Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Maddox Focuses on Huge Challenge

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Maddox Focuses on Huge Challenge

Article excerpt

As his senior cornerback walked onto the practice field Thursday morning, Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi noticed Avonte Maddox seemed a little grumpy.

"Hey, what's up, you all right?" Narduzzi asked him.

"I'm just focused," Maddox replied.

Yeah, it's that kind of week for the 5-foot-9 team captain who is one of Pitt's shortest players, but one of its biggest competitors.

Not to say Maddox isn't locked in every day, but this upcoming matchup is a little extra special. At noon Saturday at Heinz Field, he'll get a rematch with No. 9-ranked Oklahoma State's star senior receiver, James Washington, a 6-0, 205-pound preseason All-American who might just be the first wideout picked in the next NFL draft.

"James Washington is a different animal," Narduzzi said Monday, something the Panthers found out the hard way in-person a year ago when Washington dropped 9 catches, 296 yards and two touchdowns on them in a 45-38 win in Stillwater, Okla.

You might consider yourself fortunate to put up numbers like that on Xbox. Now, it likely will be Maddox's task to make sure Heinz Field doesn't become Washington's big-play station.

"He can high-point the ball, he can grab it, snatch it from you," Maddox said. "Their quarterback puts it in a great spot to where it's hard for corners to get it, and he makes it difficult for a corner to get it, as well. He has great hands and can grab it out the air."

Indeed, Washington is only half the problem. Quarterback Mason Rudolph could be a first-round draft pick himself, and Narduzzi described Rudolph's deep ball as a high, looping throw that almost comes down "like a punt" to let his receivers run under it.

Washington's landing might seem like an impossible battle for Maddox to win, but he maintains that it all starts at the line of scrimmage. If he can first win that fight, then Washington will have a tougher time getting open downfield. …

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