Heading into the 2018 season, the Pittsburgh defensive line has been rumored to be the best of the Narduzzi era. Not only because of the many talented veterans, but also because of the incoming players who will add depth.
This depth means 12 players are competing for consistent playing time this season. In the seventh edition of Pitt football positional previews, we look at these 12 and tell you what to expect out of each. If you haven’t already done so, make sure to go back and read the first six editions.
|Hometown||Fort Lauderdale, Florida|
After redshirting as a true freshman in 2016, Weaver played in all 12 games while starting five last year. All five starts came at the defensive end position. In his first active season, he finished with 28 tackles, six tackles for loss, three sacks and three pass breakups.
Weaver is competing for the starting job at the defensive end position. There is no doubt that he will play all 12 games; the only question is if he will start.
After coming out of high school rated the 17th best defensive tackle in the nation by ESPN, Camp was redshirted. 2017 was his first active season, in which where he played in ten games and started eight. All eight starts were at defensive tackle.
Camp finished the 2017 season with 19 tackles, one tackle for loss, one forced fumble and four pass breakups. He is competing for the starting defensive tackle position. Similar to Weaver, Camp will play every game; the question is whether he will start.
After starting his career at Tennessee in 2014, Hendrix made the decision to transfer to Pitt. He sat out the 2015 season due to transfer rules, but emerged as the starting defensive tackle in 2016. Unfortunately, Hendrix suffered a season-ending injury on the third series of Pitt’s first game of the 2016 campaign.
He came back strong in 2017 as he played in 11 games and started 10 at defensive end. Hendrix finished the season with 21 tackles, five tackles for loss, three sacks and a game-clinching fumble recovery in the upset win against Miami. Hendrix is the front runner to start at one of the defensive end positions.
As a true freshman Amir Watss not only played in seven games, but he started at defensive tackle in the upset at Clemson. In his sophomore year, he played in all 12 games and started four – all at defensive tackle.
Watt finished the 2017 season with 16 tackles, five tackles for loss and one sack. He is competing for the defensive tackle position, however he may end up moving over to the defensive end position. Watt is a lock to play in all 12 games.
Roy is a fifth-year senior and has been around the Pitt program that entire time. In 2017 he started every game at nose tackle.
Roy finished his redshirt junior campaign with 14 tackles, one sack and two pass breakups. Expect Roy to start all 12 games this year at the nose tackle position and be a crucial piece to the line.
Out of high school, Jones was rated the number one defensive end in the state of Virginia by Scout. In 2016, as a true freshman, he received a redshirt. Jones played in 10 games as a reserve defensive end in the following year as a redshirt freshman.
He finished that year with seven tackles, one tackle for loss and a sack assist. Jones is competing for a defensive end position. It isn’t likely that Jones will be a week one starter; there is even a chance he gets passed up by a freshman in the rotation.
A local product out of Central Catholic, Wheeler redshirted as a true freshman in 2016. In 2017, Wheeler played in all 12 games as a reserve nose tackle. He finished the year with four tackles and a pass breakup.
He is in the running to be the backup nose tackle. Expect Wheeler to play in all 12 games.
James Folston, Jr.
Folston, Jr. is a fifth-year senior and he has been a part of the Pitt football program since 2014. In his career at Pitt he has played in 29 games, however he has never started. Those 29 games include all 12 games from last year.
In 2017, Folston, Jr. finished with 21 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack and a blocked kick. This upcoming season he is competing for the defensive end position against Rashad Weaver. It is more than likely that we see him come away with the backup position.
THE NEW RECRUITS
According to ESPN, Twyman was a four-star recruit out of high school and was one of the most heavily recruited players in the Washington, D.C. area. After getting redshirted as a true freshman in 2017, Twyman got on a meal plan and trained to lose weight and get healthier. It has paid dividends on the field for him as he is now stronger and quicker.
Look for him to get some time off the bench at the nose tackle position. The only question is how much time.
|Hometown||Upper Marlboro, Maryland|
In high school, Morgan was one of the biggest recruits in the state of Maryland. Rivals ranked Morgan the top defensive lineman in Maryland and the 12th best player overall in Maryland. He earned these honors after becoming known as a great pass rusher.
As a senior in high school, he finished the year with eight sacks. At Pitt, Narduzzi has openly praised Morgan and has said he is a freshman who could see playing time. Expect to see him get some valuable time off the bench.
|Hometown||Pompano Beach, Florida|
Alexandre didn’t begin playing football until his junior year of high school, but he still managed to get solid interest out of high school with his raw talent and size. He was ranked one of the top 25 defensive end prospects out of high school.
This year expect him to compete for some considerable playing time off of the bench at the defensive tackle position.
The rest include freshman who will redshirt, a redshirt freshman walk-on and Chase Pine. Keep in mind that these freshman could still get in some games, but they won’t get consistent playing time. Same goes for Pine – he will get some solid playing time, but it won’t be consistent.
|David Green*||6’0||255 lbs.||Freshman||West Mifflin, PA|
|Chase Pine||6’2||250 lbs.||RS Sophomore||Williamsburg, Va.|
|Noah Palmer*||6’3||215 lbs.||Freshman||Jefferson Hills, PA|
|Tyler Bentley*||6’2||300 lbs.||Freshman||West Chester, Oh.|
|Brian Burgess||6’2||290 lbs.||RS Freshman||Charleroi, PA|
|Habakkuk Baldonado*||6’5||230 lbs.||Freshman||Rome, Italy|
|Devin Danielson*||6’1||290 lbs.||Freshman||Pittsburgh, PA|
|Chris Maloney*||6’2||235 lbs.||Freshman||Fort Washington, PA|
|Kaymar Mimes*||6’5||233 lbs.||Freshman||Long Branch, NJ|
DEPTH CHART – WEEK ONE
Below is our prediction for the week one depth chart on the defensive line.
|Position||No. 1||No. 2||No. 3|
|DE||Rashad Weaver||James Folston||Keyshon Camp|
|DT||Amir Watts||Keyshon Camp||Deslin Alexandre|
|DT||Shane Roy||Rashad Wheeler||Jaelyn Twyman|
|DE||Dewayne Hendrix||John Morgan||Patrick Jones|
The starting four will include Rashad Weaver, Amir Watts, Shane Roy, and Dewayne Hendrix. Barring an injury, Roy and Hendrix will start every game this year. Expect big years out of both of them.
Watts will begin the season as a starter, but could very well lose his starting job. Don’t bet on him starting all 12 games this year. At some point, Keyshon Camp will get a start at the defensive tackle position.
Weaver is going to have a big-time year. Poor play could very well open up the door for James Folston to start, but he will likely come off the bench.
That leaves two primary backups unaccounted for – John Morgan and Rashad Wheeler. Neither of them will get a start this season, but each will play a big role off of the bench. Morgan is going to be a key player in the coming years for the Panthers.
The third stringers – Deslin Alexandre, Jaelyn Twyman, Patrick Jones – will all see limited, but consistent time on the field.
The defense is going to be a strong suit of the Panthers this year and the defensive line is a huge reason as to why. Look for the defensive line to have a very strong year. Make sure to check in next Saturday at 11:00 AM when we finish the Pitt football positional previews, with a preview of the special teams and tight ends.