On Monday, we took a way-too-early look at the offensive side of what could be Pitt’s 2019 depth chart.
The defensive side has a lot fewer question marks. The Panthers will need to replace just five starters on the defensive side of the ball, compared to six on offense, and a few of them seem to have to see built-in replacements.
Let’s fire up the PSN crystal ball once more and dive in.
1. Amir Watts, Keyshon Camp
Watts will be a senior and Camp a redshirt junior, and the duo has been splitting time for the last two seasons while Shane Roy started along side them. With Roy moving on, it’s time for both young men to step into a starting role, and it should be a seamless transition. Camp is coming off a season-ending upper-body injury, so that is one aspect to monitor.
2. Rashad Wheeler, Jaylen Twyman
Both players were part of the regular rotation in 2018, particularly after Camp went down, and both have performed well enough in spurts that they should be able to continue in that role going forward.
1. Rashad Weaver, Patrick Jones
Starter Dewayne Hendrix and rotation player James Folston will both move on, but Pitt still has plenty of talent and depth at end. Weaver returns after a phenomenal first season as a full-time starter, while Jones should easily step up after being a sub-package player in addition to a regular part of the rotation in 2018.
2. Deslin Alexandre, John Morgan
Alexandre has bounced back and forth between end and tackle, but it seems clear that his experience is more-needed at end right now. Morgan played the most of Pitt’s four freshman ends in 2018, though not enough to burn a redshirt. He’s ahead of the bunch, but not demonstrably so, entering his redshirt freshman season.
1. Saleem Brightwell, Elias Reynolds, Cam Bright OR Anthony McKee
Brightwell started at middle linebacker in 2017, rotated with Elijah Zeise at money in 2018, and should return there to start in 2019. Reynolds filled in after Quintin Wirginis’ injury at middle linebacker and did well enough to probably keep his job. At star, Bright got far more playing time in sub packages and as a reserve than any other option did, but McKee has been in the defense a long time and will be given a shot.
2. Chase Pine, Wendell Davis
Pine will probably be the primary backup at both money and mike, with Davis also serving as an option in the middle.
1. Damar Hamlin, Jazzee Stocker
Hamlin is a lock to start and a potential all-conference player. Stocker split time with Dennis Briggs at boundary safety and played in a ton of sub packages in 2018, giving him a leg up on the competition at that spot, but it will be a competition, and someone else could certainly grab the role.
2. Phil Campbell, Paris Ford OR Bricen Garner
Campbell will play mostly to the boundary and Garner mostly to the filed, likely as Hamlin’s backup. Where Ford fits is kind of a mystery and we’ve yet to see how he’ll fare back at safety after spending 2018 at cornerback. If he’s a field safety and the second-best option, Pitt could slide Hamlin over to the boundary.
1. Dane Jackson, Jason Pinnock
Jackson will be entering this third season as a starter, while Pinnock all but unseated Phillipie Motley on the other side by the end of the season. Perhaps the strongest returning position group on the defense.
2. Damarri Mathis, Therran Coleman OR Marquis Williams
Mathis has the most experience of the bunch entering his junior season, and would probably be the first backup at either corner spot. All three players have also played the nickel back role, and that should be a true battle through camp.
1. Kirk Christodoulou It wasn’t a great rookie season, but the Aussie should be back as a sophomore in 2019.
1. Maurice Ffrench, Paris Ford
Ffrench will mostly handle most of the kick returns again, while he or Ford could fill in for the departed Rafael Araujo-Lopes on punt returns.