Spring shoes to fill: Pitt

March, 22, 2012
3/22/12
2:00
PM ET
We move on in our spring series called "shoes to fill," where I take a look at one of the most important positions that has to be replaced for each team around the league.

Up today: Pitt.

OUT: Max Gruder, LB. Gruder was quite the force on the Pitt defense last season, finishing second in the league with 116 tackles and making the Big East second team. Though the linebacker group as a whole had its struggles at times last season, Gruder really helped with the improvement in the second half of the season. He was no doubt a smart, savvy player who will not only be missed for his leadership, but his productivity. All those tackles allowed Gruder to become the first Pitt player to reach 100 stops in a season since Scott McKillop had 137 during his All-America year in 2008.

IN: Dan Mason or Ejuan Price. These three are in a heated competition to win the starting job Gruder leaves behind. Mason is an incredible story, having overcome a devastating knee injury to return to the field. He has been taking first-team reps this spring. Price played the hybrid linebacker/end position at times last season, but is now transitioning to middle linebacker. If Mason is able to return to the form he displayed when he was healthy, the Panthers are going to be in really good shape. He plays with a passion and intensity that is hard to match.

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