Pitt defensive coordinator Matt House met with the media earlier this week to talk about what he expects from Duke this weekend, as well as what he has seen from his defense through two games. The Panthers had the seemingly impossible task of defending Jameis Winston in week one, and had a lot more success last week shutting down New Mexico's option attack. This week, they'll get a slightly more conventional zone-read team in the Blue Devils. Here's what House had to say...
- There's obviously a dropoff from former starter Anthony Boone to current quarterback Brandon Connette, but House said Connette poses his own challenges.
"Boone might've been a little more athletic, but [Connette]'s a hard guy to tackle and he plays hard," House said. "If you watch him play, that's the thing. He really, truly plays hard. You watch him and you respect how he plays. He gets every inch out of his ability."
- When asked if he was concerned at all about the slight let-up Pitt showed in the second half against New Mexico, House said he didn't think it was a personnel issue. Most of the Lobos big plays came with Ty Ezell and Aaron Donald off the field, but House said he was more worried about the lack of execution from the players that were in the game. He specifically noted that he thought sophomore defensive tackle Darryl Render had a good game.
"I don't think guys were playing any less hard, so to speak, but maybe less disciplined," House said. "It wasn't the guys on the field, it was the execution. Nothing was because we were out-talented, it was because of a lack of execution."
- He added that, overall, he was pleased with how the younger guys have started to work their way into the lineup. It's been noted a lot, but Pitt has played a lot of guys, and particularly a lot of freshmen on defense this year (even in spots where coming into the season it didn't look like Pitt needed to).
"We're playing a lot of kids, got a lot of young kids that are playing," House said. "It's a constant process and, shoot, we're only into game three. Those guys need to develop and we're going to need them more and more and more as the season goes on."
- Finally, House also said he was pleased with linebacker Todd Thomas, who made his return to the starting lineup last week. He fought for most of training camp to regain his starting job after quitting the team for a week early in training camp, and only played a couple of snaps against the Seminoles. Against New Mexico, though, he made his presence felt with 10 tackles, including two for loss. One of those came on a fourth-down fake punt by the Lobos that he sniffed out.
"He played really well," House said. "We were happy with Todd, I thought he completed. He was really disciplined and it was fun to watch."
House also said he has noticed Thomas' improved attitude since he returned to the team.
"He's been unbelievable and he's prepared," House said. "He's been coachable, he gives great effort in practice. He's had an outstanding attitude and I'm excited for where it goes from here."