The returning redshirt junior starters at defensive tackle are Dan Stephens (6-2/285) and Vince Crochunis (6-4/285). Both played the run very well and improved their pass rushing as the season went along. Redshirt sophomore Charles Spencer (6-5/320) returns as the first tackle off the bench. He showed flashes of excellence last season in his first year of playing time. The other returning tackle in the two-deep is (6-1/280) redshirt junior Jake Holthaus. Jake is very good against the run. Looking to break into the two-deep after struggling with injuries the last two seasons is sophomore in Troy Banner (6-3/295). Banner has the size and strength to make an impact this season if he can put it all together.
Redshirt sophomore Kevin Harris (6-5/275) and redshirt freshman Eric Fritz (6-3/295) also provide depth at defensive tackle. Fritz made a few eye popping plays at spring drills and looks to be a future run stopping standout. Harris is an athletic tackle who should once again work his way into the rotation.
The defensive end position should once again be a strength of the defensive line. Returning starter Claude Harriott (6-4/255) had a breakout season in his first year as a starter. He was an All-Big East performer last season and is an All-American candidate this season. Harriott is an outstanding pass rusher and is very strong against the run also. Redshirt sophomore Thomas Smith (6-4/265) should be the new starter at the other end position. Smith gained experience last season as a backup, and he has all the tools to be a very good player in a starting role. True sophomore Andy Alleman (6-4/245) and senior Malcolm Pinder (6-1/230) will be the two backups. Pinder was named most improved player during spring drills. Alleman lettered as a true freshmen last season. Redshirt freshman Vernon Botts (6-4/240) will also push for playing time at end.
The Panthers have two incoming recruits to the defensive line this fall. Kyle Smith (6-5/240) and Micheal Hearn (6-5/235) will compete at the defensive end position. Smith played in the prestigious Big 33 game and Hearn was offered early by several big-time programs until questions about his grades came to light. Hearn is fully qualified and has a chance to become a future star. Chris McKillop (6-2/230) was recruited as a linebacker prospect but he could end up growing into the defensive end position. McKillop was considered the best defensive player in Western PA before suffering a season-ending ankle injury last year.
Pitt will finally have starters on the defensive line with a lot of playing experience and also excellent depth behind them. It has been a long time since that has been the case. They will be a big help considering the defense will be breaking in several young linebackers this season.