2017’s LBs; Upgrade, Downgrade or Draw

This is the seventh of a longer POV series looking at the individual positions which need to be re-filled in 2017 and whether we will meet the PRODUCTION we had in those positions. We will not factor in true freshman at this point.

Here the lineup going into 2017 less true freshman who aren’t on the roster yet…

23 Oluwaseun Idowu 6-0/215 RS JR
25 Elijah Zeise 6-2/230 RS JR
28 Anthony McKee Jr. 6-2/210 RS SO
36 Chase Pine 6-2/240 RS FR
39 Saleem Brightwell 6-0/210 RS SO
41 Jalen Williams 6-2/215 RS JR
44 Elias Reynolds 6-2/225 RS FR
48 Peyton Deri 6-1/205 RS FR
51 Jim Medure 6-2/220 RS SO
53 Brian Popp 6-0/235 RS JR
58 Quintin Wirginis 6-2/240 SR

In many ways you can say our linebackers were between a rock and a hard place last season being stuck right between our DL who did a good job at what they were tasked to do and our defense backs who didn’t.

The nature of Narduzzi’s defense is that Pitt is going to pack the box in almost any offensive scenario so our LBs are positioned just off the LOS for run support.  On passing plays we have the OLBs maintain ‘inside leverage’ to force the short passes into the middle of the defense.

With that our DBs were trusted to go handle the passing game ‘out on an island’ with the safeties having an options to pick up receivers when they felt it right to do so (basically when it was apparent run support from them wasn’t needed).

At least that was the defensive theory going into and through 2016’s 13 games. While the common belief is that Narduzzi has his way of playing defense and our DC Josh Conklin just genuflects and gets on with trying to make it happen, logic would say that because of the almost complete breakdown of our defensive game last year it would mandate changes.

What we saw was a terrible pass defense that lost us games that we could have and should have won. I don’t think anyone is going to argue with that statement – no matter how good some of our opponents QB and WRs were.

But – Narduzzi seems to be confident that what worked so well for him at Michigan State will do the same here so Vegas money says we’ll see the same approach to defense this season as last. 

Well, if Narduzzi isn’t going to change the fundamental tenets of the defense at least he can change, or is forced to change, the personnel. We’ll see that happen by dint of graduation this season in the LB corps.  Three-year starter and leading tackler “Mike” (Middle) MLB Matt Galambos is gone as is his mate, the two-year starter at “Money” LB, Mike Caprara.

Playing alongside those two for almost the whole season was ex-walk on now rsJR Oluwaseun (Sean) Idowu who quietly built up quite a resume’ as Pitt’s 3rd leading tackler with 74 total tackles from the Star LB position over the TE as the pass rushing LB.  He’ll be the sole returning LB starter for 2017.

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