Don't expect Matt House to single out anyone that's impressed him, or is definitely going to be a starter or first-team. It's a common theme we've seen with this coaching staff in the early goings—the idea to just straight-up talk about the group as a whole.
When you're the secondary coach, there's no shortage of things to talk about—even if you don't want to single out one player who's playing at an exceptional level, or one who isn't.
"I think everybody comes in on a clean slate when you come in as a new staff," House said. "There's a new defense to learn, there's new techniques. Everybody's on a clean slate, like I said before. It's a new start for everybody.
"It's fun because there's some experience there, but everyone starts on a clean slate in spring ball. That's the fun part about it. Everyone is competing right off the get-go."
And for some members of the secondary, it's a good thing. You have former Michigan players Cullen Christian and Ray Vinopal now eligibile to see the field in 2012, and both—based on the fact they've lined up with the first-team defense through the first three days of spring practice—with a good shot to do just that in the fall. Both saw the field in 2010 as true freshmen at Michigan, and both had to endure a full year of sitting out due to the transfer rule.
Vinopal looks forward to every little thing possible about being closer to playing an actual game. Something such as the first day of full pads in the spring is even a big deal after you've sat out a year.
"It's always an awesome feeling going out and knocking some heads around for the first day," Vinopal said. "Last year I played on the scout team and didn't get to go full speed as much and it was awesome just to cut loose today for the first time in a while."
Both players have had to endure some turmoil. They both obviously had to sit out a year, but then had to get on board with a new position coach in House. Christian said from the first time he met House, there was some simple principle to focus on in working for a new position coach.
"It's a real easy transition," Christian said. "I really like (House). We're on the same page. He works hard. I work hard. He expects a lot from me. I'm just trying to fulfill his expectations for him."
Also working in at that corner position is junior K'Waun Williams. Williams started all 13 games last year at corner, and was one of four true freshmen on the entire Pitt team to see the field in 2010, and already now one of Pitt's most experienced players on the defense. House also has redshirt freshman Lafayette Pitts and sophomore Lloyd Carrington. Pitts was one of the more heavily recruited players in the 2011 signing class, while Carrington played in seven games as a true freshman last year. Add Ryan Lewis and Jahmahl Pardner to the group when they get here in the fall.
"We got a lot of potential in that group, there's no question," House added. "It'll be interesting to see how they come along. There's a lot of competition which makes it fun. It's a good room overall ; a good group of guys."
Then, there's the safety position where in addition to Vinopal, House has three safeties in Jarred Holley, Andrew Taglianetti and Jason Hendricks who have a combined 54 starts between the three of them. Throw in an imposing redshirt freshman in Stephen Williams, and the addition of Bam Bradley, Deaysean Rippy and Trenton Coles when they're here for training camp.
Just based on that wide array of different skillsets and different physiques, you have to wonder what House likes in a prospective starter—smaller guys who are sure tackle and can cover, bigger safeties who might not have cover skills to be a corner but can hit, or maybe someone with good, raw coverage skills. It's actually none of these characteristics.
"We like playmakers," House said. "I think football players come in all shapes, sizes and forms. A good football player, I think you can't pigeon your hole to a certain size or a certain speed."
Outside of football, House said he and his family feel pretty well-received since moving to the Pittsburgh area. He says other than being on the sideline for a game with the Steelers when he was a defensive assistant with the Rams, he has no other ties to Pittsburgh.
"I've been through Pittsburgh, I coached against the Steelers on Christmas Eve; I got beat pretty good when I was with the Rams," House said. "Other than that, I've been through two times recruiting. That's about the extent of it. It's a football town. People are excited about it here. My family just moved here two weeks ago. It seems like a place that embraces football. Overall, people are pretty warm here. It's been awesome. It's been good."