Guys like senior defensive tackle Rashaad Duncan get limited to no accolades from the media, but his play has been solid since he arrived at Pittsburgh. Duncan has started 22 of his 35 college games, including 20 in the past two seasons, and is the leader to open at nose tackle this fall.
Duncan's career stats aren't eye-popping -- 54 solo tackles, 90 total stops with four sacks, two fumble recoveries and two pass breakups -- but that shouldn't detract from what he provides Pitt's defense.
"I've said it many times before, but I believe Rashaad Duncan is one of the most underappreciated, underrespected players in our Conference,'' Pitt defensive line coach Greg Gattuso said. "He's an excellent football player that's very productive, and he plays every snap. He is really under the radar.
"People don't really know about him, but he's a good football player who has been very productive in our Conference. He might not have big sack totals, but he does a great job in the run. He's improving his pass-rush, but he's not flashy. He's just steady and stout, terrific in the run, and he makes a lot of plays.
"Rashaad is in a double-team almost every snap,'' Gattuso added, "but I just feel like he's underappreciated by a lot of people, nobody here at Pitt, but when they talk about the D-linemen on our team his name gets left out a lot. But I feel like he's just as valuable to us as anybody across the front.''
When told about Gattuso's comments, the soft-spoken Duncan downplayed them and remained humble.
"I'm just a team player, and I don't really care who gets the sacks or make the big plays, as long as it's going to be one of us up front,'' Duncan said. "Nah, I'm a team player, so whoever gets it from our defense, we're behind him.
"That's the way it is. We have a lot of players who can do it, though, and I'll just try to do my part to contribute. If I can get a sack now and then, I'll be happy, but my job is to take up space, occupy blockers and stop the run.''
As the elder-statesman on the defensive line, this is Duncan's last training camp. Two players who came in with him, Gus Mustakas and Mick Williams, had redshirt years, but neither has been on a winning team. Duncan believed the group would play a big part in changing that trend this year.
"I just want to get through this last camp and help my team do whatever it takes to win this season,'' Duncan said. "That's what I'm looking to do right now. We had a real strong finish last season, and we want to pick up where we left off from that. But it's also a new year for us.
"So, we still have something to prove. But we have a lot of help this year to do that. We're very strong on the D-line, and we have a good chance to be very successful. I feel the same way about myself. I've been here a few years now, but I always want to prove that I can get the job done.
"The D-line, we want to be the heart of the defense, the leaders on this defense with making first contact after the snap,'' Duncan added. "So, we have to play together. We've been here since he beginning of our careers. So, this is a big season for us as the leaders of the defense and on this football team.''
And for Duncan, that leadership will be through his on-field performance.
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