Mason demoted in wake of weekend incident
Pitt sophomore middle linebacker Dan Mason has been demoted from the first team to the second team, head coach Dave Wannstedt announced on Wednesday.
Mason's demotion stems from his involvement in an incident early Sunday morning. Redshirt freshman running back Jason Douglas reportedly struck a pedestrian and attempted to flee the scene before being arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault by vehicle while driving under the influence, felony accidents involving death or personal injury, misdemeanor driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, and underage drinking.
Mason was a passenger in Douglas's vehicle, but he was not charged in the incident; however, his involvement led to Wannstedt's disciplinary move.
"Dan has got to understand and learn to make better decisions as far as what he's doing, where he's at, who he's with, and as a result, I moved Dan to second-team middle linebacker," Wannstedt said at Pitt's South Side facility Wednesday morning.
Wannstedt declined further comment regarding the nature of Mason's involvement in the incident.
Mason started both games of the 2010 season at middle linebacker, and in 2009 he made two starts in the middle and one start at weak-side linebacker. He is currently Pitt's leading tackler, with 13 stops in two games.
He has not previously been publicly disciplined by the coaching staff, but Wannstedt seemed to indicate on Wednesday that the sophomore from Penn Hills has had prior off-field issues.
"As I told Dan and his mother this morning, this is for his good," Wannstedt said. "He needs to prove to me that he can do the right things and be accountable off the field, in the classroom, and on the football field. When he does that, he'll get his job back.
"This is not a football decision. This is a combination of accountability with academics and just being smart off the field. So he'll be evaluated day by day."
In place of Mason, redshirt junior Max Gruder will shift from strong-side to middle linebacker. Redshirt junior Greg Williams will start at strong-side linebacker, and redshirt junior Tristan Roberts will start at weak-side linebacker. Gruder was recruited to Pitt as a middle linebacker before moving outside. He has experience at all three linebacker positions.
There is no timetable for how long Mason will stay on the second team, but Wannstedt said Wednesday that he expects Gruder to start Pitt's next game, a home contest against Miami next Thursday.
In the wake of Sunday's incident, Douglas was suspended from the team indefinitely, and it appears unlikely that he will return.
"He has been suspended indefinitely; we know that," Wannstedt said. "He has a hearing (Thursday), but the likelihood of him returning to this team is seriously in jeopardy. I'll have further statements as time goes on concerning him.
"You're jeopardizing your college career and your education, and it's very unfortunate for all parties involved."