Pitt safety Paris Ford has opted out of the remainder of the 2020 season, according to Alan Saunders of Pittsburgh Sports Now. The redshirt junior safety is the second defensive standout at Pitt to opt out, as Pitt defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman did so in August, and he is the first to do so midseason.
Ford's contributions to the Panthers defense have been vital, as he led Pitt in interceptions this season, with three in seven games. He also came up with one pass breakup and ranked second on the team in total tackles, with 41, three of which were for losses. Of course, Ford has also been one of very few bright spots on a 3-4 team that has generally disappointed despite a promising roster and a 3-0 start.
Last season, Ford enjoyed a breakout year, as he led Pitt in interceptions and tackles, with three and 97, respectively. For his efforts, he earned first-team All-ACC honors as well as a third-team All-American nod. The star safety considered entering the NFL draft after the season but was convinced by Pat Narduzzi to stay at Pitt for the 2020 campaign.
The Pittsburgh native's decision to stay with the Panthers for another season preceded the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he did not waver when that became a factor. However, Pitt's four-game losing streak has seen frustrations mount for many on and around the team, and Ford was seen having a heated discussion with the Pitt coaching staff during the team's 45-3 loss to Notre Dame on Oct. 24. He was replaced by Brandon Hill, and Hill is expected to step in at safety with Ford gone.
Before the start of the 2020 season, Ford was named a preseason All-American by multiple outlets and was expected to contend for All-ACC honors once again as well. He was also placed on the Chuck Bednarik, Bronko Nagurski and Jim Thorpe award watchlists.
At this point, Ford's specific plans for the future have yet to be announced. However, as a coveted safety prospect, he may well shift his focus to NFL draft preparation, like his former teammate Twyman. Twyman is considered the No. 9 defensive lineman and No. 73 overall prospect in the 2021 NFL draft, according to CBS Sports. Ford is ranked No. 14 among defensive backs and No. 96 overall.