Defensive end Bryan Murphy and fullback Mark Giubilato will not return to the Pitt football team in 2014, Pitt coach Paul Chryst announced in a statement today. Both would have been 5th-year seniors this year, and the statement said both will focus on graduating this year.
Murphy played in 10 games for Pitt last year, starting nine. He had 15 tackles, including four in the loss against Navy. He did not travel to Detroit and missed the bowl game for "personal reasons." Giubilato played in all 13 games in 2013, mostly on special teams, and had 11 tackles.
Giubilato was a pretty versatile player during his time at Pitt, but he was kind of phased out of the offense under Chryst the past two years. For being a pro-style team, Pitt doesn't tend to use a true fullback a lot. Most of the time, it's one of their H-backs like Manasseh Garner or Jaymar Parrish lining up in the backfield as a lead blocker. The biggest hole Giubilato will leave is as a solid special teams guy.
Murphy's departure, though, further depletes Pitt's depth at defensive end, which was already a fairly thin position heading into 2014. Without Murphy, there will be an even bigger onus on Ejuan Price to get healthy and stay healthy (he missed Pitt's final six games last year), since he and David Durham will be the likely starters heading into next year. Oft-injured Devin Cook and rising sophomore Shakir Soto will also find themselves in the mix for a more prominent role next season. Defensive end was a pretty big weakness for the Panthers last season. A lot of that was made up for by the fact that Aaron Donald was so dominant in the middle, but without Donald, Pitt is going to need flat-out better production from its defensive ends in 2014.
I know James Conner made some waves playing defensive end in the bowl game, and Chryst didn't totally rule out playing him there more in 2014. That said, I still don't think it's necessarily a great idea to have your best running back playing both ways for an extended period of time. Pitt is deep at running back, but an injury to Conner would be pretty devastating. I think he maybe (maybe) gets a handful of snaps on defense in pass-rush situations, but won't be a long-term answer at the position.