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Pitt DE Zachary Crothers Turned Disappointment into Motivation



Pitt defensive end Zachary Crothers.

There likely wasn’t a single soul that wanted Charlie Partridge to leave Pittsburgh, but like many others, Zachary Crothers was proud of the man who recruited him to Pitt.

Crothers — a 6-foot-4, 245-pound defensive end from Weston, Fla. — had the idea that he would come to Pitt and learn under perhaps the best defensive line coach in college football. Instead, Partridge took the same position with the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL earlier this month. But where some may have sulked, Crothers certainly didn’t.

“The day it hit, we all talked, and it’s kinda like motivation,” Crothers said last week at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. “Stuff happens, but you gotta look at it in a good way. Now that you have a good connection with Partridge, you have a great connection in the NFL. It’s great for him that he’s in the NFL, we’re proud of him, so now we have that connection in the NFL so we can use that as sort of motivation.”

Crothers officially committed to Pitt last March over offers from Akron, Appalachian State, Bowling Green, Brown, Coastal Carolina, Connecticut, Indiana, Liberty, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon State, Toledo, USF and Western Michigan.

And it may have been the early commitment, or it may have been that he simply slipped through the cracks in a talent-rich state like Florida, but Crothers never truly received the interest that a player of his caliber likely should’ve. But where the in-state schools missed, Pitt took advantage.

“What brought me to Pitt was, first, I made that connection with Partridge starting early my junior year, along with him and Duzz,” Crothers said. “Duzz became a big part of my recruitment, and just seeing the kind of defense they played here was something I wanted to be a part of. I’m a playmaker, I love making plays and I felt this was a defense I could really thrive in.”

Crothers was one of the leaders on a Chaminade-Madonna High squad that went 14-0 and brought home the FHSAA 1M title, racking up 22.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks and a pick-six in the process. He credits his ability to make splash plays to his long arms — which he hasn’t officially measured yet.

“It helps me get space between offensive linemen, so part of this defense, what they’ve been teaching us, especially coach Malcolm (Robinson), is that when we’re pass rushing, we want to create space and then take it away,” Crothers said. “I feel like I can do that well with my reach.”

Partridge may not be around, but Narduzzi and Robinson are. New defensive line coach Tim Daoust is, too. It was certainly a big shock to lose Partridge before his Pitt career really began, but he understands it.

“You come in with this big expectation of him being your coach, but things change,” Partridge said. “And all our teams said, the older veterans and my high school coaches, it’s a business in college football. You can’t really expect too much, but I’m excited to work with Tim.”

Daoust, who is a veteran defensive line coach who has earned praise from all of the early enrollee defensive linemen, has his work cut out for him. But veterans like Dayon Hayes, Nate Temple and Bam Brima have been helping to bridge the gap.

Crothers has learned a lot from the veterans — and even his fellow freshmen. It’s been a learning experience for everyone. The chance to come in early, six months before the start of summer camp in August, has been huge. It’s allowed him to get a jumpstart on his playbook knowledge, which he feels is the biggest benefit.

It’s not exactly hard to play defensive end at Pitt, but it takes a particular kind of player. It’s a simple yet effective scheme that Narduzzi has set up to allow his defensive ends to wreak havoc in the opposing backfield. That’s kind of why Crothers decided to come to Pitt. That, and the Pitt coaching staff’s ability to produce NFL players.

“That’s one of the biggest things,” Crothers said. “The end goal is the NFL, that’s what everyone wants to do, so seeing how well Pitt has done with that is just something I want to do and be the next one to make that jump.”

Partridge isn’t exactly waiting for Crothers, but if and when he’s able to make it to the next level, he’ll reunite with Partridge again. He may not be able to work with Partridge at Pitt, but he knows what he needs to do to potentially work with Partridge again. Make it to the NFL.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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