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Analysis: Pitt DE Chief Borders Brings Much Needed Pass Rushing



Pitt linebacker Chief Borders.

It wouldn’t have been surprising if the Pitt coaching staff didn’t land a defensive end in the transfer portal before the 2024-25 kicked off in August.

The going rate for defensive ends, of any caliber, in the portal is bordering on absurd. There’s a reason why Dayon Hayes and Samuel Okunlola left Pittsburgh, and it doesn’t have anything to do with football. The demand for defensive ends is perhaps greater than any other position.

It made the addition of Nebraska transfer Chief Borders that much more surprising.

Borders — a 6-foot-6, 245-pound defensive end from Carrollton, Ga. — isn’t super experienced or anything. He has just 166 career defensive snaps through three seasons at Florida and Nebraska. But if the reports out of Lincoln are to be believed, he was one of the most improved Cornhuskers of the spring.

Nebraska head coach Matt Rhule spoke very highly of Borders following a scrimmage last month, via a report by Michael Bruntz of Huskers247.

“Chief Borders is probably the most improved player on our team through camp,” Rhule said after Nebraska’s first scrimmage. “I mean, Chief has (arrived at), ‘You know what? I can play.’ And he’s a problem out there.”

I don’t know about the report of Borders playing tight end in Pittsburgh, but there’s a legitimate path to playing time at defensive end. There’s a need, and for the first time in Borders’ career, he’s going to be called upon.

Borders was initially a four-star linebacker out of Heard County in Georgia in the class of 2021, committing to Florida over offers from Arkansas, Auburn, Colorado, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, Oregon, Pitt, South Carolina, Stanford, Syracuse, Tennessee and Virginia Tech.

He spent two seasons at Florida, recording just 19 defensive snaps during his time as a Gator, before deciding to enter the portal last offseason. He spent last season with Nebraska, getting his first real taste of college football.

Borders recorded nine tackles (three solo), 0.5 tackles for loss and a pass breakup in 147 defensive snaps last season, lining up on the defensive line on 115 of those snaps. According to PFF, he registered three pressures, three hurries and two run stops — not missing a tackle.

He will be a welcomed addition to the defensive line room this summer, a much-needed injection of experience and potential.

Nate Matlack wound up being a significant winter pickup. He’s a Day 1 starter with experience and potential. Seeing him put together the season many expected Dayon Hayes to have wouldn’t be surprising. There are a lot of questions outside of Matlack though.

Bam Brima is an experienced rotation player but isn’t a difference-maker. Sincere Edwards looks like a future star off the edge, but he hasn’t played a snap of college football yet. Jimmy Scott and David Ojiegbe are both firmly in the mix.

It’s just hard to bet solely on potential.

But Borders brings a mixture of potential and expectation. He was sought after in the portal, visiting UCLA the week before committing to Pitt, sure, but he will be able to play in a scheme that better fits his style of play. He played as more of a stand-up linebacker at Nebraska; he’ll be able to rush the quarterback off the edge in Pittsburgh.

It isn’t easy to replace 90% of snaps from any unit. But at the same time, change was needed on the interior of the defensive line. The unit didn’t make splash plays and didn’t stop the run. It was missing twitch and quickness.

By all accounts, the new defensive tackles aren’t. Nahki Johnson and Sean FitzSimmons are leading the way, and Nick James, Isaiah Neal and Elliot Donald will rotate. Pitt likes to rotate on the interior, even if someone like Calijah Kancey is on the roster, and that isn’t going to change when there isn’t someone like him around. It’s about finding the right combination now.

Even young players like Francis Brewu and Jahsear Whittington could be in the mix entering the season, despite their newness.

Potential 2024 depth chart 

DE — Nate Matlack – Bam Brima OR Sincere Edwards

DE — Chief Borders – Jimmy Scott OR David Ojigbe

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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1 month ago

I have no idea what an edge rusher gets in NIL.. Can you give a hint? 10k, 100k, 1M.

1 month ago
Reply to  MDtkd

I’m curious too. ✌️

1 month ago
Reply to  MDtkd

I’d like to hear that number too.

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