Pitt GameFilm: Linebackers

September 20, 2011

Written by Jon Miller

Hawkeye Nation

James Morris rebounded nicely from last week’s game and was very sound in this game. Made some big plays for his defense when they needed him. Didn’t play great at the start but picked up his level of play very quickly. After missing a tackle early and struggling to run with Graham in pass coverage he tightened down the screws and made some big stops in the run game. Morris had a crucial stop near the goal-line to hold Pitt to a field goal late in the game. Really liked how he got stronger and adjusted as the game went on. Showing a lot of maturity for a sophomore.Nielsen was playing with a bad wheel in this game until he finally threw in the towel on the fifth series. Due to the ankle injury hee was again lacking that explosiveness an athleticism that makes him effective. He showed a lot of grit playing as long as he did in this one. Hitchens came in to play WLB with Kirksey shifting over to LEO for Nielsen. Hitchens looked a lot more comfortable out there this week than he did last week. Played solid in relief of Nielsen in this one and didn’t make any big mistakes out there. Never a bad thing to have more LB’s get game experience. Hopefully Nielsen is able to get back on the field fully healthy sooner rather than later. Until then Hitchens looks like a guy who can run pretty well and just needs time to develop his reading ability and put his instincts to work.

Kirksey had a bit of a hangover from his stellar performance from last week. Got fooled and was out of position on the reverse pass trick play that went for a TD. He also had to adjust to playing the LEO spot for the first time in live action as well. He settled in a little bit towards the end and make some solid plays. Being versatile enough to play at two positions will make him pretty valuable for this unit as well. He appeared to be learning how to shed blockers a little quicker in this one and with a back like Graham he needed to be free and clear to be able to make a play.

Nielsen
-1 Very poor getting off his block as the QB scrambles and then misses the tackle when he finally gets away. S5

Overall: -1

Morris
-1 Juked out by Graham in space. Had a chance to close this play down at the LOS but ends up grabbing air as Graham jump cuts right around him and picks up some yards. S4
+1 Nice job reading the mesh point and whacks Sunseri for no gain. S5
+1 Great job playing the run here and 3rd and short, challenged the cut back lane and then attacked Graham behind the LOS. S8
+1 Great job wading through traffic and making the crucial stop in the red zone. S12
+1 Another physical hit and sound wrap up tackle on Graham after he made a solid read and attacked downhill. S14

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Overall: +3

Kirksey
-1 Pretty poor read here by Kirksey on the jet sweep that goes for big yards. Gets pinned inside by the pulling guard and he needs to keep outside leverage and read the play better than this. S4
-1 Missed the tackle as Graham spun away from him, lost his feet as he committed too far outside here. Read the play well and got up in the seam, just misses the tackle. S4
+1 Excellent job playing the flat coverage here as he flies up under control and whacks the TE and limits it to a 2-3 yard gain. S10
-1 Looked like man coverage here and he got fooled by the trick play. Reverse pass was perfectly executed. Even had he not been fooled it was a mismatch running the wheel route with a WR. S10
+1 Nice job by Kirksey there getting off his block and closing the outside lane on the very shifty Graham. Could have been a big play if he didn’t make the stop. S12

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Overall: -1

Hitchens
+1 Very nice job reading the route and ignoring the head-fake by Graham underneath and making the play well short of the sticks on the 3rd down play S6

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Overall: +1

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