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PSN Mailbag: Pitt’s LBs, Player Workouts, Hoops Big Men and RMU Move



It’s been a while since I had a Friday PSN Mailbag, so we opened things to questions from the readers.

Let’s dive right in:

@GarBercury Quick assessment of the Pitt LB group? Can they step up and be high quality or is there reason for worry?

Gar, great question. To me, the linebacker group is getting a bit undersold. Yes, they’re losing two starters in Kylan Johnson and Saleem Brightwell from a defense that overall isn’t losing much from 2019, but it’s still a very talented group.

Cam Bright only made three stars at the star outside linebacker position, but make no mistake, he was a primary defender, making 62 tackles, good for third on the team. In an increased role as a redshirt junior, it’s not crazy to think that Bright will be getting courted for an early NFL exit. He’s that good.

Phil Campbell III was the other star linebacker last season, and he’ll be moving over to the money spot on the boundary side of the field. A former safety, Campbell’s coverage skills won’t be a drop-off at all from Johnson. It will be a stronger test physically, but he seemed ready when we talked in March.

Chase Pine, featured alongside Campbell in the above video, is the presumptive starter at middle linebacker. PSN’s Nick Farabaugh just did a great film breakdown on Pine’s game that I strongly recommend.  I expect Pine to be a better pass rusher and more impactful tackler than Brightwell was, but he might give a little ground to the former starter in the passing game.

On the whole, the starting three should compare at worst equally to the unit they’re replacing and could even be better. Where Pitt may struggle some is the depth behind those starters. Campbell and Pine were very experienced part-time players. Brightwell himself was a fill-in after an injury to Elias Reynolds early in the season.

This year, the top depth options will likely involve a combination of Wendell Davis, SirVocea Dennis, Brandon George and Leslie Smith. There is talent there, but very little experience. If someone were to go down early in the season, it could be an issue.

@Pittsburghspo12 Are the Pitt football players doing any voluntary players only workouts?

They will be, but they aren’t just yet. The first two weeks they’re back on campus, which started on Monday, will be a sort of medical evaluation and quarantine period before they allow the whole team to get together for workouts, formal or informal.

After that, the team will have eight hours per week of supervised training and informal team workouts.

That’s not to say that the players aren’t working out, just not in a team setting.

Terrell Brown (21) against North CaroJanuary 18, 2020 — David Hague/PSN

@Brad13__ Who do you think will get the most minutes at the 5 for Pitt this year?

I expect Terrell Brown to take the tip-off on opening night and be the starting center for at least the first portion of the season.

How long Brown holds onto that role will depend on how quickly incoming freshman John Hugley makes the adjustment to college basketball. Hugley has a far higher ceiling, but freshman bigs are notoriously hard to rush to playing time.

Abdoul Karim Coulibaly played well enough down the stretch as a freshman that he should be in line for a minutes upgrade, as well. I’ll guess 10 for each per game, with the final 10 going to whoever plays the best.

If they’re all playing very well, Hugley has the ball skills to play the four some, as well.

@JediMaster989 I’d like to know when the Pitt basketball team will be in camp. I remember Coach saying a while back that he hoped to have them together in June.

I sent a few messages out on this, but it doesn’t seem like anyone has a firm answer yet.

RMU Celebrates NEC Championship March 10, 2020 — David Hague/PSN

@DemoKnight422 What is the likelihood that RMU actually moves conferences and when could we expect a decision? And what conference makes most sense?

Well, I broke down this news on Thursday night, with RMU headed to the Horizon League for most sports and the Big South for football.

As far as what makes the most sense, it’s tough to answer that. The Horizon League makes the most sense for basketball, which is of course, the focus at RMU.

But moving to a non-football league and getting shut out of the NEC is going to be tough on RMU football. They could lose close rivals Duquesne and St. Francis. The Big South is a big step up in scholarships and facility. And this comes just when Bernard Clark looked to have the arrow pointed up in Year 2.

I know nobody seems to really care all that much about RMU football, but it’s an expensive sport to have and not care about. If they thrive in the Big South, it will mean big things. If they don’t, this could be the beginning of the end.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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