As the Covid-19 virus threatens this year’s college football season, the Panthers have lost their first player due to a voluntary opt out. Star defensive lineman Jaylen Twyman announced he would sit out the season and prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Twyman made the announcement on Twitter.
Interestingly, Twyman says he did not make the decision because of the virus. Instead, he states the need to be with his family. Pat Narduzzi issued a statement soon after.
We will miss you, Jaylen. Always a Pitt Man. Forever a Panther. pic.twitter.com/gVAOpN7Cxf— Pat Narduzzi (@CoachDuzzPittFB) August 8, 2020
Twyman was one of the Panthers’ best players on either side of the ball and was a key to a defense that hopes to play lights out this year. His loss cannot really be overstated. He led the team in sacks last year (10.5) as an interior lineman, which is a difficult feat, and he was a Second Team All-American. His path seemed to mirror that of Aaron Donald as an interior lineman in that he sort of came out of nowhere to have an incredible season. And while he had two years of eligibility left, it would have been surprising had he remained that long. Twyman, a redshirt junior this year, was eligible for this year’s draft before he decided to return to Pitt. Barring something unforeseen, he was headed to the pros next year, anyway.
Twyman had received all sorts of preseason recognition and was a First Team Preseason All-American. The Panthers’ defense should still be strong without him. But take away the best player from any unit and you’re almost certain to notice his absence.
As an aside here, yesterday as Pitt football opened up camp, interviews with players and coaches were posted on the athletic department’s site. Among those that I watched were interviews with quarterback Kenny Pickett and offensive lineman Jimmy Morrissey.
Morrissey, interestingly, was asked about the Panthers not (then) having yet lost any players to a voluntary opt out. His answer was a pretty standard one about having love for the game, etc. It wasn’t critical necessarily of players that had opted out elsewhere around the country, but it was, of course, interesting given the timing with Twyman’s announcement today. He sort of ‘backtracked’ a wee bit at the end when saying that players that opted out didn’t necessarily not have a love for the game. I just wonder if he knew about Twyman at that point or not.
Just a shame — the whole way this year is turning out Pitt returned so many key players and all everything seemed lined up for the Panthers in their quest for a double-digit win total. But with a shortened schedule, one that is now more difficult with the insane reshuffling, and the loss of Twyman and potentially others, the chances for that seem nearly impossible at this point.
Twyman’s loss is a shame but understandable. Any player that opts out with real fears about the virus (even though that is reportedly not the case here) should escape criticism. That they will do so entirely is unlikely. But the question of Pitt’s success this season could become a moot one, anyway. With the MAC canceling their season today, any college football being played is hardly a guarantee at this point.