Without Weaver, here’s what’s next for Pitt’s defense
Two days ago, Pitt defensive line coach Charlie Partridge was praising Deslin Alexandre, a previously obscure sophomore defensive end from Pompano Beach, Fla.
Partridge liked what he had seen from Alexandre through the first days of training camp and was encouraged that Pitt’s depth at the position was improving.
Partridge didn’t know that depth would get tested so soon.
Coach Pat Narduzzi announced Friday morning that junior defensive end Rashad Weaver, who led the team last season with 6 ½ sacks, 14 tackles for a loss and three fumble recoveries, will miss the season with an ACL tear of his right knee.
Narduzzi said he doesn’t like the phrase “next man up” that coaches use when they’re dealing with injuries. But Alexandre could be that man.
“It’s the best I’ve seen him on the field,” Partridge said. “He’s always worked hard to do what he needs to do, but he’s moving better. He’s pulling the trigger when he sees something happen, making full-speed decisions.”
Partridge said Alexandre is starting to impact the game the way Patrick Jones II, the other starting defensive end, was doing last year when he played in all 14 games and recorded four sacks.
“You see Deslin doing things that Pat was doing when he was starting to emerge,” Partridge said. “Part of that comes with confidence and confidence comes with repetitions.”
Alexandre, who was a January enrollee in 2017, has a build similar build to Weaver. At 6-foot-5, 265 pounds, he stands as tall and only 5 pounds lighter.
Alexandre had moved between tackle and end in his first two seasons at Pitt. But this year, even before Weaver’s injury, he was strictly working at end.
“He’s changed his body,” Partridge said. “You can see the fruits of his labor.”
Alexandre will be pushed for playing time by redshirt freshmen John Morgan, Habakkuk Baldonado and Kaymar Mimes.
Partridge said it might be interesting to keep an eye on redshirt freshman walk-on Chris Maloney, who was a three-time, first-team All-Philadelphia Catholic League player at La Salle College.
“At some point, I don’t know when, I don’t know how, but that kid is going to play football for Pitt unless something crazy happens,” Partridge said.
“He’s approached everything with a chip on his shoulder, like a walk-on does, but also grateful for being on this football team.
“l like the way he works and how he leads, too. If you walked out here and didn’t know (he was a walk-on), you wouldn’t know.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .