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Pitt Football

Where Does Pitt’s Linebacker Depth Stand Without SirVocea Dennis?

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Tylar Wiltz was exactly the kind of transfer portal impact that Pitt needed last season, and Pat Narduzzi and company will likely need to hit on a transfer of his caliber again.

With Wiltz exhausting his college eligibility and SirVocea Dennis officially accepted to the Senior Bowl, it’s the second season in a row where Pitt has lost two starting linebackers — and Dennis’ impact in the defense cannot be overstated.

It makes Shayne Simon’s decision that much more important for next season.

Simon arrived around a year ago from Notre Dame and immediately emerged as a leader in the unit. He filled in at both Mike and Money — mainly Money — to great success.

Simon recorded 40 tackles (25 solo), 4.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, six pass breakups and a forced fumble and recovery. He also earned Pitt’s highest coverage grade, according to PFF.

With his versatility, able to fill Mike and Money, Pitt needs him back. Brandon George, who will be able to redshirt after playing just three games in 2022, would be another big returner at Mike linebacker.

However, there is an outside chance that Pitt loses Dennis, Wiltz, Simon and George next season (not that I expect that). So, who’s left to fill the gaps?

Bangally Kamara — Sr. Star linebacker

2022 stats: 44 tackles (22 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, one sack, seven pass breakups

2022 snaps: 591 defensive snaps

Kamara was thrown into the fire last season at Star linebacker, making his first start in the season opener against West Virginia, and it wasn’t always easy.

But he did grow a lot during his first season as a starter, which was expected to be the case before the season. Perhaps his finest performance of the season came in the home finale against Duke.

With Dennis leaving for the NFL, he will be relied upon not only for his production but his leadership. Expect Kamara back at Star linebacker next season.

Solomon DeShields — R-Jr. Money linebacker

2022 stats: 18 tackles (10 solo), five tackles for loss, four sacks, three pass breakups

2022 snaps: 236 defensive snaps

DeShields didn’t play perhaps as much as expected as Simon emerged as a stellar Money linebacker, but he was impactful when he was on the field.

I expect DeShields to break out in 2023, filling that Money role and getting after opposing offenses in the backfield. His five tackles for loss and four sacks trailed only Dennis in the linebacking corps.

When Dennis was asked in November about the potential of young linebackers stepping up next season, he mentioned DeShields.

Buddy Mack — R-Jr. Star linebacker

2022 stats: n/a

2022 snaps: 0

Mack made the transition from safety to linebacker last offseason, and he used the 2022 season as a redshirt season to grow into the role.

He played in 22 games between 2020-21, as a reserve safety and special teamer, but he didn’t play at all last season.

He’s tailor-made for Star linebacker in the defensive scheme.

Kyle Louis — R-Fr. linebacker

2022 stats: n/a

2022 snaps: 0

Louis redshirted as a true freshman in 2022, not taking any defensive snaps. He’s expected to slot in as a Star linebacker in Pitt’s defense.

He played safety and linebacker in high school to great success, but he may need another year of seasoning.

Aydin Henningham — R-Jr. linebacker

2022 stats: n/a

2022 snaps: 0

Henningham was an unfortunate injury casualty this season, suffering a season-ending injury just before the 2022 season kicked off.

He put together a solid offseason, learning all three linebacker spots in the defense, but he is likely destined for one of the two outside linebacker spots.

He’s finally committed to linebacker, after entering the program as a wide receiver, and he should slot back into the linebacker rotation next season.

Nick Lapi — R-So. Mike linebacker

2022 stats: 1 tackle (one solo)

2022 snaps: 7 defensive snaps

Lapi is an interesting case. He’s not on scholarship, but he slotted into the defense at Mike linebacker at times this season as George dealt with injuries. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him put on scholarship.

Transfer

There will very, very, very likely be a transfer addition or two at linebacker this offseason.

2023 Verbal Commits

Jordan Bass — three-star from Phoebus High in Hampton, Virginia

Rasheem Biles — three-star from Pickerington Central High in Pickerington, Ohio

Braylan Lovelace — three-star from Leechburg Area High in Leechburg, Pennsylvania

Potential Depth 

Star — Banagally Kamara – Buddy Mack – Kyle Louis

Mike — Shayne Simon/Brandon George – Nick Lapi

Money — Shayne Simon/Solomon DeShields – Aydin Hennigham

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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On Campus Stadium Please
On Campus Stadium Please
1 month ago

ouch

Ed Rose
Ed Rose
1 month ago

Did you look in the mirror?

Mtgj
Mtgj
1 month ago

It’s really weird how bad pitt has recruited linebackers. Does anyone have a theory on this?

Terrence Otoole
Terrence Otoole
1 month ago

What about brandin George

Tim
Tim
1 month ago

Every recruiting cycle the naysayers have the same old critiques. 2 star and 3 star talent. I guess I understand the concerns. But, if you watch the games PITT manages to put a pretty fair if not very good defense on the field consistently.

Ed Rose
Ed Rose
1 month ago
Reply to  Tim

They have led the nation in sacks the last several years. They have played enough defense to beat, Clemson, Miami when they were number 2, UCF with their high powered offense, too. And their 33 game win streak. They even held On campus stadiums PSU to 17 points. Jaylen Twyman used Clifford’s head like a jackhammer that day a few times. Guys like Dane Jackson, Damar Hamlin, Patrick Jones, Rashard Weaver, Jason Pinnock, Damari Mathis, Jordan Whitehead and Avonte Maddox have made the NFL. Dennis, Kancey and Brandon Hill will be the next batch to be NFL players. Pitt recruits… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Ed Rose

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