For lack of a better term, Terrish Webb is the forgotten Bear.
Webb was one of three players in Pitt's 2013 recruiting class to come from Clairton, along with receiver Tyler Boyd and cornerback Titus Howard. Nicknamed the "Killer T's" by some, Webb was the least talked about entering the season; no one expected him to play or make an impact, at least not this early in his career.
Webb took exception to that.
"I definitely had a chip on my shoulder," Webb said. "I wanted to prove to people that even though we were coming as a group, we were still individuals fighting for our own spot, fighting for our own name. I definitely had a chip."
Last season, he had a chip. This season, he could have a starting job.
The sophomore-to-be has owned the starting strong safety spot through the first 10 practices this spring and he has an opportunity to be the starter this fall. After coming in with little fanfare surrounding his recruitment, Webb is grateful to have the opportunity.
"It's a big difference," Webb said of this spring compared to entering school last fall. "Now, I have a leadership role. I kind of took the place of where Jason Hendricks was last year. But I feel, with my experience last year, I feel more comfortable playing spring ball."
Webb was the last of the Clairton trio to get an offer from Pitt. Howard committed in the summer, while Boyd received his offer as a junior before making his final decision on Signing Day. Webb was offered following an outstanding performance during the WPIAL championships in November.
Although not much was expected, Webb quickly earned a backup safety role last August and saw playing time as a freshman. He played in all 13 games and made his first career start during Pitt's bowl game. He finished that contest with a career-high six tackles and made a pass breakup. On the 2013 season, Webb made 18 tackles, broke up one pass and recovered a fumble.
It was important for Webb to play as a freshman.
"Getting the jitters out, them freshman jitters," Webb said with a smile. "Now I feel more comfortable on the field. I don't think about it. I just play."
Webb, who also earned ACC All-Academic team honors, has served as the starting strong safety the entire spring, although he is being pushed by Wisconsin transfer Reggie Mitchell. Webb has been a solid presence for the defense this spring, consistently being in position and not allowing big plays.
Webb is looking to fill the void left from the graduation of Jason Hendricks, a solid playmaker and four-year contributor for the Panthers. But Webb credited Hendricks with a lot of his development over the past year. He said Hendricks helped him understand the defense to a better level, not just knowing the safety's job but also where his help is coming from and what the other 10 guys are doing. With the help from Hendricks and working at the playbook, Webb said he's not thinking as much on the field but just reacting and using his athleticism to diagnose plays.
Webb knows the impact Hendricks had on Pitt's defense, and he wants to make sure there's no drop-off.
"It's definitely some big shoes to fill," Webb said, "but he showed me all the ropes last year, so I kind of have an advantage over other safeties. He showed me a lot - what to key on, some of the little things, and footwork. He helped me a lot last year."
Webb isn't the only Clairton player looking to make an increased impact this season. Howard is also fighting for a starting spot at cornerback, competing with another former Clairton Bear Trenton Coles for the job. Webb has a lot of pride in former Clairton players having an opportunity to make an impact in the secondary.
"It would mean a lot," he said. "Coming from where I'm from, even people on the team down-talk Single A and how it's no competition; with two out of four people starting in the secondary, we would show them that we actually do have some athletes coming from there. Just because we're small, it doesn't mean anything."
Webb has carried that chip to Pitt and played with it all last season, and he still thinks about it. However, that's not his focus this year.
"It's definitely important, but I don't think about it too much," Webb said. "I'm just trying to help the team."
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