A Look Ahead: Linebackers, Defensive Backs

Pitt's biggest question mark, looking ahead, may be finding a new starter at corner to replace K'Waun Williams, and a new starter to replace Jason Hendricks.

Pitt returns two key starters, while losing a third.

Anthony Gonzalez made a solid transition to linebacker this year, starting all thirteen games, finishing third on the team with 79 tackles. Joining him was Todd Thomas, who left the team in training camp for a week. He did not start the opener, but returned to play all thirteen games, finishing fourth on the team with 72 tackles.

Thomas has overcome injuries that interrupted the early part of his career, becoming one of Pitt's top overall defensive performers.

Pitt does lose middle linebacker Shane Gordon, who started nine games this year. Two players in position to replace Gordon are true freshman Matt Galambos and redshirt sophomore Nicholas Grigsby. Galambos made two starts this past season, played in all 13 games, and finished with 39 tackles.

Grigsby started the Georgia Tech game, where he finished with eight tackles. He finished with 1.5 sacks in a reserve role in the bowl game against Bowling Green.

A few other redshirt freshmen will compete for backup spots. Bam Bradley started the opener against Florida State. Devon Porchia and Mike Caprara competed on special teams. Of the three, Bradley saw the most action, finishing with eight tackles. The position as a whole is in better shape heading in to 2014 than it was this time last year, losing just one starter, returning all other personnel.

The secondary has two bigger holes to fill. As a result of the two starters that need replaced, K'Waun Williams and Jason Hendricks, it may be the biggest question mark overall, heading into 2014.

Williams played in 48 career games with 38 starts. He finished with two interceptions this season. Hendricks started 37 games in his career, starting in all four seasons of his eligibility. He finished his career as the active leader with eight interceptions, and led the team in each of his final two seasons in tackles.

Expected to compete for the starting job at corner will be Trenton Coles and Titus Howard. Both players played heavily on special teams, while it was Howard who saw more work in the extra back packages.

Jahmahl Pardner returned from an ACL injury in 2012. He played mostly as a reserve, but also made on start this season.

Looking to replace Hendricks, redshirt freshmen Jevonte Pitts and Ryan Lewis, along with true freshman Terrish Webb will be the main candidates. All three saw time on special teams this past season, while Webb was the one most used in extra back packages.

The good news is having returning starters in Lafayette Pitts at corner and Ray Vinopal at safety. Pitts has 25 career starts in just two years. Vinopal rebounded from some early struggles to earn Honorable Mention All-ACC honors. He finished second on the team with 83 tackles, and led the team with three interceptions and nine pass breakups.

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