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September 6, 2012
The Matchup: Linebackers
The Big East is loaded with talent at the linebacker position with likes of Khaseem Green from Rutgers, Sio Moore from Connecticut, and DeDe Lattimore from South Florida. The Cincinnati linebacking corps is led by senior, Maalik Bomar.
The Cincinnati-native is entering his third year starting for the Bearcats and is a proven and experienced outside linebacker that will be relied upon heavily to stop the opposing offensives from moving the ball.
Cincinnati Rivals Analyst Andrew Force spoke very fondly of Bomar and the other prospects at the inside linebacker position.
"Bomar is outstanding," said Force. "He brings a steady influence to the defense and is just a great all-around defender."
Force pointed out that until recently the inside linebacking starting spot was still up in the air.
"At the moment, I would have to say that senior, Greg Blair, will get the starting nod over sophomore Solomon Tentman."
For those not familiar with Blair, he is the younger brother of DeJuan Blair of the San Antonio Spurs. The older Blair played at Pitt for two seasons from 2007-2009, and was drafted in the second round of the 2009 NBA Draft.
Like his brother, Greg Blair attended Schenley High School, which is located about a block from the campus of Pitt. In all though, Force seemed to be upbeat about the linebacking unit and the chances for Bomar to have a breakout season.
Inconsistency is a killer and can poison a position group. The same goes for the Pittsburgh linebacking corps, where all three starters bring a variety of abilities and athleticism to the field, but need to harness those talents every play to make opposing offenses struggle more frequently in moving the ball down the field.
Pitt Rivals analyst Josh Sickles gave his thoughts on the linebacking corps and their prognosis for Thursday night.
"It is a very athletic group, but also very young," said Sickles. "All three starters are starting for the first time permanently. They have a long way to go, where they can make a big time play one possession, and the following play look lost and allow a big play. However, the scheme does allow for the linebackers to make plays and be aggressive, which plays to their advantage."
The best of the three starters is a redshirt junior, Shane Gordon.
"Gordon is super athletic and has had to learn three different defensive schemes due to the different coaching changes."
The other starters on the linebacking corps are redshirt sophomore, Eric Williams, and redshirt freshman, Nicholas "Freezer" Grigsby, who Cincinnati recruited to the end.
Sickles went on to note that Saturday's matchup against Youngstown State went against the defensive protocol and instead of more aggressive play from the linebackers, there was more sitting back and allowing the play to happen.
The linebacking corps for Pitt appears pretty talented and have a good future ahead of them; but looking at Thursday's game, it is hard to say that Pitt's inexperienced group is better than Cincinnati's.
With the likes of Bomar and Blair, Cincinnati's corps group is more seasoned and just plain out better.
Bomar can eventually become a household name throughout not just the Big East, but also America this year. The shakiness of Pitt at linebacker, added with the fact that they could not sack Youngstown State's quarterback just once Saturday evening, is a scary thought heading into Thursday night's matchup.
Cincinnati's group of linebackers gets the nod here.
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