Spring football is set to begin tomorrow for the Pitt football program. Like any other college football team, there’s plenty of turnover with a new season on the horizon, and that’s no different for the Panthers, as they begin the long road to get ready for the 2021 season.
Last year was a banner year for the Pitt defensive line. The Panthers led the nation with 111 tackles for loss and 46 sacks as team. It’s been a calling card for this Pitt football program in recent years, and the steady pass rush is something this team is hoping to continue into next season and beyond.
Pitt produced a pair of consensus All-American’s in Patrick Jones and Rashad Weaver at defensive end in 2020, and both are getting ready for the NFL Draft next month. With those two gone, it’s natural to expect a step back in production from the Pitt defensive line, but it is a very confidence group that has experience and talent returning, along with an impressive recruiting class.
Deslin Alexandre is entering his fifth season in the Pitt program and is one of the guys the team is counting on to be a leader not only just on the defensive line, but on the team as well. Alexandre has started 15 games in his career. He has 18 career tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in 37 games played in a Pitt uniform. So while he was behind Jones and Weaver last season, he’s been a big part of the production as well. He started the entire 2019 season while Weaver was injured.
With those two gone, Alexandre is hoping to fill the gaps not only on the field of play, but as a leader in the locker room as well.
“Honestly I can’t believe I’m a senior now,” Alexandre told reporters over Zoom on Friday. “I’m ready for it. I worked hard with those guys. They showed me the way, they showed me how to watch film, how to work hard, so I’m ready for it.”
Alexandre is the most experienced guy returning at defensive end, but he’s not alone in that department. John Morgan, a junior, has played in 20 games in his career. Habakkuk Baldonado is also back. He had an injury riddled season in 2020, but showed plenty of promise as a freshman the year prior.
Pitt signed an impressive recruiting class highlighted by four-stars Nahki Johnson and NaQuan Brown. 2020 prized recruit Dayon Hayes is also in the mix and a played that should push for more playing time in his second year of college football.
“We got a lot of guys in our room that can make plays,” Alexandre said of the defensive ends. “A lot of guys that work very hard.”
The depth is there and so is the talent, but again, losing the presence that Weaver and Jones had on this team is significant. Alexandre contacted both of them just to pick up some pointers on being a better leader.
“I reached out to both of them right after, just seeing how they approached it,” Alexandre explained. “What are some things they learned, what are some things they can teach me about it.”