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Pitt Football

Sights and Sounds: Pitt’s Progress Midway Through Spring Practices

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PITTSBURGH — With Thursday’s indoor spring practice at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex in the books, Pitt is now officially halfway through the spring. With six more sessions before the Blue-Gold Spring Game on April 9 at Heinz Field, Pitt’s progress is beginning to take shape.

The key position battles on the roster, looking at quarterback, linebacker and cornerback, are beginning to take shape, but some are further along than others.

The competition between Kedon Slovis and Nick Patti is still being kept under wraps, with both quarterbacks rotating first and second team reps during drills available to the media — and during the practice portion away from watchful eyes. Head coach Pat Narduzzi has been hesitant to say much about either player, aside from saying both have looked good, and that’ll likely continue well into the spring.

Slovis and Patti took reps with the offense today, commanding the offense through run plays with Israel Abanikanda, Rodney Hammond Jr. Vincent Davis and Daniel Carter. The rushing attack, which Narduzzi has said hasn’t looked as good in three years, will be a priority in 2022.

On the other side of the line of scrimmage, the competitions to line up on either side of SirVocea Dennis in the linebacking corps remain in full swing. Dennis is the lone returner from the 2021 squad at Mike linebacker, and Shayne Simon, Solomon DeShields and Bangally Kamara have earned praise this spring for their development.

Kamara and DeShields have grown into their frames, both standing at 6-foot-2 and hovering around 230 pounds, they’re capable of playing either the boundary or field linebacker spots. Simon, the transfer from Notre Dame, is already making progress in integrating into Pitt’s defensive system.

Simon said before the spring that he was being prepared as the Money linebacker, which was held by Phil Campbell III last season, and Kamara, DeShields, Buddy Mack III and Marquan Pope are all fighting for the Star linebacker spot — and increased playing time in what could be a steady rotation in 2022.

Brandon George, one of the more veteran members of Pitt’s linebacking corps, will likely slide into a key reserve role behind Dennis.

Pitt’s defensive line remains a juggernaut, and the loss of Keyshon Camp is only a small setback. David Green, Tyler Bentley and Devin Danielson all have experience in Pitt’s system, and Green has been having a strong spring so far. However, a name to watch is Bam Brima, who has earned high praise from defensive line coach Charlie Partridge this spring.

Brima, who is listed at 6-foot-5, 280 pounds this spring, is someone who will be able to play inside and outside and feature heavily in Pitt’s defensive line rotation.

On the backend, Erick Hallett, Brandon Hill and Marquis Williams continue to lead Pitt’s secondary, but the younger players have begun to steal some of the spotlights at times.

M.J. Devonshire and A.J. Woods should be in the thick of the battle to replace Damarri Mathis in 2022, but some younger defensive backs are a threat to earn playing time too. Early enrollee Ryland Gandy (6-foot-0, 170 pounds) out of Texas has earned a lot of praise from the coaching staff, and Khalil Anderson and Javon McIntyre have flashed during drills available to the media.

Pitt’s penchant for recruiting defensive backs and shepherding them into either safety or cornerback as their careers progress is paying off with a plethora of versatile defensive backs fighting for playing time on the roster.

P.J. O’Brien, Rashad Battle and Stephon Hall have also earned praise this spring.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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