Pitt's defense warms to challenge
By Jerry DiPaola
Published: Monday, Aug. 26, 2013, 11:16 p.m.
The combination of high humidity and Florida State's speed could lead Pitt's defense straight into a dark state it hopes to avoid: Exhaustion.
Fortunately, defensive coordinator Matt House decided to do something about it in the cold days of winter when he was hired. House said he needed to develop depth, and because of that, fatigue may not be a great factor in Pitt's ACC opener Monday night at Heinz Field.
“I can see playing with 20 guys on defense,” senior middle linebacker Shane Gordon said. “If guys are tired, we are going to have guys who are ready to go.”
Pitt's two-deep defensive depth chart looks like an interesting combination of seniors (six) and freshmen (eight, including redshirts). Mix in pass-rush specialist Ejuan Price at defensive end and former safeties Anthony Gonzalez and Bam Bradley at linebacker, and Pitt might have some players to counter Florida State's speed.
“We have some guys we feel can run pretty well,” coach Paul Chryst said.
Seven starters return, plus junior outside linebacker Todd Thomas, who is Gonzalez's backup after starting 13 games over the past two seasons.
The secondary has experience at cornerback — senior K'Waun Williams and sophomore Lafayette Pitts — and safety, with senior Jason Hendricks and junior Ray Vinopal. Four of their backups — freshmen Trenton Coles, Titus Howard, Terrish Webb and Jevonte Pitts — played on championship teams at Clairton and Woodland Hills.
The player who turns on the switch is senior tackle Aaron Donald, a two-time All-Big East performer who led the conference in tackles for a loss (181⁄2) last season. Chryst said Donald's best days might be ahead of him.
“In your senior year, you should play the best football of your career,” he said. “If we are going to be successful, he is going to play well.”
That's also true of Gordon, a senior who missed three games last season with ankle and neck injuries. Gordon finished sixth in tackles playing in the middle of the defense, and the last line of defense — safeties Jason Hendricks and Jarred Holley — led the team.
“It should be someone up front,” Gordon said. “It should be different this year.”
With seniors making up nearly half of the starting defense, Gordon said the team is better equipped for an opener than it was a year ago in a 31-17 loss to Youngstown State.
“Last year at this point, I feel like some guys still didn't know their roles or know what's going on in the playbook,” he said. “(This year), I feel like everyone from top to the bottom is locked in ready to go.
“This is my last go-round. I've been taking it more serious, just focused on what I have to do.”
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Steelers know when to say goodbye
- Analysis: Kesler remains on Penguins’ radar as Shero looks bring back ‘Big 3’ formula
- Pirates’ big risk with pitch-heavy draft focus might soon pay off
- Ex-Colts executive Polian: Approach free agency with caution
- With so many needs, Steelers can ill afford to miss in draft
- Penguins GM Shero’s deadline deals: Addition by subtraction
- Pitt rallies in final seconds of regulation en route to OT win at Clemson
- Obama losing close adviser to end 9 years of service
- IUP students have raucous early St. Patrick’s Day celebration
- Greensburg bishop’s time at helm draws to a close
- Steelers defense doesn’t make the grade in 2013 review