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Will Pitt’s ‘Big Athletes’ Land on Offense or Defense?

Will Pitt’s ‘Big Athletes’ Land on Offense or Defense?

PITTSBURGH — Of the final pieces of Pitt’s 2018 recruiting class that signed on Wednesday, two of them have a pretty similar outlook.

Habakkuk Baldonado and Kaymar Mimes are both long, athletic defensive ends that can get off the edge and rush that passer or play in space.

They also might be able to contribute on offense. Both played dual roles in high school and Pitt has shown a willingness to allow players like Jordan Whitehead play on both sides of the ball.

The chance for one of the big athletes to play on offense is what allowed Pitt to take both of them. With Baldonado and Mimes joining John Morgan and Noah Palmer, Pitt has four defensive ends in this class.

On the other side of the ball, they don’t have a single tight end after both H-back Jay Symonds and tight end Matt Alaimo de-committed and signed elsewhere. So one of those four defensive linemen might find himself in an offensive meeting room this summer.

“You know how we are — we like to play guys both ways,” head coach Pat Narduzzi said. “We’re gonna spread those big athletes out and give us a chance to get the best players on the field.”

Narduzzi will work out those players this summer and see who has the skills to contribute on offense.

“We’ll go through some big skill drills,” he said. “How well do they catch the ball? They might look good, run well, but they can’t catch well, then they’re probably a defensive end. … We’ll find out when they come into camp really what they can do.”

At tight end, Pitt has Chris Clark returning as a part-time starter from 2017 and Tyler Sear coming back with experience from his freshman season while adding Grant Carrigan and Charles Reaves, who redshirted a year ago.

So there isn’t any pressure to find an answer right away. It’s more about finding a long-term fit for all of those athletes. That’s also why Pitt wasn’t panicked about finding another tight end when Alaimo de-committed after the early signing period had closed.

“We would have liked to have gotten one pure tight end but again, didn’t want to settle for the guys that just doesn’t have this or have that,” Narduzzi said.

Pitt missed out on several other players, including East Allegheny’s T.J. Banks, after Alaimo committed and they stopped recruiting other tight ends. To get back into recruiting the position after so many players had already signed would have been hard if not impossible, which is one of the downsides of the twin signing days. But Narduzzi doesn’t see it as an issue.

“We just wanted to get the best big athletes we could and that’s what we’ve arrived at,” he said.

Pitt’s needs at defensive end aren’t exactly of the immediate nature, either. That group lost Allen Edwards, Jr. to graduation and Kaezon Pugh transferred, but of the six players that saw regular playing time in 2017, five remain, including regular starters Dewayne Hendrix, James Folston, Jr. and Rashad Weaver.

That doesn’t mean that defensive line coach Charlie Partridge is looking to unload a body. He thinks that the big group of freshman can come in and push his existing players both athletically and in the meeting rooms and classrooms.

“I’m going to fight to keep them all,” Partridge said with a smile.


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