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State of the Roster: Defensive Tackle

Looking into Pitt's defensive tackles for the 2016 season

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a few seasons, but Pitt still seems to miss Aaron Donald. They have not found any kind of consistent production from the interior linemen for two seasons now.  There were certainly flashes of good play here and there, but nothing consistent.  Nobody is asking for any one guy to be Aaron Donald, but as a unit you have to hope for some productivity as a whole.  Tyrique Jarrett is back for his senior season, Shakir Soto is making the transition from defensive end, and a number of young freshmen could make an impact.  This position is a bit of a question mark, but has the chance to be good.

Projected Starters

-- Tyrique Jarrett 6'3" 335 Senior / 2015 Stats - 20 Tackles, 7 Tackles for Loss, 2 Sacks

--  Shakir Soto 6'3" 290 Senior / 2015 Stats -  23 Tackles, 3 Tackles for Loss, 2 Sacks

Tyrique Jarrett returns for his senior year after a pretty productive junior campaign. Jarrett made eight starts and had some big games, but was rather quiet in others. A concern with him is his conditioning, but the hope he has enough gas to play a full season and contribute all year long. Jarrett is a space eater, and a guy you wouldn't expect that could make plays in the backfield, but he was able to do it some in 2015. The hope is that he can do it more consistently in 2016. He won last year's Ed Conway Award in spring practices for the most improved defensive player.

Shakir Soto has made the transition to defensive tackle after playing his first three seasons at end. He has played in all 39 games of his career with mixed results. Soto showed promise as a true freshman, but had a rather disappointing sophomore campaign with just one tackle for loss as a full-time starter.  He was an off again on again starter last season, and once again showed ability at times. The hope here is that he can use the speed and agility from his defensive end days and translate those skills to get past bigger and slower guards. As Jarrett did last year, Soto won this year's Ed Conway Award in spring practices as the most improved defensive player.

Top Reserves

-- Keyshon Camp 6'4" 275 Freshman. 2015 Stats - N/A

-- Jeremiah Taleni 6'2" 290 Junior.  2015 Stats - 4 Tackles.  1.5 Tackles for Loss.

Keyshon Camp is a true freshman, but one I am expecting to see significant playing time.  He was a one time USC commitment, and ended up with Pitt right on signing day. He comes in with some pedigree as he was a four-star recruit with a number of big time offers.  It's not always ideal to get true freshmen on the field right away, but in this instance it makes sense.

Jeremiah Taleni is back for his junior season. He's spent most of his career as a rarely used reserve player, but he should see himself in the regular rotation this season. A very rare recruit from Hawaii, it is Taleni's fourth year in the program and perhaps he finally takes a step forward and seriously contributes.

The Freshman

-- Amir Watts 6'3" 270 Freshman

-- Rashad Wheeler 6'3" 290 Freshman

-- Bryce Hargrove 6'4" 260 Freshman

Pitt brought in four defensive tackles in this past recruiting class. if that is not an indication on the staff's confidence on the rest of depth chart, I don't know what is. We talked about Camp likely getting playing time, but I am only assuming there. One of these other guys could possibly snatch up that playing time just the same.

Rashad Wheeler was one of the stars from Pittsburgh Central Catholic's state championship team. He was a big local recruiting win, and he has a chance to earn some playing time. Bryce Hargrove hails from Ohio and he too could find his way into the mix. I ultimately think both of these guys will redshirt, but it may be too early to say that definitively.

Amir Watts, however, is another highly rated guy that could play right away. Like Camp, he was a four-star recruit from out of state that Pitt landed late in the recruiting process. He is a bit undersized, but is not short on talent. It would not be at all surprising to see him play in 2016.

The Rest

-- Shane Roy 6'4" 280 Sophomore

-- Justin Moody 6'3" 285 Junior. 2015 Stats - 1 Tackle

-- Calvin Hamilton 6'0" 315 Freshman

Justin Moody is an intriguing name in the mix. After playing a considerable amount in 2014, he was passed over for playing time last year. He did have some productive games as a redshirt freshman, and could work his way back into the mix this season. Shane Roy is making the transition from defensive end. He appeared in just one game in 2015. Calvin Hamilton is the lone walk-on listed here and took a redshirt last season.