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The Pitt Linebacking Corps is in Good Hands Going Forward



Pitt linebacker Braylan Lovelace.

Jordan Bass has been playing on special teams for Pitt this season, but he finally got a crack defensively against No. 14 Louisville over the weekend. And he couldn’t wait to tell Pat Narduzzi about it.

“Jordan was so excited,” Narduzzi said Monday at his weekly news conference. “He came up to me, ‘Coach, I got my reps in.’ I didn’t even know he was in there.

“As a matter of fact, when you watch the tape, I usually don’t look to say, ‘Let me watch how Jordan is doing.’ I’m usually looking for all the problems and who screwed up. When he was out there, I didn’t say, ‘What is Jordan doing?’ So he’s just going to keep getting better.”

Bass didn’t play a whole bunch defensively against Lousiville, just four snaps, but he recorded his first collegiate tackle — and he continued to receive a bigger workload on special teams.

He had a chance to make an impact — no matter the size — and he managed to do so.

“I think I told you Thursday, we sit down and see how we’re going to play the plays, and we’re going through it, and just kind of talked to coach Manalac and said give that guy two plays; let him go out there,” Narduzzi said. “We’re going to need him as we go. We’ve just got to put him out there, see what happens. Don’t put him out there for seven or eight, 10 plays in a row. Two plays and then get him out and let’s just make sure he’s good, coach him up on the sideline, then get him back out there. I think he had four plays. He’s got an expanded role in special teams as we go, and we’re just going to continue to play him and get him ready.”

Bass is just one of the three true freshman linebackers who have made an impact this season. It was a three-man class, one that had modest expectations on National Signing Day, but all three will burn their redshirts and play quite a bit of football this season.

It’s been Braylan Lovelace who has made the biggest impact at Pitt this season, stepping into an increased role as Bangally Kamara missed time over the last couple of weeks — and maintaining a rotation spot upon his return.

Lovelace has recorded 17 tackles (six solo), a tackle for loss and returned a fumble for a touchdown in 103 defensive snaps this season, which is the sixth-most for a linebacker through six games, and he’s looked like a multi-year starter in the making. The transition he’s made from Class-A football at Leechburg High in just a few months has been incredible.

And while Biles hasn’t received any defensive snaps so far this season, he’s made a tangible impact on special teams — blocking punts against Virginia Tech and North Carolina.

“Blocked punt in the second half by Biles,” Narduzzi said following the North Carolina loss. “That’s his second of the year. True freshman from Columbus, Ohio. He’s got a knack. He almost got another one it looked like out there.”

Braylan Lovelace — 170 total snaps (103 defensive): 17 tackles (six solo), 1 tackle for loss, fumble recovery, touchdown

Jordan Bass — 31 total snaps (four defensive): one tackle

Rasheem Biles — 27 total snaps: two punt blocks

Lovelace has already burned his redshirt, having played in five games this season, while Bass and Biles have each hit the four game threshold. It’s encouraging that with Bass and Biles about to join Lovelace, none of the three have hit the freshman wall.

It’s easy to lose steam as the season wears on, but all three have only gotten stronger as the season has hit the halfway point.

And while Kyle Louis isn’t a true freshman, although he didn’t receive any playing time last season as he dealt with injuries, he’s another young — freshman — linebacker who is poised to make an impact at Pitt in the future. He’s the only one of the freshmen to make a start this season, filling in against Virginia Tech, and he’s recorded 13 tackles (three solo) and 1.5 tackles for loss.

Pitt will receive another injection of talent in December when four-star linebacker Cameron Lindsey and three-star linebackers Jeremiah Marcelin and Davin Brewton sign their Letters of Intent and join the program.

Shayne Simon is the only Pitt linebacker who will be unable to return next season, with Kamara, Solomon DeShields and Brandon George all maintaining at least another season of eligibility, but the freshmen linebackers will force their way onto the field one way or another over the next season — or two.

It’s a good problem to have, with a plethora of young, talented linebackers plying their trade in Pittsburgh.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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9 months ago

I just hope that the Panthers can hold on to Brandon Lindsey. He’s a game changer!!

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