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Sights and Sounds: Pitt Football Defensive Line Works to Remain Strong Unit



Pitt Football Sights and Sounds

PITTSBURGH — An incredibly rainy day forced Pitt football practice inside at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the Southside, but the intensity kept up throughout.

It’s Week 5 of spring practice for the Panthers and they’re performing like it’s almost time for the season opener, which is just a little under five months away. One unit that is particularly standing out is the defensive line, which changed dramatically over the past few months.

Long time Pitt defensive line coach Charlie Partridge left his post for the same job in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts. David Green, Tyler Bentley and Devin Danielson all graduated after six seasons with the program, while Deandre Jules and Samuel Okunlola transferred to South Carolina and Colorado, respectively.

Tim Daoust took over from Partridge in the middle of February and will look to keep one of the best position groups in the program competing with the best in the country.

New players have come in on the defensive line as well. This includes transfers in Nate Matlack (Kansas State), Nick James (Indiana), and David Ojiegbe (Clemson), along with early enrollees in Zachary Crothers, Sincere Edwards and Francis Brewu, who all came in January.

Still, there are many players with experience on this defensive line that either will provide help to the younger players or will look to establish starting roles heading into camp in August.

Bam Brima is the eldest player in the unit, heading into his sixth season, but both redshirt juniors Elliott Donald and Nakhi Johnson, local recruits from Pittsburgh Central Catholic and West Mifflin, have the chance to star as defensive tackles.

Redshirt sophomores in Jimmy Scott and Seneca Valley alum Sean FitzSimmons both look like they’ll play a lot this upcoming season. This is especially true for FitzSimmons, who struggled to stay healthy last season.

Isaiah Neal, Antonio Camon and Maverick Gracio redshirted last season and now have the opportunity to play their first full season in 2024.

Daoust showed his toughness as any typical defensive line coach would do on Tuesday, running them through a number of drills to improve their intensity and their readiness.

While Daoust has the majority of responsibilities for the defensive line, he isn’t alone in developing the unit.

Defensive coordinator Randy Bates, secondary coach Archie Collins, safeties coach Cory Sanders and especially defensive graduate assistant Malcolm Robinson worked with the defensive linemen throughout drills in practice. All of them pushed the defensive linemen to improve in various aspects of their game, all of which will help them come August.

Partridge leaving is a big blow for the program, but the way things look right now, the defensive line is the least of concerns for Pitt.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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