March 15, 2007

Pitt spring practice preview: Defense

Spring is a funny time of year for college football programs.

The last season, and all its woes, is at least four months past, and the next season, when it all starts to count again, is four months away. So spring practice, such as the kind that Pitt will kick off on Saturday, operates in almost a kind of limbo: barring extremes, no one really earns or loses a roster spot, no specific game preparation is done, and if any player should suffer a slight injury, their practice time is cut short without hesitation.

So what then is accomplished in spring practice? Basically, it is an opportunity for the players and the coaches to get back on the field and work out in an organized fashion. Perhaps some new schemes will be introduced, or some new assignments designated. For the Pitt football team, much of this spring's 15 practices will be spent further developing the team mindset and mentality that Dave Wannstedt and his staff have been working on since spring of 2005.

But even as Wannstedt continues to build the team he wants, there will still be some questions to be examined in spring practice, and a large quantity of those questions are on the defensive side of the ball.

The first thing to consider when looking at the Pitt defense heading into spring practice 2007 is what the team lost after last season. Gone are multi-year starters/team leaders in linebackers H.B. Blades and Clint Session and cornerback Darrelle Revis. Those three losses represent a majority of the defensive production from a year ago, as Blades and Session combined for over 30% of the team's total tackles last season, and Revis was the team's unquestionable playmaker on defense.

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