A number of players have benefited from the addition of Ross Kolodziej as strength coach.
Count Darryl Render in as one of those players. Render has trimmed down to 275, he says. While he looks to take the next five months to add another ten pounds of good weight, he has a comfort level with the weight he enters the spring with.
"I feel like everybody got stronger," Render said. "I feel like we really got after it."
Render will be counted on right away, as Pitt looks to fill the void left by Aaron Donald's graduation. Render understands that the job of the defensive line--specifically the tackles--is not to replace Donald. It's more of a group effort to just be productive as a unit.
"It's just going to be one big unit, we have to stay together," Render said. "Guys just have to make plays. We're not going to have that one guy to make plays. Everybody has to make plays."
Render will also be counted on as a leader of the group. He's played in 24 career games with two starts. He's one of the more experienced defensive linemen, already. He relishes the opportunity to become a leader, while contributing more.
"I just want to be here for the young guys the way AD (Donald) helped me," Render says.
Nicholas Grigsby may also take on a leadership role, as he enters his fourth year with the program. What he's discovered about himself, playing middle linebacker, outside linebacker, and also at defensive end, is that he enjoys being a versatile player.
"I like rushing the quarterback," Grigsby said. "Going against the bigger offensive linemen, I like to best them, and get to the quarterback. I like being competitive."
Grigsby started the first game of his redshirt year at outside linebacker. He started one other game that year, but has played in 24 career games with four starts.
In 2013, Grigsby was even tried at middle linebacker, where he had a couple of productive outings, giving the coaching staff something to think about. Against Georgia Tech, he finished with six tackles. In the bowl game against Bowling Green, Grigsby had a career-high 2.5 tackles for losses and 1.5 sacks.
The production was strong at middle linebacker, but it seems now he might be poised for a run at defensive end. Or, at the very least, a role as a pass rusher depending on the situation and the matchup. Grigsby seems fine either way.
"Mostly rushing off the edge," Grigsby said. "We play a lot of spread teams, so I should be a factor in that, rushing off the edge."
Whether by design or not, defensive coordinator Matt House is finding players like Grigsby and Render, and many others, who he can find roles for. It might not be the same starting lineup every game. But, he will try to look for players he can put in multiple positions, to not only showcase their abilities, but ultimately build a versatile defense.
"It certainly think it helps against the spread, but I think this," House said. "Every team is different. Every good football coach is going to try to find the guys they think have an exceptional quality, and try to put them in the situation, and let them succeed. You saw it with Aaron (Donald), and you saw him succeed. AD, we moved all over the place. We wanted to put him in the situation to succeed. I think that's the job of a football coach.