Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pitt Dbs Ready for Big Stanford Weapon Cardinal Wide Receiver Arcega-Whiteside May Be First-Round NFL Pick

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pitt Dbs Ready for Big Stanford Weapon Cardinal Wide Receiver Arcega-Whiteside May Be First-Round NFL Pick

Article excerpt

EL PASO, Texas - Pitt cornerback Jason Pinnock is looking forward to yet another "big" opportunity.

It could be his biggest yet - maybe not literally, but figuratively - when he and the Pitt defense line up Monday against Stanford in the Sun Bowl. For Pinnock, he expects to be opposite JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford's 6-foot-3, 225-pound redshirt junior receiver who also happens to be the most highly touted NFL prospect the Cardinal brought to West Texas.

"I'm from Connecticut, a small town, and an opportunity like this, that's what I pray for," Pinnock said. "So I'm excited, I'm ready to go, ready to do it."

A projected first-round talent by multiple outlets, Arcega-Whiteside's numbers are impressive, regardless of whether you want to go traditional or newfangled statistics. He has 60 catches for 969 yards and 14 touchdowns, but he missed one game with an ankle injury. That's an average of 16.2 yards per reception, and he enters the Sun Bowl with back-to-back games over 100 yards receiving.

According to Pro Football Focus, Arcega-Whiteside has the highest catch rate on deep passes among all Football Bowl Subdivision receivers at 61.5 percent. Next highest, at 55.2 percent, is Syracuse's Jamal Custis, whom Pitt - and Pinnock - held to three grabs for 70 yards in a 44-37 overtime win for the Panthers in October.

"The challenge to playing the Pitt defense, obviously, is that they have a system that they believe in, and they play it extremely well. They play it very hard," said Stanford offensive coordinator Tavita Pritchard. "They know that system inside and out. I wouldn't even say its what they've done against certain guys, necessarily, but just in how they play, generally. The two corners outside are phenomenal players. They really do a good job of coming down and challenging you."

That's what gives the Panthers some assurance they can at least contain Arcega-Whiteside, who leads the Pac-12 Conference with a 132.4 passer rating when targeted, also per Pro Football Focus. They don't have to spend all week trying to focus on being extra physical with him, because that's their baseline approach defensively. …

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