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Shady Side Academy grad Briggs hopes to play key role for Pitt football

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Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Shady Side Academy's Dennis Briggs (3) scores a touchdown against Kittanning's Alek Schaffer (4) during the first half of the football game at Shady Side Academy in Fox Chapel on Friday, October 25, 2013.
Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Dennis Briggs spent the summer preparing for his freshman season playing football for the University of Pittsburgh.

On Monday, the Panthers began practice and the 2014 Shady Side Academy graduate was optimistic.

“I don't know if I'll be redshirted or not,” he said. “That decision probably won't be made until camp is done. I'll try my best. We have a lot of good running backs.”

Briggs, who played at 190 pounds in the SSA backfield last fall, is up to 195 and feels that his conditioning will be a plus at the college level.

“I've been working out a lot, and I don't think conditioning will be a problem,” Briggs said. “The biggest adjustment for me has been the difference in playbooks. At Shady Side Academy, our playbook wasn't too big. The Pitt playbook fills a whole binder.

“The coaches have the freshmen working out together and that helps. It's not overwhelming in the sense that we're not going up against the veterans. Physically and on a talent level, there's not that much of a difference between us and the older players, I believe. I think we match up well. But they know the system so well and know where they're supposed to be on every play. They are so far ahead of us in the mental aspects of the game.”

Briggs hasn't let himself be overwhelmed by learning the new system, he said.

“I've taught myself to be patient, be comfortable and be the best I can be,” said Briggs, who ran for 500 yards and five touchdowns as a senior in helping SSA to an 8-2 record last fall. “If the coaches decide to redshirt me, I will work that much harder to be a player that will help the team next year. I will work to be ready whenever my time comes. There were a couple of freshmen who were impact players last year, so it can be done.”

One of the highlights for Briggs will be reuniting with former SSA teammate Reggie Mitchell, who quarterbacked the Indians when Briggs was a freshman and sophomore.

“It's going to be good playing on the same team as Reggie again,” Briggs said. “I've known him since I was 8, and we grew up around the corner from each other. I'm glad he decided to transfer to Pitt (from Wisconsin).”

Pitt opens the season against Delaware at noon Aug. 30 at Heinz Field.

Marty Stewart is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-782-2123 or

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