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Elijah Zeise moving from wide receiver to linebacker for Pitt football

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

We've been pretty heavy on the Jamie Dixon stuff since he left for TCU on Monday, but there are indeed other happenings at Pitt. For one, spring practices are underway.

Earlier, I wrote a little about the offensive line and, as typically happens this time of year, Pitt is experimenting with some position changes. One such move was announced recently as Elijah Zeise has been (at least temporarily) switched from wide receiver to linebacker, per the Post-Gazette.

The move was an interesting one to be sure. Just last year, Zeise was hailed in spring camp as making real progress at wide receiver. You might remember that head coach Pat Narduzzi included Zeise's name in the same breath as Dontez Ford just last spring when discussing potential options for the Panthers' No. 2 receiver opposite star Tyler Boyd. Ford went on to win the job but just the fact that Zeise was mentioned seemed to indicate he had a good future there. Zeise talked a little about the move:

While he acknowledged there's some disappointment with the temporary move, he is embracing the crash course.

"It's very tricky," said Zeise, whose father, Paul, is a sports writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Back when I played corner and safety, I kind of just saw the whole field and reacted to whatever was left past the second level. With this, you have to read the tackles and you have to jam guys and be able to get out or get over the top of tackles and other linemen. It's a lot more involved."

Despite the buzz around him last spring, Zeise wasn't a big factor in the Pitt offense last year with Boyd, Ford, and the tight ends getting the bulk of the passing game work - he had a total of five catches for 54 yards.

Back to that note about the move being a temporary one. The Post-Gazette article in the first link mentions the move not being permanent. Presumably he's in there right now to help create some depth and to get his feet wet in the position. So no idea yet if he'll be at linebacker in the fall or not. Linebackers coach Rob Harley noted that 'he might have a chance' at linebacker, FWIW.

Zeise doesn't have previous linebacker experience, really. The article mentions he played there a little in Military Bowl practice and the coaches were pleased with the results. But outside of that, he hasn't really played the position. Some of the skill sets he learned while playing safety seem to be a focal point here. He is playing the 'Star' linebacker spot, per the Post-Gazette, which often forces the player to make tackles in open space. Different position, but something that probably isn't entirely foreign to him.

Perhaps forcing the issue on Zeise is that Pitt still has a lot of receivers they are trying to learn more about. Boyd is gone, but Ford will presumably return to the starting lineup. In addition to him, there's Tre Tipton, who Narduzzi has already raved about a little in spring practices. There's incoming four-star recruit Ruben Flowers. There's also the group of others returning, including Quadree Henderson, Chris Wuestner, Zach Challingsworth, Rafael Araujo-Lopes, Jester Weah, etc. Zeise may have been hard-pressed to crack a top four there to get significant time this season.

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