For Andrew Taglianetti, things were looking up at this time last year. He won the starting free safety spot from Elijah Fields, and started the first two games. Then, in that second game, he went down with a knee injury, and was lost for the year. Earlier in that second game, against Buffalo, Taglianetti recovered a fumble on a kickoff, that led to a Pitt extending an early 14-0 lead, showing the kind of impact he can make.
Jared Holley came in, was moved from corner to safety, and eventually started the final eight games at free safety. He tied Dom DeCicco for the team-lead with three interceptions.
Sure, Taglianetti wants to win that starting job again. Every player wants to start. For him, the most important thing on his mind, is just getting back into football shape. So far, things are right on schedule.
"The football cutting, backpedaling, beginning in the summer, at first, it would hurt in my knee, and with the meniscus, there was a lot of pressure," Taglianetti said. "It would just hurt a little bit, but now, the pain has gone away. Cutting feels almost natural again."
As summer conditioning went along, so did his knee.
"I never had to sit out because of pain or anything," Taglianettis said. "There was never any pain, or anything."
So far, it's been Jared Holley--who not only started in 2009, but also had the advantage of participating in the spring drills--working with the first group at safety.
"I'm not really too worried about it," Taglianetti said. "The one thing I need to focus on, is just trying to prove myself to the coaches again. I had to prove it, my freshman year. I had to prove it last year, to try to earn a starting spot. My knee's fine, and I can be out there and play.
"Unfortunately, there's just two spots, two safety spots, and there's three of us. It's going to be tough. I wouldn't say it's a position battle. We'll be competing against each other. I'm going to push myself, to try to start, and if I give it my all, then we'll see what happens."
Holley is not letting himself buy into the theory that the job is his.
"Every camp, it's a clean slate," Holley said. "Everybody is trying to earn their job. The coaches will decide who's going to play. We'll see where that takes us."
Holley also did not rule out a possibility of returning to the corner position, if need be.
"For now, yes," Holley said, when asked if he was at safety for good.
Antwuan Reed looks to have a sure hold on one of the starting corner spots. If neither Ricky Gary or Saheed Imoru can wrap up the other corner spot, maybe Holley gets a look at corner again. All of this hinges, if Taglianetti can continue to push Holley at safety, and prove the knee is back to full strength--something we might not know until full pads go on.
One thing that Holley and Taglianetti both know, is that regardless of who starts, the defense needs both players to contribute because of its various defensive packages. After these guys, there are redshirt freshmen Kolby Gray and Jason Hendricks behind them.
"We're just a bunch of hard-working guys," Holley said. "The big for us, is we're good at communicating. The more we communicate, the better off we'll be this year."