Twyman elevates his game against Ohio
Injuries can be devastating to a team. In another light, however, it can cause other players to elevate their games and perform at a higher level. There may not have been a better case of that than how Jaylen Twyman stepped up in Saturday’s 20-10 win over Ohio.
Pitt junior defensive tackle Keyshon Camp tore his ACL during Pitt’s season opener against Virginia. The news of his injury was a tough blow to a unit that already suffered a loss to junior defensive end Rashad Weaver prior to the season. With Camp out for the year, Twyman stepped up in a big way during Saturday's game against the Bobcats.
The redshirt sophomore defensive linemen recorded three sacks during the contest against Ohio, which was a career-high for Twyman. In fact, his three-sack performance was the most by a Pitt defensive tackle since Aaron Donald notched three sacks in 2011 against Utah.
“Of course, once I found out that Keyshon was injured, me and him had a talk in the hallway and he was just saying you got to step up and be more vocal,” Twyman told reporters after the game. “I took that into consideration and just went out and performed.”
Twyman led a Pitt defense that only surrendered 212 total yards to a usually formidable Ohio offense. Pitt registered six sacks as a team, recorded ten tackles for loss, and forced the Bobcats to punt ten times.
Twyman’s play certainly stood out, but he said he took Camp’s advice and tried to be a leader for some of the younger guys. Devin Danielson is a redshirt freshman that made his first career start in place of Camp and he came up with a splash play by forcing an errant throw by Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke that was nearly intercepted.
“Just telling all the other guys like Devin Danielson, Tyler Bentley, and David Green, ‘Hey we got to step up, we lost two of our main players on the D-Line and we just got to cover for them guys and have their back,” Twyman said on how he tried to lead more vocally on Saturday.
Of course, Pitt has been starved for strong play out of an interior linemen basically since Donald graduated in 2013. In the offseason, Twyman worked hard on his body and even changed his number to the famed No. 97 that Donald wore at Pitt.
In week one, however, Twyman had a pretty quiet day and showed that he still has a long ways to go before he can really be mentioned in those conversations. Even with the strong game on Saturday, Pat Narduzzi quickly downplayed the comparisons to the two-time reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
“Yeah, let's not go too far,” Narduzzi said. “He's just a baby. But I've said that for a while. He likes that number. That's his idol. Aaron Donald is a legend, and who wouldn't want to be like that guy? But I've been impressed with Jaylen this whole camp. He is a different guy than he was a year ago. You watch tape, you can see it. It's different. I just think he's going to continue to get better as the weeks go on.”
Still, the showing on Saturday are the types of games people around the program hope he can have more and more of as his career progresses. He was flattered to play like his idol, even if it was just for one game.
“It’s definitely a blessing and an honor,” Twyman said of his three-sack game. “I’m just happy to be able to perform at that level and I give all the credit to the scout time for giving me a great look this past week.”
Pitt is still reeling from the losses of Weaver and Camp, but the defensive line generated some pressure on Saturday. The competition will pick up in the next two weeks against Penn State and UCF, but Saturday looked like a building block type of game for Twyman.
“It’s a blessing, like I said before just understanding what I’m doing and taking calculated risks and I was successful today, but it was fun but got to move on to the next game.”