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August 7, 2013

Linebacker Thomas leaving the Pitt football team

Redshirt junior linebacker Todd Thomas has informed the Pitt coaches that he is leaving the football team, head coach Paul Chryst announced Wednesday.

Thomas was not at Wednesday's practice, and Chryst addressed the topic at the start of his daily press briefing.

"I had a chance to have some conversations with him the last couple days, and he told me last night and this morning that he's going to leave the team," Chryst said. "I'm not going to talk about any of our discussions with him; should something change, then I'll visit that.

"I obviously like Todd and we want what's best for every one of these kids that's in the program. I'm not going to talk any more about that. We're going to go on coaching and working with the guys here."

Chryst would not elaborate on whether the decision is final, nor if Thomas intends to transfer.

Thomas was one of the surprises in training camp, insofar as he opened camp on the second team at weak-side linebacker after starting last season and working on the first team in spring camp. Over the course of nine games in 2012, Thomas recorded 59 total tackles - fourth-most on the team - as well as 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, an interception, five pass breakups and a blocked kick (which he returned for a touchdown).

But despite looking like one of the potential impact players on defense, Thomas found himself in a backup role on the first day of camp Tuesday. When asked about the move after practice, the former Beaver Falls star offered the following explanation:

"Basically, I'm at number two. Well, it's a rotation, so it's really not a depth chart right now. But I'm coming in as a number two right now, so I don't know…I'm 100%, everything's fine; I guess I can't control what happens."

Thomas added that the move was unexpected.

"I'm surprised, but I can't do anything about it. I just have to go out there and work hard and just compete…

"No, I wouldn't think [he would be behind another player on the depth chart]. But I guess that's how the cookie crumbles, and I just have to go out every day and work hard and earn a spot."

Redshirt junior Anthony Gonzalez worked ahead of Thomas at the weak-side linebacker position on Tuesday. Gonzalez was the first-team strong-side linebacker in the spring; on Tuesday, redshirt freshman Mike Caprara was on the first-team at strong-side linebacker.

For his part, Chryst spoke highly of Thomas after Tuesday's practice.

"I like Todd Thomas," Chryst said. "He has played, obviously, for us, and I think with all of those linebackers we have to start with six and find the best three from that. He certainly will be in that group."

Thomas seemed to respond to the move to the second team with some extra fire, emphatically batting down three passes Tuesday. And after that practice, Chryst said he thought Thomas might be showing signs of some extra motivation.

"Yeah, I hope so. You love that part of him. I love the energy he brings. I love the competitiveness that he brings to it. If you look around, a lot of players respond to Todd. So that's all good stuff."

Thomas even acknowledged that he might have needed a bit more motivation.

"Yeah, I did; a little extra," he said. "But like I said, I'm just going to keep working hard and seeing how it unfolds."

Pitt has had a string of transfers this offseason, but that seemed to be coming to a stop with the start of training camp. Now the trend appears to have carried over into camp. According to redshirt senior receiver Devin Street, there's not much time to dwell on the departures.

"Yeah, but you know what? That's part of it. I can't do anything about it. Some guys gotta go, and he wasn't on board so I can't do anything about it. I can control the controllables and rally the guys who want to be here."

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