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Pitt LB Rasheem Biles Looking to be Key Member of ‘The Sharks’

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Pitt linrbacker Rasheem Biles.

It reached the point last season that there’d be a check if Rasheem Biles lined up in punt coverage, usually stationed at the end of the line. That tends to happen after a couple of blocked punts.

But even after those checks started following a second block punt, he got another — three blocked punts. The extra attention may have deterred others, but it only motivated Biles to work harder. He liked that the opposing team knew exactly where he was on every snap. And he was happy to free up opportunities for his teammates.

Biles hasn’t taken a ton of defensive snaps during his very brief college career, just eight defensive snaps coming against Notre Dame in garbage time last season, but he was a special teams ace as a true freshman. He’s packed on some weight, up to 215 these days, and he’s moving better than ever.

“You can definitely feel (the weight); it’s way easier for me out there now,” Biles said last month at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. 

Biles is trying to spend a little more time playing linebacker this season. He’ll do whatever is asked of him, serving as a gunner, but he wants to slide into that Star linebacker spot. It’s a position made for him. He was a strong safety in high school, and he was asked to do then what he’s doing now at Star.

“I enjoy having to run around the field,” Biles said. “I like to play free, loose; I like the upbeat, tempo, passing a lot, that fits me.”

The Star linebacker, which is a position that will have Kyle Louis (the starter if the season started today), Jordan Bass and Biles in competition, plays to the field. The Star linebackers are usually cross trained to play the Money spot, which helps with versatility across the entire unit, and there are going to be five or six linebackers who see the field. But only three starters.

“We’re competing every day,” Biles said. “We know the best people are going to be on the field at all times, so just compete every day and try to get that spot.”

Biles is working hard. His helmet has a few takeaway stickers, showing how he’s impacted practices this spring as a playmaker, and he’s consistently earned praise from the coaching staff. He didn’t arrive with the hype of Bass, and he didn’t have a spring season like Braylan Lovelace last year (not playing as much as either last season), but there’s a reason Narduzzi made it a priority to get Biles at least a few snaps last season.

He’s relentless on the field, and he’s spending more and more time in the facility now. There’s always music playing as he walks into a crowded team room. The energy is high in the meeting room, and that carries out to the field.

“Biles is another guy, Rasheem, goes by Sheem, Sheem is an athlete,” Narduzzi said last month. “He got a sack off the edge on third down today that he was about this far off the ground, crawling and he sacked the quarterback. It’s hard to do. It’s hard to bend like he did around that corner. I don’t know who the right tackle was, but we’ll see on the video tape. He’s shown that his motor just keeps getting better.”

Brandon George and Solomon DeShields, the “old” guys in the room, are leading the way, but Biles is part of a new wave of leaders. He certainly doesn’t feel out of place.

“I don’t really feel like a freshman anymore, especially because I ain’t redshirt, so it’s really my sophomore season,” Biles said. “I don’t really have that freshman thing in my head.”

If Biles learned anything from last season, it’s that college football is a business. He learned a lot on the field, but he saw for himself how nothing is ever a certainty. You have to work to hold onto your spot, and even then, the future isn’t guaranteed. Charlie Partridge leaving for the NFL is an example of the changes that come out of nowhere, and Biles had another little scare.

“The day (Coach P) went to the Colts, (coach Manalac) texted us like three hours later, ‘Meeting next day.’ So, I ain’t gonna lie, that kinda had my heart racing,” Biles said. “I didn’t know what to expect, but Manny, he’s around. He ain’t going anywhere.”

The linebackers group chat was a little more active than usual, but there was no fear. Biles was confident that Manalac wasn’t going anywhere. Manalac has to lead “the Sharks” after all.

“We’re called the Sharks this year,” Biles said. “Sharks play fast, hunt and before I got here, I used to call myself a Shark, and Kyle Louis used to call himself a shark before he got up here, so that was a perfect name.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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katuracassells@gmail.com
katuracassells@gmail.com
1 month ago

These young athletic guys should be playing more over either local guys, or, guys that have been here forever.

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