Here is a nice submittal by our longtime reader and commenter WBB on the prospective 2018 season Linebackers we’ll see out on the field.  

Pitt’s 2018 Linebackers

Here are Linebackers‘ 2017 the two-deep listings  for the starting game against YSU (left) and against Miami in the last game (right) :

 

YSU LBs

Miami LBs

 

 

 

 

 

2017 LB Stats:

Name Games Played Solo Tackles Assists Total
Idowu 12 58 36 94
Brightwell 12 40 33 73
Zeise 12 33 16 49
Pine 9 7 4 11
Reynolds 11 5 6 11
Popp 12 4 5 9
Williams 9 6 0 6
McKee 2 1 1 2

I suspect that Brian Popp’s numbers above reflect his work on special teams.  Popp is no longer listed on the roster shown in the university’s website.

NOTE: At Pitt the weak side inside linebacker is typically called the “Money,” while the strong side or middle inside linebacker is called the “Mike”. “Star” is a common designation for strong outside linebacker.

I do not think there is any doubt that the LB position has more depth, speed and athleticism than the past few years.   All starters and back-ups return as well as rsSR Quentin Wirginis who had 28 tackles and four sacks in 2016 as a back up to Matt Galambos.  rsSR Sean Idowu led the team in tackles the past two years and I thought rsSR Elijah Zeise really played well the last half of the season after being pretty much a no-show in the first half.

Due to Wirginis’ suspension and subsequent injury, rsJR Saleem Brightwell had to switch to MLB and his inexperience is pretty much reflected in the stats shown above.  As we know, he is fast and athletic but really struggled in learning the position especially in the first half of the season.  I believe Reed has some doubt that Wirginis is returning but I think Narduzzi would have made an announcement by now if this was true.

Editor’s Note: Pat Narduzzi has publicly said that Wirginis will be back and – surprisingly to this fan – that Wirginis would be the starting middle linebacker in 2018.

I would not doubt that if Wirginis has a good spring, Brightwell will be back at the Star LB position where he started a couple of  games as a freshman.  I also see more playing time for rsSO Chase Pine and rsSO Elias Reynolds as back-ups.  rsJR Anthony McKee was a highly thought of recruit back in 2015.  I remember that he was the last at-home visit Chryst had as a Pitt coach and McKee also visited Wisconsin the last weekend before LOI day.  Hopefully, the light goes on for him this year.

Redshirt freshmen Albert Tucker, Kyle Nunn and Cam Bright may be considerations of breaking into the two-deep this year.   I remember being wowed by Bright’s highlight reel but, of course, any speculation on any of them is merely a stab in the dark.

There is real reason for hope in the linebacker position this year due to depth and experience.

71 thoughts on “POV’s Take: Spring Drills – Linebackers

  1. I am really hoping lb is a strength this year. It should be if wirginis comes back. What r others’ thoughts on harleys performance as lb coach? I dont see him as all that great but not terrible either.

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  2. very disappointing LB performance. I guess all the good linebackers in the state go the Linebacker U in Creepy Valley. Pitt’s D needs strong linebacker play. They were the weak link last year. I do hope depth and experience shines through this year because last year was a turd nugget.

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  3. Reed, thanks for the insertion of the LBs depth chart above, I would have done that if I knew how to. That graphic is better than what I used.

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  4. As noted, both Chase Pine and Elias Reynolds got some PT last year as back-ups, and I expect they will get more this year. Thus, after Zeise, Wirginis and Idowu graduate, those two and Brightwell can step in as starters for 2019.

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    1. wwb – nice write up on the LB-ers. I think we have our best 2-deep in the last six years and the 3rd stringers coukd be good as well – McKee, Cam Bright, Albert Tucker and Kyle Nunn.

      The future is looking brighter for this group.

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  5. No excuses for not being experienced this year. Just like to see these guys start to blow up plays in the backfield and at the line of scrimmage instead of 5-8 yds down the field. It would also see them knock a few guys backward instead of catching them from the side or worse from behind.

    Hopefully Wirginis is auditioning for a pro career and does well, it could really help the whole unit and defense. Pine and Reynolds have good size and will be starters next year, unless people get hurt this year.

    Who is the odd man out, if Wirginis seizes the job? My guess is Zeise, because Idowu has a nose for the ball and Brightwell is a future star.

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    1. That will be very interesting to watch and I think you’re right that Idowu cannot be sat down; Brightwell is quicker and I think smarter than Zeise, so he might be the odd man out.

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  6. Thanks wwb.

    I think the first thing to talk about is the new DC for PITT. This may answer the question if Conklin ran Narduzzi’s defense and Pat had more than a hand in the goings on over there or not. If PITT does run strictly HCPN’s defensive scheme and I don’t think they do, then a change there may not have that big of an impact. … but again… another year with a brand new coordinator.

