I think it goes without saying that the defensive line will be a major question mark going into the fall. You won't find many people to argue that point. There is a differing of opinions on how this year's crop of linemen will perform in place of the departing all-everything Aaron Donald, though. That is a large portion of production coming out of the Pitt lineup and heading up to the Rams to take on the NFL. Who will step up? The names that have surfaced should be familiar to Pitt fans, but one that isn't so obvious just might be the key.
While you may not see the explosiveness from the defensive line that Donald provided the last few years, I think they will be better than most expect. Shakir Soto should take a nice leap from a decent true freshman year and a healthy Devin Cook and Ejuan Price sure would give them a much needed push from the ends. During spring drills, the two names in the middle that we kept hearing about were Khaynin Mosley-Smith and Tyrique Jarrett. That is great news and because Darryl Render is a solid player and all of a sudden you actually have a nice rotation up the middle. The wild card in all of this is the forgotten man - senior defensive end, David Durham.
When Price went down last year with a back injury, Pitt's defensive ends were largely ineffective and sometimes looked downright invisible, with the exception of occasional flashes. Durham just seemed to be lost at times. Some of it may have been adjusting to life at Pitt after transferring from Ohio State and sitting out a year. More may have had to do with being a little undersized and still transitioning from fullback to defensive end. Despite playing in all 13 games and starting 11 of them, the Charlotte, NC native recorded only 21 tackles and a half tackle for loss, which obviously is not good enough.
Durham seems ready to put last year behind him and according to Pitt's spring awards is doing just that. Three players won the Ed Conway Award as the most improved player. In addition to TJ Clemmings on offense and Todd Thomas on special teams, Durham took home the defensive award.
One thing is for certain is that Durham is moving in the right direction and if he can help solidify one of the end positions on defense, maybe life without Donald won't be all that bad for Pitt's front four.