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Pat Narduzzi Confident in Pitt Defensive Rebound in 2024

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Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi claps after the Panthers score against Virginia Tech on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023 in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Mitchell Northam / Pittsburgh Sports Now.)
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi claps after the Panthers score against Virginia Tech on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023 in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Mitchell Northam / Pittsburgh Sports Now.)

It wasn’t a banner year for the Pitt defense in 2023, even if the unit as a whole wasn’t what held the Panthers back, but even as players have left via graduation, the transfer portal and the NFL Draft, Pat Narduzzi is excited.

But first, who exactly did Pitt lose this offseason?

Deandre Jules, Dayon Hayes, Samuel Okunlola, David Green, Devin Danielson, Tyler Bentley, Shayne Simon, Bangally Kamara, Solomon DeShields, M.J. Devonshire, Marquis Williams and A.J. Woods — and Nate Temple.

That’s 103 starts from last season. Of course, when you go 3-9, no matter how talented a unit (or how unfairly the trade-off is with the offense), change is needed. Narduzzi is excited about what’s to come.

“There’s a lot of guys that I get excited about,” Narduzzi told ACC PM on Friday. “The first thing is we have a happy locker room, so anybody we did lose through the portal was not a gigantic loss, I can tell you that. Because we got guys behind them that are just as good or better — some guys may get scared when maybe they aren’t the guy and then they gotta leave in the spring.”

A bunch of young defenders received praise in the spring, including guys like Sincere Edwards, Rasheem Biles, Cruce Brookins, Ryland Gandy and Jesse Anderson, but Narduzzi pointed to Kyle Louis.

“There’s not a player in the locker room that won’t talk about Kyle Louis and what he did this spring as an outside linebacker,” Narduzzi said. “He’s energetic, he’s physical, he’s tough and plays the game you’re supposed to.”

Narduzzi said that Louis embodies what it means to be, “Pittsburgh tough.” But it isn’t just Louis who earned praise from the head coach.

Anthony Johnson and Chief Borders, who arrived from Mississippi State (or Illinois) and Nebraska, respectively, are new. They committed to Pitt this spring and haven’t been worked into the system yet. But Narduzzi likes what he sees on paper — and on tape.

“Anthony Johnson, we’re excited about, and Chief Borders, a defensive end, was a finalist for the Butkus award, he’s moved around a little bit, we’re excited about his motor,” Narduzzi said. 

The defensive line as a whole didn’t meet the expected standards last season, and with Tim Daoust replacing long-term defensive line coach Charlie Partridge this season, it will be different. But one thing remains the same, Narduzzi expects his defensive linemen to have a motor.

If one of his defensive linemen doesn’t? Hit the portal. 

Pitt added Nate Matlack, David Ojiegbe and Nick James from the transfer portal over the winter. Matlack emerged as an instant-impact sort of defender and Ojiegbe and James as high-potential options. It’s a young defensive line room, but there’s potential for a bounce back. If the motor is running.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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