    So here we go with PITT’s brand new DC Randy Bates? Conklin did have to be let go, yet the defense did seem to improve later on last year. Will this be another fresh start and relearning for these linebacker and where they are suppose to line up and where and what/who they are suppose to cover? The loss of continuity does kind of bum me out but I think it was better to cut ties now rather than later.

    So lets hope PITT’s new coach who I call The Master for obvious reasons, is a good teacher and assignments are not a problem early on in the season along with the returning LB coach Harley. As noted, this is not a young group anymore and in fact the starters have as much or more starting experience then any of the three units on defense. Plus the upgrade of pure athleticism in this line-backing group is fairly obvious although the 2nd team is thin on experience.

    It does look like QW will playing another year so that may displace a returning starter. Which is a good thing for depth. This group was not great but they did learn on the job and could be strong point to the entire defense. Especially as I see the D-Line improving as well.

    My sleeper pick are and continue to be Reynolds and Bright. If you look at the end of the year depth chart you can see it looks like Reynolds chased out Pine from the backup mike spot to the backup money position? I see good things in the future with this unit… ike

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  7. I think Wirginis has good athleticism and was more physically talented than Galambos. However if Galambos started and called defenses for a full three years then what does that say about Wirginis’ mental capacity for that important MLB position?

    I suppose if that is a problem then the other LBs can be the defensive field general. But this is one of the reasons I’ve been saying I’ll wait until I see Wirginis as a starter.

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  8. I think the LB’s have been weak for the past six years. It is time they step up, make plays and wreck havoc on the field.

    Depth seems legit for 2018 and the competition should be fun to watch. Oh wait, we can’t watch practices, can we?

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  9. just watched (on computer) New Castle hold off Quaker Valley for 4A title. Most excitement at The Pete since Pitt lost to WVU … which actually was the highlight of the season

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  10. Does anybody remember the great MLB for the 49ers, “Hacksaw” Reynolds? What a great moniker for a middle linebacker.

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    1. Weah’s 4.43 a bit faster than I thought he would run. And what does that 4.43 say about his infamous VT caught from behind reception. QH’s 4.5 is much slower than I expected. Actually, hard to believe. I never saw anyone close ground on him let alone run him down.

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  11. Agree EE on LB underperformance for the past 6 years. We recruit short and light LB’s and they seem to stay short and light during their time with Pitt. I’ve always been baffled by that.

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    1. Quintin Wirginis and Chase Pine are good sized LB-ers and are going to have breakout years. Pine will be around for a few years to make a long term impact.

      RS FR Kyle Nunn is 6’3″ but only 200 lbs – needs to add muscle and weight. The new recruit is 6’2″ 230 lbs and is targeted to play the middle. Change is happening for the good.

      H2P!

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  12. Kind of interesting we have 2 starting LB’s who went to the same HS (North Allegheny). Yet neither played LB at North Allegheny.

    Is Paul Zeise that important to Pitt football ?

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    1. According the the NA roster, Idowu was a RB/LB and Zeise a WR/DB. Most good athletes at NA play both ways. I seem to remember that Zeise chose Pitt because they would let him try out as a receiver.

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  13. Pat Narduzzi has publicly said that Wirginis will be back and – surprisingly to this fan – that Wirginis would be the starting middle linebacker in 2018.

    Guess Nard Dog & Family got a lifetime pass for the Gateway Clipper Dinner Cruise 🙂

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  14. Tx, this just in. Galambos and Caprara have graduated and moved on. PITT has upgraded both athleticism and speed at LB. Toughness soon to follow…

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  15. On a serious note…assuming that Wirginis is the starting MLB…..it will be interesting to see who sits.

    And that would have to be either Brightwell or Zeise. For how could you sit Idowu, who has by far the
    most solo tackles and also leads in assists.

    I think we all know how that is going to work at.

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  16. Based on what Narduzzi said we have to assume that Wirginis has kept training after the injury. Sometimes tough to come back after you miss a year. He never was a starter, maybe he will be the odd man out.

    At least we appear to have good depth and guys to pick from. Spring ball should be interesting.

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  17. A starting player is just that by name. PITT plays a lot of players through the course of any game. The D-line was in a constant change last year and I think we will see the same with the backers this coming season.

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    1. What that tells me Ike is that you don’t have anyone really good. The great players stay on the field as much as possible. Don’t remember much of a rotation when it was Green, Jackson, Boyarsky, Meisner and Neil.

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  18. I find it interesting that fans think we have so much more athleticism yet it hasn’t shown yet… and half of the guys we are talking about at LB haven’t played hardly at all – if at all.

    Galambos and Caprara had lots of Sacks and TFLs when they played – in one season they had 20 TFLs and 10 sacks between them.

