Fall Camp Preview: Linebackers

This is the seventh in a series of articles reviewing the Panthers units going into fall camp. This article features the linebackers. Offense, defense, and special teams will be covered. Returning players and incoming freshmen will be included.

One thing that comes to mind when you look at the linebacker position going into fall camp is - youth will be served. Last season the Panthers had one of the best linebacker units in school history. Gerald Hayes was one of the best Panther linebackers ever and is moving on to a pro career. Brian Beinecke was a multi-year starter who also had an excellent career. They also lost top backup Scott McCurley to graduation.

The lone returning starter is 6-2/245 senior Lewis Moore. Lewis has been a standout performer the last few seasons at his strongside linebacker position, and this year he will move into the middle. Some opposing coaches felt Moore was the Panthers' best linebacker last season. Moore was the MVP of the Tangerine Bowl two years ago. Redshirt sophomore Joe Dipre (6-4/245) should be the backup to Moore in the middle and may also get a look at the strongside position.

The leading candidate to take over at the strongside position is 6-1/230 redshirt freshman Azzie Beagnyam. Azzie was considered a blue chip recruit out of Texas and will be looking to earn a starting position this spring. He was the star of the spring game on defense. Redshirt freshman Brian Bennett (6-0/220) also looks to earn playing time at the strongside position. Bennett had a solid spring and should see plenty of playing time this season.

Starting at weakside linebacker will be redshirt junior Malcolm Postell (6-1/220). Postell was impressive this spring and he pleased the coaches with his play. He is a former running back who brings excellent athletic ability to his new position. Redshirt freshman Charles Sallet (6-0 220) will also push for playing time at this position. Sallet and redshirt freshman safety Sam Bryant were considered two of the most impressive freshmen that redshirted last season. Sallet also earned a reputation as one of the hardest hitters in practice last year.

With such a lack of depth and game experience, the Panthers will need to count on their incoming freshman linebacker class. The good news is, they are one of the best on paper to ever be recruited at Pitt.

H.B Blades (6-/230) from Plantation, Florida should compete right away for playing time, if not a starting job. Blades comes from a family that has produced top players not only in college, but in the NFL also. Blades should get a look at the middle and strongside positions. Clint Session (5-11/225) from pompano Beach, Florida earned a reputation as one of the hardest hitting linebackers in the state of Florida last season. He will play middle linebacker for the Panthers. Derron Thomas (6-3/230) from Greenbelt, Maryland may be the most underrated of all five of the incoming freshman linebackers. Thomas has the size, speed, and athletic ability to play any of the three linebacker positions. Chris McKillop (6-4/235) from local Kiski Area High School is another who has the chance to make an impact. McKillop was having the best season of any defensive player in Western PA before he suffered a season-ending ankle injury. He may end up growing into a defensive end, but for now he will get a look at linebacker first. Joe Clermond (6-3/210) from Tampa, Florida is an excellent athlete who had over 100 tackles and 6 interceptions as a high school senior. He should be a natural fit for the weakside position.

The Panthers go into fall camp knowing they will not have another position on the team with as many young and inexperienced players as they will have at the linebacker position. They will most likely have at least three freshmen and one sophomore in the two-deep. Plus, two of the three starters have never started a college game in their careers. With a lack of numbers, the incoming freshman class will need to be counted on.

Brian Gold

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