The individual talent on the 2020 Pitt football defense has been talked about over the last few months by various people throughout college football.
Leading up to the start of the season, numerous Pitt players will be preseason nominations for various college football awards. The Pitt defensive unit received some pretty high praise today from a person that studies and watches football for a living.
Rich Cirminiello, the Director of College Awards for the Maxwell Football Club tweeted out his top top 10 defensive lines in the country and tops on the list were Charlie Partridge’s unit. The fact that this Panther unit is that well thought of and considered more talented than teams such as Clemson, Alabama, Penn State and Ohio State is pretty eye-opening.
This year's top college D-line comes out of the ACC (but it's not Clemson)
Group of Five:
2. San Diego St
9. Florida State
7. Ohio State
5. Penn State
— Rich Cirminiello (@RichCirminiello) June 23, 2020
Pittsburgh Sports Now had the chance to talk with Cirminiello about his feelings on this talented unit, what this says for Pat Narduzzi and got him to speak about some of these players individually.
“At this point, Pitt is going up against the Clemson’s of the world, the SEC programs, elite programs in the Big 10. I started this process of evaluation a couple of weeks ago in great detail,” said Cirminiello. “I watched film, looked at stats, spoke with my buddies at Pro Football Focus. I knew that they were a good defensive line but as I dug deeper, looked at the return of Keyshon Camp, Rashad Weaver to the group that had 51 sacks. I know some people on Twitter are looking at this thinking I’m trying to get more attention but I generally believe that this is the deepest and most talented defensive line in the country.”
“Their are schools out there like Miami where I love their defensive ends, no one is better. If you want to talk about defensive tackles, I love Florida State. I’m hard-pressed to find anyone that has the blend of inside talent, outside talent and depth like Pitt. Depth is a big deal for Pat Narduzzi and that staff not to just have those front-line, next-level type players but he’s able to go into that second unit and it’s so deep.
“It’s such an interesting off-season because we don’t know what the season is going to look like. We don’t exactly know the durability, the conditioning that is taking place as the country is going through this pandemic. It’s been an off-season without spring football for a majority of the country, so to have that deep rotation, to be able to throw out players that were getting quality reps last year and were getting to the quarterback, I think that staff is going to be able to utilize to their advantage throughout the regular season.”
When examining this group of 10 defensive lines, it needs to be pointed out that this group at Pitt isn’t filled with four- and five-star players like a majority of those other teams. These speaks to the development and coaching being done at Pitt by Partridge, Narduzzi and others.
“You mention blue-chip, I’ll mention chip on their shoulders,” said Cirminiello. “One of the thing that I really like about this group and it goes beyond the numbers and beyond the film. You get the sense that they have that ‘we have something to prove’ attitude. These guys are ready, you can hear it in their voices. They’re hungry, they’re ready and realize from front to back that this is going to be a dominating defense and can’t wait to be unleashed.
“It really is quintessential Pat Narduzzi going back to the Michigan State days because when they were developing those NFL quality players, some of those were two-star recruits like Patrick Jones. So Pat and his staff, much like Mark Dantonio did at Michigan State, not getting those high blue-chip recruits coming in but when they leave Pitt, they’re ready to play on Sundays.”
Speaking of Sundays, this highly thought of Pitt defense has a number of players that could hear their named called during the 2021 NFL Draft. We asked Cirminello about a few of the Panthers that could be playing in the NFL next season.
Jaylen Twyman– “Tremendous quickness for an interior lineman. I won’t mention any names or make comparisons because that’s unfair to Jaylen but I do see shadows of former Pitt interior defensive lineman who have the athleticism at 6-foot-2 and close to 290 pounds, the foot speed, the agility, the quickness. To have that pocket presence to get into opposing backfields, I love to watch him play and believe he has a bright NFL future.”
Patrick Jones– “He has the athleticism, has the size. Watching tape of Patrick, he has tremendous closing speed, has outstanding get off the line speed for a player his size and length. Patrick Jones is not only a testament to the staff for his development but credit him as well. He did not come out of high school as a highly rated recruit but he’s gotten better and better and when the opportunity came last year to become the guy off the edge, once Rashad was lost for the season, he delivered. I believe he’ll be better in 2020.”
Rashad Weaver– “Both for Rashad and Keyshon, they need to prove that their healthy and prove that they won’t have any rust and have to go out and show that they can make plays. This is not a knock on Rashad but after watching him in 2018, I don’t think he has the burst and athleticism or the flash of Patrick Jones but I think that he’s an outstanding technician and has strong fundamentals. I think he was able to use last season to become more of a student of the game. The other thing is that Rashad didn’t have as much help in 2018 as he’ll have this season. Now on the opposite side, he’ll have Patrick and they’ll be lots of opportunities to get to the quarterback.”