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Pitt football position battles to watch

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt head coach Paul Chryst during practice Tuesday, April 8, 2014 on Pittsburgh's South Side.

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Position battles

1. Strong safety: Sophomore Terrish Webb played in every game last season and started in a five-DB alignment in the victory against Bowling Green in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. But he needs to fight off Wisconsin transfer Reggie Mitchell, a Shady Side Academy graduate who progressed well in the past year. Mitchell also could move to cornerback where the numbers are thin after the season-long suspension of Titus Howard.

2. Third wide receiver: Tyler Boyd and Manasseh Garner are the starters, but several players are competing to become the first pass catcher off the bench. They are led by freshman Adonis Jennings, whose size (6-3, 195) increases his value in the red zone. Freshman performances are unpredictable, so coaches also will closely watch senior Kevin Weatherspoon, junior Ronald Jones, sophomores Chris Wuestner and Dontez Ford and redshirt freshman Zach Challingsworth.

3. Tight end: This isn't a position where there will be a loser, because Chryst will use junior J.P. Holtz and sophomore Scott Orndoff almost equally. At 6-5, 260, Orndoff is an intriguing red-zone target. He caught only six passes last season, but two of them were touchdowns before he missed the final four games with a knee injury.

Newcomer to watch: Running back Chris James, who ran for 4,220 yards in three seasons at Notre Dame (Ill.) College Prep, brings impressive credentials to a coaching staff unafraid to use deserving freshmen. If James is ready, coach Paul Chryst will have the depth at running back that his offense demands.

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