Hale Hanging Tough

For those who believed five-star recruit and high school All-American Shayne Hale would come to Pitt and contribute immediately, that's not going to happen.

In fact, Shayne Hale's only contribution this fall will be on the scout team. The University of Pittsburgh has fifth-year senior All-American Scott McKillop starting at middle linebacker. He's no longer the big man on campus.

"That was high school, but things change,'' Hale said. "There's a lot of great players in college. I didn't have any plans to come here and just jump right in (to the starting lineup). I never thought I was the No. 1 guy or anything like that. It was the same thing for me in high school as a freshman.

"You have to work your way up, so that's what I'm trying to do. Everybody had their thoughts, I guess, but I knew how things were going to be for me at Pitt. I knew it was going to be different, but I'm getting better all the time. And I'll get there quick enough. I'm not worried about that at all.''

Hale also is behind redshirt freshman Max Gruder and redshirt junior Steve Dell, who had solid camps. Hale started slowly, but played better at the end.

"Camp went real well for me, but it's very different from high school,'' Hale said. "It's more intense, and everything's a lot faster. But it was a good experience. I learned a lot.''

Pitt linebackers coach Joe Tumpkin has been doing a lot of teaching with his young linebacking corps. Along with Gruder on the inside, the Panthers have redshirt freshmen outside linebackers Brandon Lindsey, Tristan Roberts and Greg Williams. They at least have one year in the system, while Hale does not.

"Shayne's young right now, but he's learning the game and learning how to play linebacker at this level,'' Tumpkin said. "So, we're working with him, teaching him everything we can, and we're trying to put him in the best situation that we can for the future. That's really our goal for Shayne at this time.

"And he's doing quite well right now, but the fundamentals and techniques that we use here are still coming along. He's gotten better every day, though, and we believe he's going to be a very good linebacker for us.''

The Panthers didn't know they would have Hale's talents until late in the recruiting process. And his confidence has not wavered since.

"I'm definitely excited about my future at Pitt, and I still know that I made the right choice,'' Hale said. "I always had Pitt on my mind. They were always my hometown school, but I had to look around to see what else was out there. I did that, to see if I wanted it, but Pitt was always there at the end.

"I've been taking second- and third-team reps, and I actually had been getting a lot of reps in camp,'' Hale said. "It's not bad at all, but I realize there are guys in front of me who have been here a little longer. I wish I got more reps, but I'm still learning. So, it's all right for now. I'm not complaining about anything.''

Hale believed he could team with the other young backers to give Pitt a formidable defense for the next few years.

"And it's going to be great here at linebacker for a long time,'' Hale added. "We've got a great group of kids at linebacker all around. When you've got a large group battling at one position, you know there has to be talent there.

"And it's not too bad for me to learn from Scott McKillop. He's real good. I pay a lot of attention to him. He helps me out a lot. Max is a good guy, too, Steve Dell. They're all good guys. We have a good group of outside backers, too.''

Some believe that he eventually would grow into being a defensive end at Pitt, but Hale certainly isn't among those with that line of thinking. He carries 239 pounds on a 6-foot-4 frame and appears to be extremely powerful.

"I weight about 250, maybe, when I got here,'' Hale said. "So, I lost a lot of water weight, I guess,'' Hale said. "But I feel real good where I'm at right now. Middle linebacker is the place for me. I'm learning everything I can, taking it all in, and we'll see where that leads me. But I'm confident that everything will be all right for my future at Pitt.''

And despite a slow start, that future should be bright for Hale and the Panthers.

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