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Pitt cornerback likes Panthers' change to press coverage

| Friday, April 4, 2014, 9:41 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
PItt cornerback Lafayette Pitts during practice on Pittsburgh's South Side on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013.

Pitt junior cornerback Lafayette Pitts has much to prove after an unremarkable sophomore season, but he appears well eqiupped for the job.

So far, he is sporting:

• A bigger upper body on a 5-foot-11, 196-pound frame after a winter of conditioning.

• A new work ethic that he said regularly sends him into the film room.

• A style of play that Pitt secondary coach Troy Douglas approvingly calls “swagger.”

Mixing it all together is Douglas, who doesn't care if you broke up with your girlfriend or you have term paper due next week.

“You still have to cover. You still have to stay on top of the routes,” he said.

Douglas is preaching press coverage, a new concept for Pitt this season that suits the talents of the team's tall, athletic defensive backs and meshes nicely with Pitts' personality.

Pitts likes nothing more than abruptly throwing receivers off their designed paths. Subtle is not his style.

The new scheme involves cornerbacks getting into the face of the wide receivers as soon as they jump off the line of scrimmage.

“I like press,” Pitts said, “because the receiver knows he has to deal with you at the beginning of the play.”

There's more to good secondary play, however, than trying to intimidate receivers. Pitts admits he's more focused this year, watching more film and playing “with a chip on my shoulder because I didn't have the season I wanted to last year, individually.”

Specifically, he played 13 games without an interception.

Pitts, a Woodland Hills graduate, also said he is “taking coaching better.” Douglas, hired this year as the first full-time coach on Paul Chryst's staff to focus solely on defensive backs, emphasizes attacking the football to create turnovers. The Panthers intercepted only eight of 386 opponent pass attempts last season.

“I've got to get him to play with his eyes better,” Douglas said of Pitts. “He has so much talent. The young man can run.”

And don't forget that attitude.

“He's got some swagger to him, no doubt,” Douglas said. “You have to have that, and a short memory, too.”

Reminded of Douglas' remarks, Pitts smiled and said, “If you're not having fun, you'll be out there bored a little bit.”

Yet, Pitts has a serious side, and he'll show it every day in his new jersey number (6).

Pitts changed from 23, but not because he shared it with freshman wide receiver Tyler Boyd. In fact, 6 is the number Pitts wore in Little League when he played with his cousin Charles Davis, who died in a shooting in Duquesne in 2012.

“I changed my number to dedicate it to my cousin,” he said.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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