Duhart On The Rise

Tommy Duhart's ears perked up when he heard his name mentioned, but that was mostly because the words came from his position coach.

"Tommy Duhart,'' University of Pittsburgh defensive line coach Greg Gattuso said loudly enough so that the player could hear him. "Tommie Duhart got his butt kicked out there today.''

That wasn't entirely true, because the Pitt coaching staff has had mostly good things to say about Duhart so far. However, it was just Gattuso's way to keep the sophomore defensive tackle humble after a good first practice week during training camp at the UPMC Sports Complex.

"He's trying hard and learning how to push himself, and he's pushing through it right now,'' Gattuso said. "His conditioning and things like that need to get up to where he can play every snap hard, and he's getting there. But he's a talented kid that has shown me some desire and heart. He just needs to keep working the way that he's working, and he'll be fine.''

Gattuso was quick to point out that while Duhart is talented and amazingly athletic for his size (6-foot-2, 293 pounds), he is playing a new position. He was a rush end at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas and wasn't used to some of the things that he had to deal with in the early going. But Duhart has picked things up at a steady pace and is running with the second team.

"In college, there's different-sized people that you'll go up against anyway, so there's a difference between the inside guys and outside ones, in size and different level of techniques,'' Gattuso said. "But Tommie just needs to keep working, because there has been no sign of any problems with him.

"(Duhart) understands what he needs to do. He's picking up our defense, and he's working hard. He just has to keep pushing himself hard in the conditioning things to get better so he can play faster.''

What Gattuso referred to basically dealt with Duhart's weight. It isn't that he was out of shape, but he was just much heavier than the Pitt coaching staff would like for a defensive tackle. He came to Pitt in May at about 312 pounds, but now he weighs 293. Actually, Duhart played football this past fall at about 280 pounds, and he gained all the weight over the winter. But he steadily worked it off and picked up the pace in Pitt's conditioning program in less than three months.

"Things are going well for me,'' Duhart said. "I'm working hard to help my teammates out as much as possible so we can have a good season. The veterans help me catch on quicker, learning plays, just to be able to keep up with them.

"They're in a better level of shape, and if I can keep up with them I'll catch on quicker. That was my biggest problem to this point, but ... now that I have it down and I'm in shape, my level of play has been very high.''

Duhart's playing partner, as well as his in-season roommate, is junior Rashaad Duncan. The two went to Glades Central High School in Florida, and they are good friends.

"It's nice to play alongside Rashaad,'' Duhart said. "It gives you a level of comfort, playing with someone who comes from where you're from. He understands what I went through to get here.

"It's a little bit faster here than it was (at Coffeyville) and a little bit different style, but at the same time I've been around here so much that I'm pretty familiar with everything now. I caught on pretty quick.''

And the Panthers defensive line has benefitted greatly from his progress.

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