for several weeks and much of the season.

And go ahead and add two more issues for the starters to the list. First, while Jordan Whitehead's absence last week was deemed 'personal' by head coach Pat Narduzzi, he's another starter that has missed time. None of that even considers the early injury stuff to cornerback Damar Hamlin, who was expected to be a potential starter opposite Maddox.

Regarding the latest injuries on Saturday, Caprara was replaced by senior Bam Bradley, who is a capable replacement. The real concern at the moment is at cornerback.

While Maddox's injury forced Jackson into duty and gave some fans the change they wanted at cornerback, Jackson proved that he still has work to do, drawing a key defensive pass interference call, which led to a late Georgia Tech touchdown to give them the lead. Obviously, even if Maddox has struggled this year (he has), the fact is that Pitt is better with depth and options and the team needs him healthy.

One note of interest, too, is that the team seems intent on redshirting true freshman Damar Hamlin if at all possible. Pitt's cornerbacks have had some issues this year and not only has Hamlin not been used despite that, but he didn't come in today even with Maddox's injury.

My stance on this is that if Hamlin is ready to play, then the team should play him. While redshirting him may be nice, if he has the talent he's expected to have, then chances are good that he won't even stay for five years before heading to the NFL Draft early. As it stands, Hamlin could play two seasons for Pitt after this one then bolt. That, of course, isn't guaranteed but remains a very viable option. Frankly, I'd rather have 2 1/2 years of him and also allow him to get some game experience in advance of next season which, by the way, could be safety Jordan Whitehead's final year.

Not only does Pitt need help at cornerback, but they still have quite a bit to play for this season. Only Narduzzi and the coaches can say if he's adequately prepared, but if he is, it makes little sense to redshirt him with so much still on the line for the team. Even if Maddox returns next week, giving Hamlin some time on the field would be a wise move if he's ready.

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