Pitt football dismisses senior defensive tackle Taleni
Pitt suffered a serious blow Friday when coach Pat Narduzzi dismissed senior defensive tackle Jeremiah Taleni for disciplinary reasons.
Taleni played in 21 games the past three seasons, with only four starts. But he was the most experienced interior lineman on the team. Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge was counting on Taleni to be a leader and a playmaker at his position.
“(Taleni) is definitely the guy who is on another level from those guys,” Partridge said while assessing his position group during spring drills.
Taleni recorded 24 tackles, including 5 1⁄2 tackles for a loss (three sacks), last season. He made perhaps the biggest defensive play of the season when he stopped Clemson running back Wayne Gallman for no gain on fourth down in the fourth quarter of Pitt's 43-42 victory against the eventual national champion. Pitt, then, took the football and drove for the game-winning field goal.
Narduzzi made defensive tackle a point of emphasis in his past two recruiting classes, and the loss of Taleni will force Partridge to step up the learning curve for redshirt freshman Keyshon Camp and sophomore Amir Watts.
Depth will come from juniors Shane Roy and Mike Herndon, a former offensive lineman. Also, redshirt freshman Rashad Wheeler of Central Catholic and freshman Deslin Alexandre, who participated in spring drills after graduating early from high school, will get an increased opportunity to earn playing time.
Taleni, a native of Kaneohe, Hawaii, was recruited by Pitt's previous coaching staff in 2013. His loss leaves Pitt with nine returning seniors, plus quarterback Max Browne and tight end Matt Flanagan, who has transferred from Rutgers.
Narduzzi declined comment through a Pitt spokesman.