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Pitt notebook: Tempers flare during passing drill

| Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, 3:57 p.m.

Most defensive backs lining up during Pitt training camp are young and in need of experience.

But it became clear Saturday that if they follow starting cornerback Trenton Coles' lead, they won't back down from a challenge.

As temperatures climbed into the 80s during a late-morning practice, tempers flared when Coles and wide receiver Dontez Ford exchanged shoves. The skirmish started after Coles held Ford during a passing drill.

Graduate assistant Hank Poteat and others quickly broke up the confrontation but not before Coles squatted into a boxer's stance, ready to fight.

Later, defensive backs coach Troy Douglas said he spoke to Coles, who ignited the atmosphere during practice with repeated trash talk.

Douglas said he likes the edge Coles brings to the game.

“I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing,” he said. “I try to coach with a little bit of an edge.

“You don't want it to get negative as far as creating penalties, but you have to let him be who he is. (I) get on him, but even that isn't going to help. He's going to be who he is.

“He's playing hard. I like his passion. Just as long as he doesn't cross the line.”

Coach Paul Chryst recognizes the line between toughness and actions that draw penalties.

“I love it that he's into it,” Chryst said “You still have to play the game. You have rules, and (Coles) knows that, and we are coaching it.”

Players and coaches were scheduled to return to the practice field Saturday night for the first scheduled two-a-day of the summer.

Keep an eye on Maddox

Douglas said last week he was eager to see how freshman cornerback Avonte Maddox, who is having a good camp, reacts when the team dons full gear.

“He's a competitor,” Douglas said after the second full-gear practice. “Probably, out and out, he might be our best (man-to-man) guy, but you have to do more than play man. He's got a chance.”

No worries about Boyd

Special teams coach Chris Haering said he doesn't have any worries about risking wide receiver Tyler Boyd — the team's best offensive weapon — on punt returns.

“We don't look at it that way, that he's going to get killed,” Haering said. “We look at it just like you would on offense. We've got good guys that are out there blocking the returns. So our hope is you don't get free runners and guys that are going to get blown up.

“Tyler is a special kid. He is excited to do it, too — 100 percent bought in.”

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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