It would be so tempting to be sidetracked. PSU fighting itself and maybe the NCAA. Fraud Graham still spinning. So easy. So much fun. No! There are practices. There is actual sport. Must. Stay. Focused.
Let’s start at the defensive end. The questions are about the player behind him and the other side. From a star-recruiting ranking perspective it seems loaded with Shayne Hale, T.J. Clemmings and Bryan Murphy. Reality is something else. Hale has never progressed from potential no matter the position. Clemmings seems to have endless questions about his desire. Murphy just has problems getting on the field. So, Tyrone Ezell is moving to the DE spot, while LaQuentin Smith is competing at linebacker. Zeise tips the hand of why Ezell has moved when he puts it in terms of “ moving into the mix has thrown a little bit of fire into this competition.”
Ezell might win the other starting spot simply because he wants and will work harder for it. That’s a little frustrating, but it is taking place early. Chryst and DC Huxtable are wasting no time trying to make sure that even when there are issues of depth there is is a sense of urgency and competition.
As Reed hit on earlier today, K.K. Smith has been adding more mass to his frame and now competing at the defensive tackle spot to play alongside Aaron Donald. Again, the lack of depth behind them, is more than a little worrying. There’s Jack Lippert, Terrell Jackson, and…? An injury here would be very, very difficult to handle.
Linebacking could be a strength once they figure out the order. Right now it is a question mark. The optimism around Dan Mason has given way to much more concern. I have no doubt that Mason would play if they let him. He might even still have an impact. The coaches, however, actually seem to care about the rest of his life and mobility. So, inspiring as it is, he is not in the picture at the moment.
It’s not like it is two-deep strong at all three spots, but it is a solid, athletic looking group of Ejuan Price, Todd Thomas, Nicholas Grigsby, Shane Gordon and Eric Williams. Price and Thomas are coming off injury/surgery from the spring so there is some concern about how healthy they really are.
The only areas where there is depth and healthy (in every sense of the word) competition is with the defensive backs. Safeties and cornerbacks look solid. Two spots are set with a definitel incumbent starter — Jarred Holley at strong safety and K’Wuan Williams at cornerback. Here there is depth, quality and competition for backing up the two starters and grabbing the starting spot in the free safety and other corner spot. That’s good, because the linebackers almost have to play close to the line this year to help the D-line
The scary thing about Pitt on defense (really, both sides of the ball, but I’m trying to stick with one side) is that there is a lack of quality depth. Yes, the hits taken to the recruiting classes with the coaching chaos play a role, but the reality is Pitt only lost only one recruit that would really help on the D-line: DT Marquise Wright (Rutgers). Guys like Terrell Chestnut (S), Quinton Alston (LB) wouldn’t provide the help needed on the line. But the fact that there are so many players with big questions after 2 to 3 years, says that this problem would be here regardless of the chaos.