Defense Catching On Under House

Matt House has a good foundation in place for his first year at defensive coordinator, but he still has a lot of spots and key roles up for grabs.

Pitt has two things going for itself, when looking ahead to this year's defense.

One, is the crop of returning starters, starting up front with Aaron Donald. Donald has been a disruptive force the last two years. He will be counted on again to be disruptive.

One thing that should help Donald even more, is some returning experience around him on the defensive front. Opponents will also have to focus in on defensive tackle Tyrone Ezell. Ezell was a first-year starter last year. A he got more comfortable in his role, in the second half of the season, he became more consistent. Because of his consistency, Donald was able to be even more productive.

While the defense returns Shane Gordon at middle linebacker, first-year defensive coordinator is experimenting with the move of Anthony Gonzalez at outside linebacker. A former quarterback, turned safety, and now turned linebacker, House feels Gonzalez is poised to make an impact on the position. However, he feels it's still an experiment.

"He's coming on, he's learning, and he's that much better than he was in the spring," House said. "He's all over the place. We're just trying to find the six best guys, and the three best on the field in certain situations. It truly is rotating guys around, and seeing who fits.

"He came in, and played well in the spring. He gives us some athleticism on the field."

"Even though Mike Caprara played middle linebacker in the spring, filling in for Gordon who was held out of the spring with a neck injury, he was moved to outside linebacker. House isn't ready to call Caprara a starter, but says he's making the transition as well. All of this, as returning starter Todd Thomas has left the team. Paul Chryst wouldn't comment on Thomas' status after Thursday's practice, but it is possible that Thomas could return to the team, according to published reports.

"It's like a lot of guys, we're going to have to have them multiple, and move them around," House said. "That's what we're trying to do--expose a lot of guys to a lot of different situations."

With the linebacker position still in limbo, House is pretty set at secondary. However, he is testing different players out in different roles. With K'Waun Williams and Lafayette Pitts back at corner, and All-Big East performer Jason Hendricks back at safety, he has a plethora of experience to work with there.

He will be looking for a new safety to start alongside Hendricks. Ray Vinopal and Cullen Christian will compete for that spot. Christian has been moved from corner. Vinopal started the opener last year, while Christian started the first two games.

"I think (Christian) has done a good job," House added. "We're certainly hoping he can play both safety and corner."

As for potential nickel and dime packages, look for Trenton Coles and Jahmahl Pardner to also contribute.

Here is the rest of House's interview:

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