While Pitt’s offense has already reloaded for next season with a couple of transfer additions, a couple of returning stars and a couple of young players expected to make the jump, Pitt’s defense still needs a bit of work — especially at linebacker.
With Cam Bright entering the transfer portal and Phil Campbell III, Chase Pine and John Petrishen graduating, Pitt’s linebacker’s corps will need to replace a couple of key players. But the transfer portal has already hit Pitt’s depth hard.
Wendell Davis and AJ Roberts both entered the transfer portal and found new homes and Leslie Smith is still in the portal.
SirVocea Dennis will slot back in as Pitt’s MIKE linebacker, coming off a highly successful junior season in which he recorded 81 tackles (31 solo), 9.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, forced a fumble and returned an interception for a touchdown.
With Bright occupying the STAR linebacker role and Campbell occupying the MONEY linebacker spot in Pitt’s starting unit, both will need to be replaced. And Petrishen’s contributions as an ultra-reserve STAR will need to be replaced as well.
Bangally Kamara played sparingly this season, but he’s expected to be a key figure on Pitt’s defense next season as the MONEY linebacker. In seven games this season, he racked up 10 tackles (six solo), one tackle for loss and one sack.
And despite losing a few players to the transfer portal, Pitt used the portal to find a potential replacement in Michigan State’s Michael Dowell. While Dowell was played as a safety for Michigan State, recording 40 tackles (26 solo), two tackles for loss and three passes defended.
It’s likely that Dowell will follow Petrishen’s example and convert to STAR linebacker to fill a need in Pitt’s defense.
Brandon George is the only other linebacker on Pitt’s roster with significant experience, playing in 12 games this season and racking up 29 tackles (18 solo), five tackles for loss and defended a pass.
With Pitt’s activity in the transfer portal so far this year, it’s very likely that head coach Pat Narduzzi will look to the portal to bolster linebacker depth. And with a number of last year’s top linebacker contributors now gone, Pitt needs the help.
Pitt did add two linebackers in its class of 2022, three-stars Kyle Louis and Marquan Pope, but neither will likely make much of an impact as true freshmen next season.