I'll have a story in tomorrow's paper, but here are a few notes and quotes from new defensive backs coach Troy Douglas' conference call with media members today.
- First, here's a look at how Douglas will fit into the defensive staff next year:
Inoke Breckterfield - defensive tackles
John Palermo - defensive ends
Chris Haering - special teams coordinator/inside linebackers
Matt House - defensive coordinator/outside linebackers
Troy Douglas - defensive backs
Keep in mind that graduate assistant Hank Poteat will continue to work with the cornerbacks (more on that in a second) and that Desmond Robinson, who spent this year as the player personnel director (essentially a full-time recruiter) is no longer on the staff. The offensive side of the ball is still yet to be sorted out as Paul Chryst works through hiring a wide receivers coach (though I don't expect any significant changes other than just adding that coach).
- Speaking of coaching assignments, Douglas was emphatic today that he will coach both safeties and cornerbacks. Pitt's defensive back coaching in 2013 really wasn't ideal because you had House coaching safeties as he was trying to do all his other responsibilities as defensive coordinator, and Poteat in his first year as a graduate assistant coaching the cornerbacks. This year, it will be all Douglas.
"I'm a big believer that there needs to be one voice,"Douglas said. "They all need to get their butts ripped the same way. [Poteat] will assist me in practice because the techniques on the field are a bit different. ... In the meetings, so they're all on the same page, they need to hear one voice."
- As far as recruiting, nothing has been set in stone, but it seems like Douglas will likely cover his home state of Florida. The Panthers have had some good luck recruiting Florida in recent years, and will certainly hope to continue to have a presence down there. This year, they got Cocoa, Fla., linebacker James Folston, Jr., and just barely lost out on Davie, Fla., quarterback Wade Freebeck. Douglas will also have in-state duties, as well.
"I think everybody's probably going to have to have an in-state area because Pennsylvania is a fertile area for prospects," Douglas said. "Then your secondary area, which'll be out of state. I'm pretty much supposing I'm going to Florida but we'll see."
- Douglas talked a lot about his philosophy in the secondary, which centers around aggressiveness and going after the ball. I know pretty much every coach talks about being aggressive when asked about their scheme, but Douglas put particular emphasis on making sure his defensive backs have ball skills to turn breakups into interceptions.
"It's all about confidence," he said. "Every drill that we do individually will have a ball involved in it. there will be consequences for dropping balls. I call them MOBPs: Missed opportunities for big plays."
Douglas said he had two rules for his players: 1) "The ball is the issue." That means that everything a defensive back does should be focused on getting the ball back to the offense (i.e., interceptions). 2) You are what you put on tape.
"If your technique's poor or you're playing poor or you're playing soft, then everybody's going to know it," he said. 'That's your résumé. You've got to put a good product on tape that's going out all over the country. That's your résumé and that's my résumé as well."
- Douglas said it's important to use a mix of man-to-man and zone defenses. A lot was made this year of Pitt's move away from strictly man-to-man under former defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable and, especially since it'll still be House calling the plays, we won't see a dramatic shift in the mixed use philosophy. Douglas said that everything starts with man-to-man, because it's the easiest to teach, but that you do need to mix things up.
"You have to be able to play off," he said. "The toughest thing that we do is play off man. If you can master that in your craft, then you can really do anything you want to do."
- When it comes to Pitt's current defensive backfield, Douglas hasn't had a ton of time to take stock of the talent he'll be coaching next year, but did get to watch a little bit of film with House when he was at Pitt on a visit. The one thing that jumped out to him was the length of Pitt's corners (especially compared to the ones he coached at Iowa State).
All of the Cyclones' cornerbacks last year were between 5-7 and 5-10. Pitt's two likely starters at corner, Lafayette Pitts and Titus Howard, are 5-11 and 6-1, respectively. The Panthers' third cornerback, Trenton Coles, is listed at 6-3.
"I know it was long, good-looking kids that can run," Douglas said. "That was a lot different than what we've been coaching at Iowa State. Paul [Rhoads] liked to take guys that can't ride the adult rides at Disney World."
- Given his emphasis on ball skills, Douglas said he likes recruiting guys that can play multiple positions. He should like this incoming class, then, in which all four defensive backs (S Patrick Amara, S Jalen Williams, CB Phillipie Motley and CB Avonte Maddox) played offense in high school and have skills that translate at other positions.
"You know if they're an offensive player, they've handled the football and they've had to catch it, run it, do something with the ball," Douglas said. "It's very important as a defensive back that you can play the ball in the air."