PITTSBURGH — After moving Jim Medure to fullback and Carson Van Lynn back to tackle following the end of the 2018 season, Pitt started the spring with just three scholarship players at the tight end position.
Now, they’re down to two, at least for practice on Tuesday, as redshirt freshman Kaymar Mimes was moved back to defensive end, the position he was originally recruited to play at Pitt.
Mimes, who is from Long Branch, New Jersey, was a late addition to Pitt’s 2018 recruiting class, with head coach Pat Narduzzi capitalizing on the fact that he coached Mimes’ brother, Shilique Calhoun, at Michigan Sate.
At signing day, Narduzzi introduced Mimes as a defensive end, but a pair of departures between then and the start of the 2018 season prompted a change. Chris Clark left the team during spring practice and eventually transferred to Towson and Charles Reeves was dismissed after returning home over the summer. He eventually transferred to Youngstown State and then to a junior college.
The departures, combined with the graduation of 2017 starter Matt Flanagan, left the Panthers thin in Tim Salem’s tight end room. So when Mimes arrived on campus in the fall of 2018, he was placed there, and not his natural defensive end position.
But that change seems to have been reversed, with Mimes returning to defensive line drills at practice on Tuesday.
Mimes, wearing a blue practice jersey like the rest of the defense, was getting coached up by his teammates on the finer points of the defensive line’s drills, while Grant Carrigan and Will Gragg worked with walk-ons Jake Cortez and Drake Toto at tight end.
Perhaps coincidentally, Rutgers graduate transfer tight end Nakia Griffin-Stewart was at practice on Tuesday. He’ll be joining Carrigan and Gragg in the tight ends room this fall and should be able to compete for a starting job. That, combined with incoming freshman and fellow New Jersey native Jason Collier, gave the Panthers the depth necessary to be OK with moving Mimes to his more natural position.
“Just trying it out,” Narduzzi said. “We’re a little low on (defensive) ends right now. Not that anybody is hurt, just getting guys reps.”
Behind starters Rashad Weaver and Patrick Jones II and experienced reserve Deslin Alexandre, Pitt has just redshirt freshmen Habakkuk Baldonado, John Morgan and Noah Palmer at end, so there is a path for at least one of the youngsters to play their way into the rotation.
“Whichever one gets me on the field,” Mimes said. “It’s a little different. I did play a little defensive end in high school, but coming here, I was mainly a tight end. It’s different. It’s fun.”
Mimes said Jones, Alexandre and Morgan are some of the that have helped him make the adjustment
“Knowing what you’re doing is always hard,” he said. “Sometimes they throw a lot at you. You’ve got to absorb it all like a sponge. That’s a little difficult sometimes, but I’m adjusting to it well and I like it.”
Even if Mimes ends up back at tight end, getting some experience on defense might help him see the field in 2019 as a special teams player, an area where Pitt graduated a number of effective, multi-role players like George Aston, Qadree Ollison and Elijah Zeise.
“Special teams, that’s something that they’ve been stressing,” Mimes said. “If you’re fighting for a position on offense or defense, try to get on special teams and try to get some reps. That’s definitely something that’s an entrance to the game.”
In the end, Mimes said he’s fine with doing whatever the team needs him to do and that the transition his been a fairly seamless one, that is with one notable exception on Tuesday.
“He hit the quarterback when he wasn’t supposed to,” Narduzzi said. “He doesn’t know any better. He got a sack as well as a couple receptions.”
“I wasn’t really trying to do anything crazy, it’s just when I get on defense, I’m a nice guy, but it turns real quick,” Mimes said. “I realized when I was done with the play. … I was like, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it.’”
Unlike most defensive players, the quarterbacks are indeed his, as well. He’d probably be best served to not make any enemies on the offensive side of the ball.