Inexperienced LB corps full of talent, speed
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Pitt's linebackers lack experience, but they make up for it with athleticism and speed.
"I think there is a pool of guys who have a chance to be pretty good players," coach Paul Chryst said. "I'm anxious to watch the film and see if they can do it consistently. I think the group, they are working, and we do have some guys who, if they keep working and growing, they might be fun to watch."
The key to the group is the health of outside linebackers Ejuan Price, a sophomore, and redshirt sophomore Todd Thomas, who are both recovering from major offseason surgery (Thomas, ACL and Price, pectoral). If both are healthy, the group's depth will be good, too.
Both players are in camp and working their way back, although Thomas was given the day off Wednesday to rest. Both figure to compete for starting jobs.
Price said he believes the unit has a chance to be great.
"We have a lot of talent, but like Coach stressed at the end of practice, we need to be more disciplined," he said. "I think we can be one of the best units out there. We all get to the ball, it is just as far as knowing our alignments and the little things like that because we are definitely athletic. We just need to get in the playbook more."
"And for me coming back, I am looking at the long run. I am not going to try and rush back and injure it even more."
Beyond Price and Thomas, who primarily have worked with the second team at outside linebacker, the two-deep includes first-team middle linebacker Shane Gordon, a redshirt junior; and outside linebackers Eric Williams, a redshirt sophomore; and redshirt freshman Nicholas Grigsby.
Fifth-year senior Joe Trebitz has worked as a backup middle linebacker and, although he has appeared in 29 games, it has been mostly as a special teams player.
Those six players have combined for 14 career starts and nine of those were made by Thomas (six) and Price (three).
Linebackers coach Chris Haering said his unit is understanding more about the defense each day but the knowledge has not caught up to the talent.
"I mean there are some different things we are going to ask each one of them to do, but overall we are looking for the best group," Haering said. "These guys are all competing for jobs right now. [Ejuan and Todd] are working hard in camp, and they have given us good effort so far. We're excited about both of those guys and the rest of them learning the defense and going out and playing."
Because it is the least experienced unit on defense, it was thought to be the area of most concern. Price does not agree with that.
"We have a good group, we want to be good," Price said. "I think that is the key, coaches were on us pretty good to make sure we learn what we are supposed to do. We're going to get better every day."
NOTES -- Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Tom Ricketts is out for the season and will need shoulder surgery. ... Tailback Ray Graham (ACL), Thomas (ACL) and receiver Demetrius Davis (knee) were given the day off to rest Tuesday, and Chryst said it was just trying to be smart with them . He said all three are still on track and will return tomorrow. "Ray, Todd and Demetrius Davis, we wanted to get them two good workouts in, and they got a good workout in off the field and go back tomorrow," Chryst said. ...Chryst said freshman offensive tackle Adam Bisnowaty (Fox Chapel) will have an opportunity to compete for playing time. ... Blackhawk junior quarterback Chandler Kincade, who has already committed to the Panthers, attended practice.