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Pitt Football

Pitt’s Scary Defensive Line Depth Over the Next Three Seasons

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With Jahsear Whittington’s commitment Monday, Pitt added its first commitment in the class of 2024 from a highly regarded four-star defensive lineman.

In pulling a top-ranked recruit from an area Pitt isn’t known for venturing into, Pitt not only added a premier talent but supplemented one of the strongest, deepest units on the roster. It’s no secret defensive line coach Charlie Partridge works magic with his unit, and his presence was a major reason why Whittington committed.

With Whittington, Elliot Donald and Nahki Johnson as Top-300 recruits and Jimmy Scott, Samuel Okunlola, Sean FitzSimmons, Dorien Ford and Dayon Hayes added into the program over the last few years as high-ranked recruits, Pitt has a strong foundation on the defensive line.

With 2023 three-star Kamari Burns, 2023 four-star Jameial Lyons and four-star Desmond Umeozulu all placing Pitt in their respective list of finalists and heavy attention turned toward 2023 four-star Rueben Bain, 2023 four-star Jalen Thompson, 2023 four-star Dashawn Womack and 2023 four-star Mason Robinson, there will be a lot of additions added in the class of 2023 and 2024.

Let’s take a look 2022’s depth as it stands.

2022

DL – Calijah Kancey (R-Jr.), Tyler Bentley (R-Sr.), Devin Danielson (R-Sr.), David Green (R-Sr.), DeAndre Jules (R-Jr.), Bam Brima (R-Jr.), Elliot Donald (R-Fr.), Dorien Ford (R-Fr.), Sean FitzSimmons (Fr.), Jimmy Scott (Fr.), JoJo Belgrave (R-So.)

DE – Haba Baldonado (R-Sr.), Deslin Alexandre (R-Sr.), Dayon Hayes (Jr.), John Morgan (R-Sr.), Chris Maloney (R-Sr.), Nahki Johnson (R-Fr.), Samuel Okunlola (Fr.), Sam Williams (R-Sr.), Nate Temple (R-Jr.)

Pitt’s defensive line is loaded in 2022, with a deep, experienced corps of veteran players inside and outside.

Calijah Kancey returns as perhaps Pitt’s best defensive player, looking to build even higher off an All-American campaign in 2021, and he’s joined by capable players in Tyler Bentley, Devin Danielson and David Green.

DeAndre Jules should play more in 2022, and Bam Brima is a potential breakout player after a strong spring. Elliot Donald and Dorien Ford are another year bigger, stronger and smarter in Pitt’s system, and Sean FitzSimmons and Jimmy Scott are entering into the system.

Haba Baldonado and Deslin Alexandre form a strong, experienced outside pairing — with the former hunting for increased NFL exposure — and John Morgan is fresh off a monster spring game as a key rotational edge rusher. Dayon Hayes is poised for a monster junior season, and his approach to spring football earned strong praise from the coaching staff.

Nahki Johnson, Samuel Okunlola and Sam Williams are young players in Pitt’s system, but all three will have opportunities to push for playing time — Johnson especially.

Calijah Kancey (8) SirVocea Dennis (7) and Deslin Alexandre (5) during the ACC Championship Game – December 4, 2021 David Hague/PSN

2023

DL – Calijah Kancey*, DeAndre Jules, Bam Brima, Elliot Donald, Dorien Ford, Sean FitzSimmons, Jimmy Scott, JoJo Belgrave

DE – Dayon Hayes*, Nahki Johnson, Samuel Okunlola, Sam Williams

Kancey could very well leave for the NFL with another strong campaign, but he will have the option to return for his senior season. 2023 could be the year that Donald and Ford step forward as key cogs upfront in Pitt’s defense.

Jules and Brima will both enter their redshirt senior seasons as experienced options, and FitzSimmons and Scott will have had a full season in the system as their development continues.

Like Kancey, a strong campaign from Hayes could pave the way to testing the NFL waters, but he’ll be able to return for his senior season.

With a loss of depth on the edge entering the 2023 season, it’ll be up to Johnson and Okunlola to fill the void. Williams is the only other defensive end on the roster.

 

Dayon Hayes (50) – September 25, 2021 David Hague/PSN

2024

DL – Elliot Donald, Dorien Ford, Sean FitzSimmons, Jimmy Scott, Jahsear Whittington, JoJo Belgrave

DE – Nahki Johnson, Samuel Okunlola, Sam Williams

Donald, Ford, FitzSimmons and Scott are a strong foundation for a season that’s still ages away, and recent four-star commit Jahsear Whittington would be entering the fold.

Johnson and Okunlola could be Pitt’s primary defensive end pairing.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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