A look to spring ball – Defensive Line

A look to spring ball – Defensive Line

The Panthers enter spring ball with a nice looking group of defensive ends, who not only have quality starters and backups, but also some up and coming prospects who show a lot of potential. Other than the running back position, defensive end looks to be the next deepest position on the team. The defensive tackle position has a lot of potential and numbers, but lacks productivity and experience with the departure of Joe Conlin. Starting with the defensive tackle position, Tyre Young, DT, 6-0 250, sophomore came out of nowhere last year and ended up starting, as a true freshmen, the last half of the year. He made a big difference with his strength and quickness making up for his lack of size. The coaches have mentioned a few times that they would like to move Tyre back to outside linebacker, but its up in the air as to if that will happen or not.  Darrell McMurray, DT, 6-4 295, junior is the one who we really need to step up this year.  He has played well at times, but he still hasn't played to the level he is capable of.  Others that look to break into the two deep or possibly start if Young is moved are; Dan Stephens, DT, 6-2 285, sophomore. Troy Banner, DT, 6-3 285, sophomore.  Vince Crochunis, DT, 6-4 280, sophomore. Jake Holthaus, DT, 6-1 280, sophomore.  Charles Spencer, DT, 6-5 295, redshirt freshmen. Charles Steffy, DT, 6-2 295, senior.  That gives the Panthers 5 sophomores, 1-redshirt freshmen, 1 junior, and 1 walk-on senior to battle it out. That is a pretty young and inexperienced group to choose from.  Most fans have probably judged this group to harshly so far. When you are playing freshmen and sophomores you are going to struggle at times. Coach Junko did what I consider an outstanding coaching job last year by having to play 3 freshmen (Young, Stephens and Banner) plus one sophomore (McMurray) while Conlin struggled through injuries. When you consider how this group developed and how well they played the 2nd half of the year, it makes his coaching job look even greater. For the first time in years, Pitt has pretty good numbers at the DT position, they just need some players to step up and continue to improve. Defensive End, despite losing future NFL draft choice Bryan Knight, looks to be strong and deep this year. Two seniors that should again share time at one spot will be Ryan Smith, DE, 6-4 255 and Brian Guzek, DE, 6-2 255. Ryan Smith was hurt most of last year, but seemed to get healthy late in the year and played a good game in the Tangerine Bowl. Guzek has a great motor and makes a ton of plays.  Starting at the other D-End position should be Claude Harriott, DE, 6-4 245, junior.  Harriott is a very good pass rusher and has added weight and strength to improve against the run. Backing up those three should be two redshirt freshmen; Thomas Smith, DE, 6-4 245 and Kevin Harris, DE, 6-5 245. Both were dominant at times during the Thursday after practice scrimmages and Thomas Smith has really caught the coach's eye. Monroe Weekley, who was 6-3 250 as a true freshmen last year could easily grow into a defensive end, and its hard to say how big he is now as he enters his redshirt freshmen year. Most likely he will play linebacker at least for this season. The defensive end position returns three players who have produced in games, and two up and coming players who look to make an impact this season.


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