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State of the Roster: Linebacker

Pitt returns an experienced trio at linebacker for the 2016 season.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Our position by position rolls on, as we talk about the linebackers today. Pitt has three seniors that have started a number of games throughout their careers. There is also an intriguing redshirt freshmen duo, and a trio of true freshmen that will be closely monitored.  Linebacker is a position that will be important in Pat Narduzzi's defensive scheme, and you can see he is recruiting with a purpose at the position since he has been in charge. It will be a last hurrah for the veterans this season, as the newcomers are knocking on the door.

Projected Starters

-- Matt Galambos 6'2" 245 Senior - 2015 stats - 88 Tackles / 5 Sacks / 2 Interceptions

-- Mike Caprara 6'0" 225 Senior - 2015 stats - 48 Tackles / 4 Sacks / 1 Interception

-- Bam Bradley 6'2" 220 Senior - 2015 stats - 33 Tackles / 1 Sack

Matt Galambos returns to his middle linebacker position for one more season. The senior has appeared in all 39 games in his career, and has started 25 of them, including all 13 last season.  Galambos had a breakout year last season, and put up some big numbers. Galambos benefited in the new defensive scheme in 2015, and came up with a number of big plays. He was given the opportunity to blitz more often, and came away with five sacks. He also came down with some big interceptions. Galambos was also in the middle of Pitt's signature play from the 2015 season as he caught a fake punt pass from Ryan Winslow which set up a game winning field goal against Syracuse.  Galambos isn't going to wow anyone, and he's probably not an NFL prospect either. He's a solid and experienced college football player.

Mike Caprara forced his way into the action last season, and started 8 games at the "money" linebacker position. Caprara is an undersized, yet productive player.  He has an uncanny knack for coming up with some big plays, and registered a sack for a safety against Virginia last season. Like Galambos, he isn't physically imposing or anything. He is a tough player and should be stepping into his best season yet.

I'm not exactly positive who will start at the "Star" linebacker position.  Pitt could stick Caprara there and let Bradley handle the money position, or they could get with a younger more athletic player.  It's certainly not out of the question all three seniors start at first anyway.  Bradley is a frustrating player, because he was once a big-time recruit and he has great size and athleticism, but it seems he's never grasped a firm hold on a starting job. Bradley has played a lot in his career, and started some games. Perhaps this is the year he shows what he is capable of for a full year.

Top Reserves

-- Quintin Wirginis 6'2" 240 Junior. 2015 Stats - 17 Tackles

-- Saleem Brightwell 6'0" 210 Freshman.  2015 Stats - N/A

-- Elijah Zeise 6'2" 225 Sophomore.  2015 Stats - N/A

Pitt's top reserve linebacker is the versatile Quintin Wirginis. He is listed as the backup to Matt Galambos in the middle, but could slide outside if needed. He has been a special teams player for a few seasons now, and even blocked a punt last season in the North Carolina game. He has appeared in 25 of the last 26 games the past two seasons, and should be primed for more snaps on defense and not just on special teams.

Saleem Brightwell is listed on the initial depth chart released during ACC media days as a backup at the money linebacker spot.  Brightwell is a redshirt freshman and was actually one of Narduzzi's first recruiting wins in his initial class after being hired. He will mainly be a backup this season, but should get his chance to start in 2017.

Elijah Zeise is an intriguing player for this defense. It's obvious the star linebacker position is meant for athletic guys with speed, and he may just win the job out of camp. Zeise spent the last two seasons at receiver, but has added some weight and is ready for a move to defense. Zeise was a good athlete in high school, and the coaches seem to really believe in his abilities for only playing the position for a few months now.

Next 3

-- Oluwaseun Idowu 6'0" 215 Sophomore. 2015 Stats - 2 Tackles

-- Anthony McKee Jr. 6'2" 210 Freshman. 2015 Stats - N/A

-- Jalen Williams 6'2" 215 Sophomore. 2015 Stats - N/A

Seun Idowu was a surprise performer during Spring football, and is actually going to be in the running for a starting spot at the Star linebacker spot.  Idowu is a walk-on from nearby high school powerhouse, North Allegheny. He initially started his career as a safety, but has made the switch down to linebacker.  Seeing as how Idowu and Zeise have moved to linebacker, and the way they are recruiting linebacker, it's obvious the star position is one that speed will be a requirement.

Anthony McKee Jr. was another one of Narduzzi's big recruiting wins in his first class. He was a three-star prospect with a number of big offers, but ultimately ended up at Pitt. He is a speedy player, and needed last year to probably add some weight and muscle.  He is buried a bit on the depth chart, but he does have a high ceiling and will have a chance to start next season.

Jalen Williams is yet another converted safety switching to linebacker. He was a member of the 2014 recruiting class and came to Pitt as a three-star recruit. He played last year on special teams, and should reprise that role once again this season.

The Freshmen

-- Kaezon Pugh 6'1" 210 pounds

-- Chase Pine 6'2" 220 pounds

-- Elias Reynolds 6'2" 225 pounds

Kaezon Pugh was one of the crown jewels of the last recruiting class. He was a four-star recruit out of a longtime Pitt pipeline, Aliquippa High School. Pugh will likely redshirt, but of the three newcomers he would be the most likely to see the field this season. Pugh was a man among boys on the high school field last season, and led his team to a state final appearance in football and a state championship in basketball.

Chase Pine was another big time recruit out of high school. Pitt was able to pluck him out of Virginia over in-state Virginia Tech and Virginia. He is a taller, athletic type that has a bright future. Elias Reynolds comes to Pitt out of Poly Prep in Brooklyn, New York. He is built like a middle linebacker, and that is the expected position he will play here in Pittsburgh.

The Rest

-- Brian Popp 6'0" 235 pounds, Sophomore

-- Nico Lodovico 6'1" 230 pounds, Junior

-- Dom Cuono 6'2" 235 pounds, Sophomre

-- Erik Sellers 6'1" 230 pounds, Freshman

-- Jim Medure 6'2" 230 pounds, Freshman

These five players are walk-ons, and neither one of them saw any action last season. Some will push for some special teams snaps this season, but with the depth and numbers at linebacker, it's not a sure thing they will even get that. Lodovico and Medure are WPIAL products from Franklin Regional and Neshannock respectively. Sellers is from Clearfield, while Popp is from Ohio and Cuono comes from Florida.