PITTSBURGH – Training camp serves as an opportuntiy for players to hone their skills and display the improvements they have made. One player that has turned some heads for Pitt this August is redshirt freshman defensive end Habakkuk Baldonado.
Head coach Pat Narduzzi has taken notice and is excited about the role he can play.
“Another guy that keeps progressing daily is Habakkuk Baldonado,” Narduzzi said. “He’s progressing to the point where he is going to be a factor this season. He has proved that he can be in our top four.”
Baldonado attributes the recent praise from his coaches to hard work.
“I just try to get better every day,” he said. “I try to not get days off. I always try to go 100% on every drill. Individuals, team periods… I have my motivation, so I always go on. Always get better.”
After missing time during spring practices, Baldonado is back and fully healthy, ready to earn playing time on a defensive line that suddenly needs bodies with the loss of junior defensive end Rashad Weaver.
“I feel great,” he said. “I just came back and I feel better than I ever felt. Stronger, faster than I have ever been… I feel really good.”
With Weaver now set to miss the entire 2019 season, Baldonado is ready to take full advantage of the opportunity in front of him.
“I am really excited, I can’t wait.” he said. “I had this big opportunity, I’m just going to take advantage of it.”
A native of Rome, Italy, Baldonado joined the Panthers as a 3-star recruit in 2018 after just one year of high school football at Clearwater Academy International in Florida. Baldonado did play American football in Italy for three years before coming to the states.
Though he did play just one year of high school football in America, he made the most of that lone season by being an absolute monster on the field. Baldonado racked up 83 tackles, 30.5 sacks, nine forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries as a senior.
While Baldonado likley will not replicate his ridiculous high school numbers, his head coach is confident that he will make an impact in 2019.
“The basketball team went to Rome… well, we’re going to see a defensive end from Italy that is going to play for the Panthers this year,” Narduzzi said last Friday.
Baldonado preserved a redshirt by playing in just one game for the Panthers in 2018, the ACC Championship game against Clemson.
While redshirt junior Patrick Jones II and redshirt sophomore Deslin Alexandre appear to be the starters at defensive end for the Panthers, Baldonado should see significant playing time in the rotation this season.