Caragein on line to lead Panthers this season
No one doubts that senior nose tackle Myles Caragein is a good player and the anchor of Pitt's defensive line.
That's nice, but it's not enough.
"Every day he goes out there, the standard we are holding him to is the highest on the team," coach Todd Graham said.
Caragein enters his fifth season at Pitt no longer looking up to older players. He said he learned a lot from defensive linemen Greg Romeus, Jabaal Sheard, Mick Williams and Gus Mustakas, but they are gone and Caragein is bold enough to forge his own name.
When young linemen Aaron Donald or K.K. Mosley-Smith have a question or miss an assignment, Caragein is there with an answer or encouraging nudge.
"Myles has emerged as the guy all the kids respect," Graham said.
It starts with the most basic of activities. When Caragein runs onto the field, he wants to do it better than anyone. Graham says it best: "The way you do anything is the way you do everything."
"I try to be the first on the field," Caragein said.
When he arrives, he takes responsibility for everything — whether it's relaying calls and alignments from the sideline or keeping everyone focused.
"I try to get on them a little bit and try to motivate them and get the best out of them," he said. "(Coaches) are on me every day, telling me to keep going, keep pushing, keep leading the team."
Caragein, who played at Keystone Oaks with Pitt's starting left guard, Chris Jacobson, insists his leadership style is more through example than words. Although he admits, "It's a little vocal."
"If you aren't running to the ball like you are supposed to," said Donald, a sophomore starting end, "he is going to let you know."
Caragein is shouldering a massive responsibility as the leader of the defensive line, which is probably the deepest spot on the team. After starters Caragein, Donald and Chas Alecxih, the list of capable, trusted linemen includes Justin Hargrove, Mosley-Smith, T.J. Clemmings and Tyrone Ezell, a redshirt sophomore from Steel Valley.
Mosley-Smith, a freshman from Woodland Hills who was in camp last year before going to a prep school, said he has watched Caragein become a leader and is trying to do the same with his young classmates. He said he considers himself "the leader of the freshmen."
"It's just taking them under your wing and showing them what the coaches want," he said.
In time, Mosley-Smith hopes to fill Caragein's massive shoes and become a team leader.
"I am sure I will follow a little bit in his footsteps," he said, "and make a name for myself."