Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Season Preview Day 3: Defensive Line

Keeping the countdown to kickoff going its time to preview another position that is talent rich and deep. When Coach Wannstedt arrived at Pitt this is the position that became a priority in recruiting and his plan has worked on paper. The play of the defensive line was one of the keys to the upset last December against WVU. In camp the defensive line lost a guy who could have been a major player in Doug Fulmer but this is the one position where a key loss like that could actually be absorbed.

At defensive end we have a freshman All-American from last year and an absolute pass rushing terror in Greg Romeus. Romeus is the prototype of what a defensive end in this system needs to be with his speed off the ball and physical size at 6'5 265 pounds. He is going to be to key to defending the pass and I could see him garnering a big sack total. His only weakness is that he is relatively inexperienced as a football player only playing four years of football in his life but he has been with the coaching staff for 3 years and has gained technique. In the running game he is going to need to show the ability to shave off blocks but Romeus is extremely strong for his 250 pound frame. Another All American season isn't out of the question for Romeus this season.

Across from Romeus at the other defensive end position is Jabaal Sheard. Sheard is a little lighter than Romeus but he possesses the same type of pass rushing ability. In camp, Sheard almost put Bill Stull out of action by throwing our starting right tackle Joe Thomas into him so that is an indication of his physical stregnth. He will also benefit from being on the other side of Romeus so that could mean more one on one blocking. I believe Sheard will be a breakout star this season and All Big East honors are well within his reach.

The two backups at defensive are Tyler Tkach and Tony Tucker. Tkach has been a solid player on special teams and is the type of player who can contribute as a backup. Also Tkach could give a different look than the two speedster ends with his more compact body. Tony Tucker is a little on the small side for a defensive end at 6'2 235 but he has been competing well in camp against bigger offensive lineman. I see Tucker as a situational pass rusher this year while he continues to get more acclimated to Big East football.

Defensive tackle is the deepest postion on the depth chart. We have four starters on the two deep and each player offers a different style of play. The flexibility that we will be able to roll out is amazing. Williams, Duncan, Duhart, and Mustakas are all players who have taken snaps in the past so their is no unkown quantities here.

Mick Williams could be the anchor of the defensive line and he had an amazing season last year. During the offseason he has dropped down to 285 pounds to improve his speed an mobility. Since the Wannstedt defensive style doesn't use space-eater defensive tackles, Williams added mobility will continue to improve his play. I have a feeling that Williams is going to be an All American this season and will make an impact on everyone who plays around him.

The other defensive tackle is Rashad Duncan who will provide the senior leadership and some extra size at 295. Duncan can still move at his weight and will be a force in the running defense. An extremely solid player who will be there every week making plays when they come to him.

Backing up Williams and Duncan are Tommie Duhart and Gus Mustakas. Mustakas took an injury last season but in the short time he played he looked like the best player on the defense. He has great instincts and can make plays on the ball. Look for him to get a fumble recovery or two this year. His health also appears to be a non-issue as he had a injury-free camp. Duhart was a player who make a big impact coming down the stretch last year. He is probably the most atheltically gifted defensive tackle we have and will see plenty of playing time this year. Behind Duhart and Mustakas is Myles Caragein who as a redshirt freshman could see some time and will definitely be a player to look for in the future.

I would take our defensive line against any other defensive line in the entire nation, they are that good. If the defense is going to be as dominant as we expect it to be these 6 or 7 players are going to be the base for success. Being conservative we could have at least two All Big East lineman. Coach Wannstedt's recruiting strategy has created a dominant and imposing defensive line.

Back later with the linebackers.

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