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August 12, 2013Trenton Coles always sees familiar faces on the field.
As one of five players from Clairton High School on the current Pitt roster, Coles has stood across the line from high school teammates Kevin Weatherspoon and Tyler Boyd throughout the first week of camp. And in his mind, there's no doubt about who's getting the upper hand.
"Me, 'Spoon and Tyler," Coles said with a smile. "I'm getting them right now."
While it may not be that clear cut, the redshirt freshman definitely isn't wrong.
Coles impressed during the first week of fall camp while getting extended action on in defensive sub-packages. He is excited to contribute during this season, and he's ready to make his mark on the defense.
Coles currently serves as the first-team nickel back. On passing downs, he enters the game at cornerback on the field side, which bumps K'Waun Williams over the slot receiver. He should be a regular presence this season as these packages will be important facing several wide-open spread teams in the ACC.
Cole said he's very comfortable with his new role, and it has shown through his early performance. A long 6'3" 175, he is using his length to be physical with receivers while also displaying good instincts of getting to the ball.
Almost every practice so far, Coles has made breaks on the receiver to separate ball from man. Especially during the first padded practice, Coles showed he doesn't shy away from contact.
"As long as I'm making plays, I'm confident," he said. "Whenever I'm giving up a lot of stuff, I kind of get down on myself, but as a corner, you have to have a short memory. I just get back and do it again."
Head coach Paul Chryst added about Coles: "He's shown that he can make plays. The next evolution of growth for him is doing that consistently. If he can make plays and do it consistently, then he'll show that he's ready to go play. For everybody it's an important camp, but certainly for guys like that coming off a redshirt year it's a chance to truly compete for a role."
Coles got a slow start to his college career. After suffering a knee injury in the state championship game his senior year, Coles aggravated his hamstring prior to 2012's fall camp and missed almost half the workouts.
This spring, he finally got his first true taste of college action, but he felt in over his head at times while adjusting to the college game.
"I'm comfortable now because last year I was thinking too much," he said. "I didn't really know the plays. I'm studying more and just learning the system. I'm just playing. I'm not thinking now. That's why I'm doing better."
"Spring, again, I didn't really know the plays. I was always thinking too much, always thinking. Whenever you think, you can't play fast. I got with K'Waun (Williams), Laf (Lafayette Pitts) and Coach (Hank) Poteat. They're really helping me right now, so that's a plus."
Coles also used the off-season to add weight to his thin frame. After arriving at college at only 158 pounds, he's used four meals a day to become 175 pounds.
"The ultimate goal, I want to be about 187," he said. "That's a good weight for me I believe, at my position, my height."
During training camp this year, the coaches have implored him to continue learning the defensive system and strive for consistency through his play. More than anything, the coaches want Coles to compete, and that message is being received.
"My goals coming into training camp, I want to get on everything I can get on, special teams, everything," Coles said. "I eventually want to become starter at corner, so that's my goal right now. I have to compete."