Pitt making transition from 4-3 to 3-4
Share with others:
No current Pitt assistant coach is benefiting more from former coach Dave Wannstedt's oft-lauded recruiting than Paul Randolph.
"You see me smiling," said Randolph, the defensive line coach.
He particularly is impressed with sophomore Aaron Donald and freshman Khaynin Mosley-Smith, who have been so good this spring that head coach Todd Graham has nicknamed them "prodigy one" and "prodigy two."
While the other defensive position coaches struggle with a lack of depth, the depth and talent Wannstedt left him has made Randolph's spring exciting. Mosley-Smith and Donald are two of the best examples.
"Those two are extremely talented young men," Randolph said. "But that isn't the best thing about them. The best thing about them is they are very smart, they always have a smile on their face and they work their tails off every single day. I'm truly excited about both."
"I love the depth that we have here, too. I mean, I come in and I inherit four seniors, so we have leadership there, and the guys who were here, got some playing experience, even though they were young. So, we have guys who have Big East experience, and that is hard to beat."
The defensive line is certainly deep, especially since the Panthers are making the transition from a four-man front to a three-man front. The top eight have game experience.
Donald, a Penn Hills High School graduate, has moved from tackle to end, and Mosley-Smith will compete at the two interior positions along with returning senior starters Chas Alecxih and Myles Caragein.
"It is different, but it is the same," Donald said of his new role and the new defense. "I'm going to have to rush the passer more, but, last year [under Greg Gattuso], we were all expected to get off the line and get after the quarterback. So, it is more just the angle I'm taking and stuff like that."
Randolph said Donald and Mosley-Smith are going to play all three positions at different times, and that's a testament to their versatility and combination of size, strength and quickness.
"You need to be a little more athletic the further away from the ball you are, and the closer to the ball you are, the tougher you need to be," Randolph said. "[Mosley-Smith] and Aaron are both extremely tough and extremely quick."
Redshirt sophomore Tyrone Ezell will join that group in the interior while senior Justin Hargrove, junior Shayne Hale and sophomore T.J. Clemmings will battle Donald for playing time.
The other end will be standing, as opposed to having his hand on the ground. That position is called "Panther," and it is named after Hugh Green, one of the greatest college players to play such a position. While it is technically listed as end, the position is cross between end and outside linebacker.
That means Brandon Lindsey and Bryan Murphy, who worked with the line last year, work with the linebackers most of practice. Joining them in that battle is sophomore Carl Fleming, an outside linebacker last year.
Randolph said the Panther position likely is a little different than what Murphy and Lindsey are used to, but it shouldn't be a big change for them because they still have many of the responsibilities of a traditional end.
"You know, Murphy and Lindsey have probably stood up at some point in their career, so it is more of a natural thing for them than you think," Randolph said.
"And, really, with all three of them, we can still put their hand in the dirt if we want or need to, and they'd be fine. They are adjusting well to it."
Mosley-Smith, from Woodland Hills, did not play for Pitt last season after going through training camp because he had to go to prep school. He said the transition from the 4-3 to 3-4 has been easy for defensive linemen because so many of Wannstedt's philosophies are shared by the new staff.
"Really, they want us to get off the ball quick and make plays," Mosley-Smith said. "That's what we did last year, we're just in a little different formation. But we're still going after the quarterback and we're still getting up the field."
First Published March 25, 2011 12:00 am