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A Look At The Panthers

Photo by Robert Jordan/ Ole Miss Communications
Photo by Robert Jordan/ Ole Miss Communications

Scouting the Panthers: Secondary
By David Collier
David Collier is a junior broadcast journalism major in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at Ole Miss.
Email him at: dlcollie@go.olemiss.edu
As Ole Miss prepares for their battle against the Pittsburgh Panthers in the BBVA Compasss Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., on Jan. 5, let’s take a look at the Panthers’ defense, specifically the secondary.
This is the second part of a seven-part series where I will break down each position every Monday, Wednesday and Friday leading up to the game.
The Panthers are led in the secondary by their two starting safeties – Jason Hendricks and Jarred Holley.
Hendricks, a junior free safety, was named second team All-Big East this season and leads Pittsburgh in tackles with 73. The 6-foot, 180-pounder also has tallied five interceptions, three pass breakups and 1.5 tackles for a loss on the year.
Holley, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound strong safety, is second on the team in total tackles with 70, including one tackle for a loss. The senior has two interceptions this season as well to go along with four pass breakups and a fumble recovery.
Having your two safeties as your top two tacklers can mean different things. It could mean both Hendricks and Holley contribute a lot in rush defense, or it could mean the rest of the Panther defense was unable to bring the opposition to the ground consistently.
However, with only 1.5 sacks being credited to the secondary, it’s unlikely the safeties were playing close to the line of scrimmage very much.
Filling out the two-deep depth chart at safety is sophomore free safety Ray Vinopal and senior strong safety Andrew Taglianetti, who have totaled 13 and 34 tackles, respectively.
Freshman Lafayette Pitts and junior K’waun Williams are the two starters at corner for the Panthers, who are second in the Big East in pass defense – giving up just 196.8 yards per game through the air.
Pitts (who happens to have the perfect name for his school) was very good in pass coverage in his redshirt freshman season, tallying 32 total tackles, an interception and nine pass breakups. He also had a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
Williams had 44 tackles during the season, including 2.5 tackles for a loss. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder also had three interceptions and a pass breakup.
Sophomore Cullen Christian is listed as the backup at both corner spots, but he has only totaled 14 tackles and a pass breakup all season in 11 games of action.
From the looks of the numbers, Ole Miss should be able to have some success against the Panthers through the air if they can get one-on-one match ups. Just four of the 13 total interceptions for the Pittsburgh defense came from the cornerback spots, so if Bo Wallace can look the safeties off, he should have some windows to throw the ball.
On Monday, we will look at the Panthers’ offensive line.
Past Scouting the Panthers
Defensive Line/Linebackers:
Follow David on Twitter @DavidLCollier

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