Pitt football: Paris Ford opts out

Pitt football will be finishing up the season without star safety Paris Ford. Ford has been a huge part of the Pitt defense leading the team in interceptions and solo tackles when he opted out last week. It is unclear exactly why Ford opted out, but the possibility of being drafted as well as the Panthers’ recent struggles likely aided him in making this decision.

Ford has been popping up in the first round in a couple of mock drafts and so it is understandable he wants to avoid injury, so he doesn’t fall in the draft. It is also understandable that with the Panthers having dropped four games in a row that Ford found playing for the struggling team was not worth risking his health and possibly hurting his draft stock.

Losing Ford is going to impact the Pitt defense tremendously as it will not only be losing his production on the field but also the leadership he brings to the defense. Ford is a veteran player who has been through a lot with the team and helps to guide the defense.

Without Ford, the Panthers’ secondary will be a lot weaker, and the defense will be more reliant on its dominant defensive line. While Pitt has already been relying heavily on its defensive line to pressure the quarterback, it will now need even more production to make up for the loss of the best player in the secondary.

Luckily for the Panthers, the defensive line should be up to the task. The Pitt defense has racked up 38 sacks on the season and has essentially been living in the backfield of every opponent they have faced so far. With this kind of pressure, Pitt should be able to overcome the loss of one of the best safeties in the country, and the defense should still look as strong and dominant as it had previously.

Pitt is now counting on Brandon Hill to step up and take over for Ford. Hill is a redshirt freshman with little experience at the collegiate level. He played in just four games in 2019 and did not tally a single statistic in those games. This season Hill had appeared in seven games, picking up 13 tackles and forcing a fumble prior to his first start last weekend against Florida State.

Although Hill does not have nearly the experience that Ford does, he shined in his first collegiate start.

Hill managed seven tackles as well as an interception returned for a touchdown against the Seminoles on Saturday. This outstanding performance earned him recognition as ACC defensive back of the week. Coming off of this great performance, Hill will now have a chance to build on it and prove he has what it takes to fill the void left by Ford’s decision to opt out.

It can’t be expected that Hill will play at the level that Ford was playing at, but if he can continue to make plays and perform at the level he did on Saturday it should be more than enough for the Panthers to find some success in the rest of the season.

Photo by Kaycee Orwig | The Pitt News