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Erick Hallett named starting free safety for UMass game

The 5'11", 195-pound safety had two picks and four pass breakups in 2020

NCAA Football: Austin Peay at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The free safety position was one of several left mired in uncertainty after the release of Pitt’s initial 2021 depth chart, but on Thursday, Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi shed some light on the status of the position battle, revealing that Erick Hallett would start against UMass.

“Erick Hallett’s going to start at the free safety position,” Narduzzi said during a media session. “But Rashad [Battle] is going to come right in. We feel great with both of them.”

In terms of experience at the safety position, Hallett brings more to the table than Battle, as he has seen action in 22 games and made five starts over the course of the past two seasons. Those five starts include four at safety and one at cornerback. Battle, meanwhile, played in 11 games as a reserve cornerback and special teams contributor as a freshman, but he has yet to take the field as a safety at Pitt.

With that said, Battle is expected to develop into a solid defensive back in the coming years, as the 6’3”, 205-pound athlete has the height and length to disrupt passes and thwart wide receivers. But at 5’11” and 195 pounds, Hallett has had no trouble establishing himself as a disruptive force in the defensive backfield, as he came up with two interceptions and four pass breakups in 2020, along with 30 tackles, two of which were for losses.

Given the fact that Hallett has proven to be a big-play threat opposing quarterbacks have to respect as well as the fact that he has been on an upward trajectory in terms of statistical output over the past two years, it can certainly be said that he is the more justifiable and proven pick of the two. But the fact that Battle, a sophomore, is challenging a junior for playing time is a positive sign for the Pitt defense.