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Pitt defensive back Coles ready to show he belongs with starters

| Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, 9:27 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt cornerback Trenton Coles goes through drills during practice Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, on Pittsburgh's South Side.

Cornerback Trenton Coles is tall and fast, natural gifts that spring from a source much higher than Pitt secondary coach Troy Douglas.

Douglas, however, also has a job to do in the nurturing and harnessing of Coles' talent, and how that turns out will have a significant effect on the season's outcome.

Pitt is in the ACC.

ACC teams love to throw the football.

Pitt needs to learn how to stop them, and Coles will be in the teeth of that quest. He would have competed for a starting cornerback job in any case, but the suspension of Titus Howard, a teammate from Clairton, accelerates the urgency of the situation.

So far, Douglas likes what he sees from Coles, a redshirt sophomore.

“You draw up an NFL cornerback and that's what they are supposed to look like,” Douglas said of the 6-foot-3, 175-pound Coles, who was a Pennsylvania sprint champion in high school. “He's long and fast.

“Teaching him the game, that's my job. The other stuff you can't coach, 6-3 and 4.3 (seconds), or whatever he runs. The game is where he has to learn. That's what's going to get him on the field.”

Speaking of getting on the field, no one seemed more energized by the first two days of training camp than Coles, who bounded out of the locker room Monday, clapping his hands and shouting, “All right, everyone's here.”

Defensive coordinator Matt House noticed.

“He has a little pep in his step,” House said.

Half of the Pitt secondary is in a state of flux after K'Waun Williams and Jason Hendricks, longtime starters, exhausted their eligibility.

Redshirt junior cornerback Lafayette Pitts and senior free safety Ray Vinopal are back, but Terrish Webb of Clairton and Wisconsin transfer Reggie Mitchell of Shady Side Academy are competing at strong safety.

Coles hopes to prove to the coaches that he belongs among them.

“This is a big opportunity, but I'm ready for it,” Coles said, just in case anyone was questioning him. “I've been playing this game all my life. This is something I want. I'm going to make it happen.”

Douglas described Coles as “fearless.”

“He probably made as many plays on the ball as anybody, but he got beat as much as anybody. Those are things we have to cut back on, but we have to get him to continue to make plays on the ball.”

That has been Douglas' rallying cry since he was hired prior to spring drills: attack the football.

“The thing with (Coles) and Lafayette is chasing the ball and playing hard through the whistle,” he said. “We have to get these guys chasing the ball. If we chase the ball, then we have a chance on defense.”

Coles is sold.

“The ball is the issue,” he said. “That's money floating around.”

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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