    Last year our two best LBs, Idowu and Brightwell, had 16.5 TFLs and 6 Sacks…

    I’m not sure this year’s crop is going to be all that much better than last season’s – but let’s hope our DL can bundle up the OL at the LOS to get our LBs into the opponents backfield.

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    1. in his senior year (2016), Caprera only had 17 solo tackles (20 assists) whereas Idowu, a walk-on in his 1st year as a starter had 38 and 36. Even Zeise in his first full year as a starter had 33 and 16. Galambos did have a pretty good senior season stat wise.(but his receptions fell off 100% from 2015)

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  19. I don’t disagree with that gc. Then again now a days there are substitutions depending on the skill sets of different players and situational schemes that match up individual players accordingly.

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  20. We haven’t had a smack-down LB since…I can’t even remember.
    Starting a receiver, a walk-on and Saleem…who did not impress me with his speed.

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    1. Watching that last sequence of Pitt plays at the goal line. Trying to power the ball in, against one of the toughest teams to run on in NCAAF. VT only allowed 7 Rushing TD’s for the season. 2nd in the nation with least rushing td’s allowed.

      Did Watson & Pitt scout this team ?

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      1. The one play the Hokie defender goes at Bookser’s knees and he jumps to avoid it, which totally took him out of the play. Never knew that was legal.

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  21. couple things:

    Weah is a track man, he is not use to running with a football in his hands while the people chasing him are allowed to tear his head off. << you would think that would make him run faster?

    We don’t need Not-Rocket-Science commenter to tell us that Wirginis, Brightwell, Pine and Reynolds are better athletes than MG and MC. Also one would think that Odowu and Zeise should be better this coming season.

    Two returning LBer’s with 15 1/2 TFL and 6 sacks is not that bad. Weren’t MG and MC both RS seniors when they accomplished their stats?

    Is Brightwell a true jr? I forget as I don’t think he red-shirt his freshman year??

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    1. Weah was a track boy – he ran track in high school. He is a senior for goodness sake He simply got lazy and cost Pitt the VT game and probably a bowl game it’s possible (50/50?) Pitt could have been 7 & 6 last year if he didn’t get lazy on that play. I’m not saying he’s a bad human being – people make mistakes.

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  22. we need a LB like Tumulty and Jerry O
    Like Blades and McKillop

    Pitt is where LB’s go to die. Seriously why cant Pitt do better?

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  23. Jerry O rocked it, as did Tommy T.
    I liked Clint Sessions, but he missed a lot of tackles.
    I think Dan Mason could have developed had it not been for his dislocated knee…and then to play with foot-drop…until he was told not to come back.

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  24. Someday, our d line will have an Aaron Donald, our secondary will have a Revis, and our linebackers will have Bill Brasky… all at the same time.
    What a fun d that would be to witness.

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  25. Brightwell seemed too small to be at MLB. At the LOI event, if I remember correctly, Coach Harley said that Brighrwell is up to 230#.

    We need a thumper at middle linebacker – we need someone to dish out some good hits. I think Wirginis can bring some toughness, he runs really well for his size.

    Saw a video by Coach Bates where he said he uses 2 good size linebackers and the third backer is more like a big safety. That seems consistent with what the Duzz uses.

    Go Pitt.

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  26. My favorite guys were from the late 80s—Spindler, Hamilton, Gilbert, McDonald; Bray and Nelson Walker before their knee injuries.

    If the university dullards didn’t kill football, let suspect students in and didn’t fire Gottfried, the starting defense in 1990 would have been:

    Hamilton
    Gilbert
    Spindler
    Mark Gunn
    McDonald
    Gob
    Walker
    Israel
    Mark McMillan: played 8 years in the NFL, wasn’t admitted in 1989 though he is in the media guide.
    Riddick
    Hetzler

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  27. Jerry O. was so much fun to watch. He wasn’t that fast but he just knew where the RB would try to go and then Jerry O. would be waiting for him there, drive a shoulder into him and wrap him up.

    Everything was textbook with Jerry O.

    Go Pitt.

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  28. Pitt’s opponent for the big upcoming ACC tournament game has been determined with today’s ACC results.

    And the Seal Clubber will be………Notre Dame. With of course Pitt being the club-ee.

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  29. And in other bball results, the last remaining winless in conference school in America, that being Chicago State, won today beating the U of Mizzou @ Kansas City Kangaroos 96-82.

    San Jose State had won earlier this week. So that means Pitt has the distinct honor of being the ONLY
    school of 351 playing D1 basketball, that went winless in Conference. Cudos to Otis & Herman & the BoT

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  30. Jerry O, not extremely fast, athletic or anyone’s prototypical middle linebacker. He was one tough dude though and had what it takes a MLB to be good……….. ready…. SMART! Get over all the other stuff.

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  31. In my opinion Gerald Hayes was the hardest hitting middle linebacker since Ralph Cindrich (pre knee surgery).
    Rodney (was last name Clark?) was also a hard hitter

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