One of the main battles in Pitt's training camp is for the cornerback job opposite co-starter Avonte Maddox. Many Pitt fans expected true freshman Damar Hamlin to have that job either by the end of training camp or at some point this season. But for now, it's senior Ryan Lewis, according to head coach Pat Narduzzi.
“Opposite of Avonte [Maddox], it’s Ryan Lewis right now. He had nice day again yesterday. He’s made some strides. You start to look at him and say, ‘Hey, we can rely on him.’ Phillipie Motley and Dane Jackson are in a heat right now, and I’m not sure that Dane Jackson isn’t ahead of him. Dane Jackson has really come on strong the last four or five days. Phillipie [Motley] is still there. Malik Henderson had maybe an average day yesterday, so he’s battling. They’re all battling out there.”
On if any of the freshman are battling for that second cornerback spot:
“A little bit. Damar [Hamlin] and Henry Miller are still going strong. Therran [Coleman] mentally is probably a little step behind them, but they’re all going to be great players.”
Is this a huge deal? Not really. And all Pitt fans should want the team playing its best players. Lewis has a lot of experience on Hamlin and it's not terribly surprising that he holds the lead right now. Plus, as I've pointed out numerous times, Jordan Whitehead wasn't a starter out of training camp and still found his way to win the ACC Rookie of the Year Award.
One thing I found interesting was that Narduzzi didn't even mention Hamlin straight off. He had to be asked a follow-up question before he even got to mentioning his star freshman. That could be for a variety of things. Perhaps Hamlin really is that far behind the other guys Narduzzi mentioned. Another possibility is that Narduzzi may not want Hamlin to get a big head and perhaps, Hamlin is farther up than his initial quote might indicate. Or, you know, maybe Narduzzi just knew that's what the media wanted to know and he purposely avoided bringing it up.
Now, while Lewis is more experienced in terms of age and practice time, his work on the field as a cornerback has been limited. He was previously a backup safety before being moved to cornerback in 2014. Since then, he has only 15 tackles, including his special teams work. That's not to say he's not experienced, only that it's not as if he has a ton of game time under his belt at the position.
Either way, Lewis has the lead on the starting job. Now we just have to see if it holds up.