July 17, 2007

Could Nix be the fix?

Virtually every preseason forecaster looks at the Pitt defense and wonders out loud who would fill the three linebacker spots at Pitt this fall? Senior linebackers H.B. Blades and Clint Session were recently selected in the NFL draft. Senior linebacker Brian Bennett has also graduated. To complicate things linebackers Derron Thomas and Tommie Campbell are no longer a part of the program.

During the off-season Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt moved assistant Paul Rhoads from handling the defensive backs to overseeing the linebackers in attempt to help find the answers.

Junior Scott McKillop (6' 2" 245) appears ready to take over in the middle but just who flanks him is still a bit up in the air. Two members of the recruiting highly-regarded Class of 2006 are currently listed as backups on the two-deep chart. Pitt fans will be watching closely in fall camp to see if Nate Nix or Dorin Dickerson are ready to move up to become starters.

One of the most asked questions among Pitt fans is just how much does Nate Nix weigh now? He is listed by Pitt as 6' 3" 210 pounds but he told the Pantherlair this week, "Right now I am 6' 3 " tall and weigh about 225 pounds. I have probably gained 15-20 pounds since I enrolled at Pitt. Most of that has come this year working out with Buddy Morris and eating as much as I can."

We asked about style differences between Buddy Morris and his predecessor. Nix replied, "We used to do more Olympic lifting. Now is more strength training and it is about muscle memory."

Nix indicated that this fall he will be rooming in Bouquet Gardens with teammates Nate Byham, Dorin Dickerson and John Malecki. All are from the Class of 2006.

We asked him about his brother, Lucas Nix, committing to Pitt and Nix replied, "We played together for a couple of years in high school and now we will get to do it again for a couple of years in college. It is great. Thomas Jefferson played well at the Pitt passing camp last month. Lucas should be a dominating force for them this fall. Coach Cherpak will get them going. They should be fine this fall."

Nate Nix and Dorin Dickerson will be joined by freshman linebackers Max Gruder, Tristan Roberts and Brandon Lindsey from Aliquippa from the Class of 2007. In addition there is the possibility that Shariff Harris and/or Greg Williams could be moved from running back to linebacker this fall. Coach Paul Rhoads will be watching Nate Nix and the other young linebackers in an attempt to shore up the two-deep chart. Pitt fans will be too.

During his high school days at Thomas Jefferson Nate Nix helped the Jaguars to a WPIAL championship and a AAA state championship. He was an all-state pick by the Associated Press and was selected to play in the Big 33 game in Hershey.

Jim Snyder can be contacted at jrsnyder04@comcast.net.

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