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July 25, 2013

A day after being named to the preseason All-Atlantic Coast Conference team, Pitt senior safety Jason Hendricks spoke with the media on Thursday afternoon about the honor and his thoughts on the upcoming season.

Hendricks (Brooklyn, N.Y./Hudson Catholic [N.J.]) led the Panthers with 90 tackles and six interceptions to earn All-Big East honors last season, but he said he doesn’t pay too much attention to individual recognition.

“I really don’t get into all that,” Hendricks said. “I just play football and do the best I can for the team.”

The veteran defender played a key role in helping Pitt’s secondary finish in the top 20 nationally last season in pass defense (194.15 yards/game), and he’s excited about what the experienced unit can accomplish this year.

“I think we’ll be pretty strong,” Hendricks said. “We’ve got three returning starters from last year, and we’ve got Ray Vinopal (Youngstown, Ohio/Cardinal Mooney) coming in at strong [safety]. I’ve very excited about the secondary.”

With K’Waun Williams (Paterson, N.J./St. Joseph Regional) and Lafayette Pitts (Duquesne, Pa./Woodland Hills) returning as the starting cornerbacks, Hendricks hopes the secondary, which helped create 15 interceptions last season, can force even more turnovers in 2013 to get the offense more possessions.

“We started off slow last year with creating turnovers, so we need to do a better job with that,” Hendricks said when asked what the defense can do to improve this year. “We need to be a collective unit – everybody running to the ball, 11 hats pursuing the ball. We’ve all got to believe in each other.”

Hendricks admitted he was surprised that Pitt senior defensive lineman Aaron Donald (Pittsburgh, Pa./Penn Hills) didn’t join him in being selected to the preseason All-ACC team.

“I think he’s one of the best defensive linemen in the country, and I think he’ll show that this year,” he said of Donald. “He makes our job [in the secondary] much easier.”

Hendricks admitted with a laugh that he was surprised to finish last year with six interceptions, the most by any Pitt defender since 2000. The playmaking safety is confident he can be an even better player during his senior season.

“It’s about being in the right place at the right time,” he said. “It takes a lot of film study and I try to make myself a better player every year.”

Preseason All-ACC Selection Jason Hendricks Eyes Individual, Team Improvement

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