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Pitt notebook: Freshmen figure to play integral role again

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Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, 7:57 p.m.

Pitt's repeated use of freshmen last season led to eight sophomores ascending to the top of the depth chart this year.

Perhaps the same will happen in 2015. Coach Paul Chryst said Monday he will have nine freshmen ready to play when the season opens Saturday.

Chryst said five freshmen will play against Delaware — cornerback Avonte Maddox, free safety Patrick Amara, outside linebacker Quintin Wirginis, defensive end Rori Blair and running back Chris James.

He also identified four others as players “we are going to make sure are ready, but a little bit of a wait-and-see.” They include running back Qadree Ollison, offensive tackle Alex Bookser, wide receiver Adonis Jennings and quarterback Chad Bertke.

Jennings' progress

Jennings was one of Pitt's most highly touted recruits, but he remains behind older backups Ronald Jones and Kevin Weatherspoon.

“I liked a lot of what he's done,” Chryst said. “But (it's) a matter of making sure he truly understands all that he has to do.”

James: Different style

James (5-foot-11, 210 pounds) may play ahead of Ollison (6-2, 215), but behind running backs James Conner and Isaac Bennett.

“Both he and Qadree came in with the the great intentions of diving in and learning it. Both have done that,” Chryst said. “Chris (5-foot-11, 210 pounds) gives us a little bit of a different style back, (compared to) Isaac and James.”

Voytik improving

Chryst said quarterback Chad Voytik has become more comfortable with his position since the start of camp.

“You are starting to see the timing between he (and the pass catchers),” Chryst said. “He has done a great job of being in the moments. Not that everything has gone perfect in camp, but he has learned from them and I'm excited to see him play.”

Chryst said he hopes to redshirt Bertke, whose entry into a game would be injury-related. He is third on the depth chart behind Voytik and junior Trey Anderson.

'Freeze linebacker'

Junior linebacker Nicholas 'Freeze' Grigsby has played so well in camp that Chryst named a position after him.

Grigsby, 6-1, 220, will be the ‘Freeze' linebacker, entering the game in passing situations and lining up in multiple areas of the defense.

“It's a unique skill set he has,” Chryst said. “He did really have a good camp. He's earned it.”


The game will not be televised in a traditional manner, but will be available on the computer on ESPN3.

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

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