So after an offseason of basketball losses, the football team is getting a little trimmer. News broke Friday that defensive lineman Jeremiah Taleni was being removed from the program for disciplinary reasons.
The official statement was brief and to the point - nothing to see here, people.
PITTSBURGH—Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi announced today that senior defensive tackle Jeremiah Taleni has been dismissed from the program for disciplinary reasons.
Taleni played in 21 career games, including four starting assignments, during his three active seasons with the Panthers.
As is standard practice, it isn't said what he was dismissed for so I'm not going to play a guessing game. That's not fair to anybody, really. But looking at the impact with him gone is fair game.
I know Taleni was likely to start next season but I'm not sure this is the massive hit a lot of people feel like it is. Defensive tackle play was already going to be down a little from what Pitt got last year from Tyrique Jarrett and Shakir Soto. Trust me, I'm not saying Taleni's loss is a non-factor. But Pitt at least has some quality young guys ready and waiting for an opportunity.
For starters, there's Amir Watts and Rashad Wheeler - both of whom had a gaggle of offers, including Penn State, and chose Pitt. Watts was a presumed starter in Jim's 2017 early defensive depth chart and played in seven games last season with a start against Clemson. Then there's Keyshon Camp, who picked Pitt despite offers from just about everyone, including Alabama, Ohio State, Florida, Michigan, Texas, and USC. Those are three quality guys but then you add juniors Shane Roy and Mike Herndon to the mix.
Not enough? There's Kam Carter, who was a JUCO addition and former Penn State player until he was dismissed from their team. He was already expected to make an impact this year as it was but now, you have to wonder if he could potentially start in part because he has a decent amount of experience. And if you still wanted a little more depth, there's always true freshman Jalen Twyman, who was coveted by Florida, Michigan State, and Tennessee. The plan should be to redshirt him unless they simply can't keep him off the field, but you get my point. Pitt is very, very deep at tackle and has a lot of options.
Sure, many of those options are relatively inexperienced. But these also weren't questionable two-star guys that Pitt took flyers on. These are almost entirely guys that were highly coveted by major programs and three to four-star kids. If Pitt can't get two players out of that group, they have bigger problems than just defensive tackle.
The idea, too, that Taleni was some superhuman player isn't accurate. He had a good game against Clemson last year when Pitt was missing guys in the middle and had somewhat of a breakout year with 24 tackles and three sacks in the middle. But he also had a grand total of 30 tackles and four career starts in his four years (one redshirt) here. In other words, this isn't like losing a three-year starter. It's losing a projected starter that people hoped would work out.
I know that Narduzzi previously called him the leader of the defensive line, but even if that's true, I'm not sure how much of that matters this much. He said that during spring practices. We're not even in to summer workouts or fall training camp yet, let alone playing any games. There's all kinds of time for someone else to emerge as the leader, whether it be one of the tackles or even defensive end Dewayne Hendrix.
I don't like the Taleni loss so let me be clear about that. At the very least, you lose depth when guys are dismissed from teams at this stage. And it'd be great to have him so the younger guys could ease their way in a little more. I'm certainly disappointed that we won't get to see what he could do with more playing time but in terms of the defensive tackle spot as a whole, I think they're going to be more than fine.