Pitt Panthers Positional Preview: Linebackers Look To Reload and Retool


Pitt ranked 33rd in the country in total defense last season, and the Panthers return 7 of 11 starters.

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One of the positions that took the biggest hit this off season is linebacker, as Todd Thomas and Anthony Gonzalez, last season’s top two tacklers , graduated.

This leaves a void in one of the most important defensive positions, since Thomas and Gonzalez displayed their speed and were all over the field last season.

Luckily, a defensive mastermind in new head coach Pat Narduzzi is now at the helm.

New Pitt linebackers coach Rob Harley, previously from FIU, will look to revamp and reload the linebacker position. Harley played safety at Ohio State from 2001-05 and was a part of the 2002 National Championship team.

I thought that Paul Chryst did a great job on the offensive side for Pitt, but the defense, albeit ranked 33rd, collapsed in several games down the stretch of the season.

As we have seen with the Pittsburgh Steelers, you have to have talented linebackers to put pressure on the quarterbacks and tackle in open field. Without a strong linebacking corps, offenses will target the middle of the defense.

Let’s take a look at the Pitt linebackers and see who will be competing for playing time this season:

A returning starter at middle linebacker is junior Matt Galambos (6-foot-2, 240 lbs), who was third on the team with 72 tackles and one interception last season.   He’ll arguably be the leader at the linebacker position. Fox Chapel sophomore Quintin Wirginis (6-foot-2, 240 lbs) will compete with Galambos for the starting position.

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  • Redshirt freshman walk-on Dom Cuono (6-foot-2, 235 lbs) is also involved at middle linebacker. Redshirt freshman James Folston (6-foot-3, 230 lbs) from Cocoa, Florida was also listed to compete at this position, but he has moved to defensive end.

    Senior Nicholas Grigsby (6-foot-1, 220 lbs) is the leading contender for Star linebacker, as he made 28 tackles and three sacks last season. He was a captain on the special teams unit last seasons. Senior Jameel Poteat (5-foot-10, 215 lbs) is a converted running back who will also fight for the starting spot. Sophomore walk-on Nico Lodovico (6-foot-1, 215 lbs) from Murrysville will back up this position.

    Junior Bam Bradley (6-foot-2, 230 lbs) will likely take over at the Money linebacker position, as he compiled 36 tackles, two sacks, and an interception. Junior Mike Caprara (6-foot-0, 230 lbs) from Turtle Creek and redshirt freshman Jamal Davis II (6-foot-2, 225 lbs) will compete for the position as well. Redshirt freshman walk-on Brian Popp (6-foot-0, 225 lbs) will also compete at this position.

    Newcomers from the Class of 2015 include the highly-talented Saleem Brightwell (6-foot-0, 195 lbs) from Paramus, New Jersey, and Anthony McKee (6-foot-2, 200 lbs) from Columbus, Ohio, who was deemed one of Ohio’s top defensive prospects. Both of these athletes will push the others for playing time, though the new staff may look to bulk these athletes up.

    How do you think the linebacker corps will perform this season?

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