Over the past few years, Pitt's secondary has left much to be desired. Repeatedly burned for big pass plays, the unit has been a source of frustration.
That appears to be changing.
Todd Graham was expected to bring a fast-paced offense to Pitt. What wasn't expected was for him to bulid his strongest unit on defense. But that's exactly what's happening.
With the loss of Dom DeCicco (who played safety and linebacker last season) to graduation, an already-weak secondary looked to be in serious trouble. And while the unit may struggle again in 2011, the future is extremely bright for that group.
Graham first bolstered the secondary by signing prized four-star recruit Lafayette Pitts. Pitts, originally slated to become a Panther, jumped ship to Rutgers after the dismissal of Dave Wannstedt. But Graham pursued him and was able to make him switch his commitment on signing day. Then, in Spring practice, Graham made a move by declaring outstanding athlete Todd Thomas would play defense. It's still not a guarantee that he'll be in the secondary, but for now it looks as if he is.
Pitt then got some great news as former Michigan Wolverines safety Ray Vinopal and cornerback Cullen Christian decided to transfer to Pitt after Rich Rodriguez and his staff were ousted. Vinopal wasn't highly touted, but he did start some games as a true freshman, so he's got some ability. Christian also saw some time as a true freshman, and was a four-star recruit initially pursued by Michigan, Pitt, Ohio State, West Virginia, and about a dozen other schools. Neither will be eligible to suit up for Pitt in 2011 due to transfer rules, but they should be ready to go in 2012 - and with a full year of practice under their belts, they will be able contribute immediately.
Some may argue that because Vinopal and Christian were part of one of the worst Michigan defenses in school history that these aren't great pickups. But the fact is that both were true freshmen and Pitt is fortunate to have them. Very few first-year players can step in and make big impacts as starters.
So in 2012, Pitt should have Thomas, Pitts, Vinopal, Christian, Jared Holley, Buddy Jackson, Antwuan Reed, K'Waun Williams, Brandon Ifill, Andrew Taglianetti, and others competing for spots in the secondary. That's a boatload of talent and Graham can even afford to move one or two of those guys to other positions and still have a deep unit.
In only a few months, Graham has turned one of the team's weakest parts into one of its strongest.