Overall, one way to describe the entire unit is Terrible.
Our great defensive line decided not to show up for this game. Maybe Sheard/Romeus aren't as great as advertised, maybe the Utah air slowed us down, or maybe we just really missed Mick Williams and Gus Mustakas. Regardless of the excuse the D-Line needs to make more plays. From a unit that lead the country in sacks last season, we were unable to get one this entire game. Pressure on the quarterback was not consistent and filling holes led to runs which should have been stopped sooner. This group needs to get their heads on straight if we expect to have any success this season because they are the anchors of the group.
The linebackers should immediately have Wanny on the phone with every recruit in the country to see if they want to play here. Max Gruder for some reason has his spot locked up despite not being able to shed tackles, not having any tackles for no gain/loss, and looking lost in pass coverage. The only positive thing you can say is that his pass coverage skills are slightly better than Dan Mason's. I really had high expectations for Mason this year after flashes of brilliance last year. Mason will be a fine run stopper, but his pass coverage ability for a linebacker needs to improve fast if he hopes to succeed at Pitt and make it to the next level. The last spot belonging to Williams/Roberts is a huge hole as well. After 5 years of recruiting here, you would think we would have an above average trio of linebackers, but that is not the case. The one redemption for this group is that everyone realizes we are putting them in no-win situations all of the time. We can not expect our outside linebackers to cover slot receivers all game and be successful. The other move that we aren't adjusting to is when a team puts their #1 receiver in the slot, we are not adjusting. That would be like if we lined Baldwin in the slot and had Max Gruder line up for coverage.
In the secondary, Antuan Reed, and Ricky Gary actually didn't play too bad. Don't get me wrong, they weren't great, but they could have been much worse than they were. I think these guys will steadily improve throughout the season and leave us with less complaints through each game. The same can be said for Jarred Holley. The guy is an absolute play maker. He had the best game of any player on the defensive unit and certainly won't draw any complaints from me. If every player had done their job as well as Holley, we would have won this game. The biggest gripe about this unit is the use of Dom DeCicco. Who thought it would be a good idea for him to continually add more muscle to the point where he can't run as a safety should anymore. The guy is now a linebacker playing in the secondary. He continually is out of position and has poor tackling skills. He hurt his shoulder on a play that he typically goes for. Instead of wrapping up properly, he leads with the shoulder trying to knock the player down with the big hit instead of taking him down securely. With his status unknown for the New Hampshire game we will get to see Jason Hendricks get some extra playing time here. Hopefully the return of Andrew Taglianetti gives this group some relief as he has looked like our best option there so far.
There is much to complain about from this group and the coaching should be included as well. Not breaking from the base defense all game, stating we had too much inexperience, and not having accountability is what killed this team. We can not have the same tired excuses game after game, year after year if we want to become and remain a dominant defense. At some point, the words have to translate into actions and plays have to be made. Either that, or someone has to take the fall for the poor execution whether it is a player or coach.