Notre Dame Opponent Preview: Pittsburgh Panther Defense

December 3, 2011; Pittsburgh,PA, USA: Pittsburgh Panthers defensive end Aaron Donald (97) rushes the passer against the Syracuse Orange during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. PITT won 33-20. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USPRESSWIRE

Pittsburgh has a good defense. The Panthers have allowed 21.8 points per game this season. Their defense has allowed 141.00 rushing yards and 198.9 passing yards for a total 339.9 yards per game. This total ranks them 29th in the country. In comparison, Notre Dame ranks 11th. The Panthers have padded their statistical outputs by playing FCS teams such as Gardner-Webb (win) and Youngstown State (loss). The Panthers are only allowing 4.10 yards per carry and 6.8 yards per catch. Pittsburgh is giving up 21.8 points per game.

Jarred Holley, CB, Senior

Pitt’s 5th year senior veteran cornerback, that is slightly undersized at 5’10’’ 190 pounds. So far this year Holley is second on the team in tackles with 51, 1 interception, 1 tackle for loss, and 3 pass breakups. This 2012 season is his 4th year in a row starting the cornerback position. Holley was second team All-Big East in 2010 and first team All-Big East in 2012. Their best defender against the pass, but if you match him up with Eifert it is clear on who has the advantage.

Jason Hendricks, SS,  Junior

The 6’ 180 pound strong safety is Pitt’s leading tackler with 54 on the season. Hendricks also leads in interceptions with 4 and has 2 passes broken up. The redshirted junior has made a big impact for the panthers this year. He reads the offensive line and the quarterback well, which leads him to the ball almost every play. Hendricks is better against the pass, but is still above average in run support. He won’t be making any tackles close to the line of scrimmage unless he is on a blitz.

Shane Gordon, LB, Linebacker

Standing at 6’1’’ 220 pounds the junior linebacker is currently third on his team in tackles with 33. Gordon also has 5 passes broken up and 1.5 sacks on the season. He also has 5 tackles for loss. Gordon has missed the past two games due to a high ankle sprain, but is questionable for the game against Notre Dame. This could cause great problems for Pitt, since he is their best linebacker and most experienced.

Aaron Donald, DL, Junior

The anchor of the defensive line stands at 6’ 275 pounds. The junior has played every down lineman position in the 3-4 defensive scheme that the panthers run. Donald was named to the second team all-Big East last year. He is fourth on the team in tackles with 31 and leads the team in sacks with 3.5 and tackles for loss with 8.5. The one stat that really stands out is he has 10 quarterback hurries on the season. Donald is Pitt’s guy to put pressure on Everett Golson on Saturday. If they can’t pressure him with three they will start to bring blitz packages that leave the short passing game wide open.

Overall, Pitt doesn’t have guys that are physically imposing specimens (like Tuitt), but they have sound football players that do their job and make plays. They are undersized, but to this point in the season have played good defense, with a slip up against Youngstown State. Look for Pitt to give Notre Dame a hard time on offense and it could end up being a slow start offensively for the Irish.

Topics: Football, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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