Sunday July 4, 2021 | 5:45 p.m.
The Tribune-Review and the TribLive High School Sports Network feature each member of the Trib HSSN preseason football team of 25 players. The players will be recognized on July 22 at HSSN Media Day at Kennywood Park.
During a visit with Pitt’s coaches, Panthers rookie Sean FitzSimmons watched videos of Aaron Donald’s cross-jump.
It’s a twisted rushing move that the NFL All-Pro uses.
âYou jump and flip your hips in the air, land and go to the quarterback,â FitzSimmons said. “It’s a pretty tough move compared to all the others, but once you get the hang of it it’s a great move to have.”
The Central Valley elder said he was not there yet, but opponents could see him this fall. The 6-foot-3, 283-pound lineman has also been working on improving his other pass-rush techniques, in hopes he can dominate the line of scrimmage this fall.
âThis is my goal,â FitzSimmons said. “I want to be able to dominate the whole game and help the team repeat themselves as state champions.”
A year ago, FitzSimmons was already one of the best defensive linemen in the state. He was credited with 18 sacks, 48 ââquarterbacks and a total of 112 tackles, the team’s best as undefeated Central Valley won the PIAA Class 3A title. The Warriors won their first 11 games by mercy rule.
FitzSimmons made a commitment to Pitt in April.
âFor a lot of people the question is, ‘Can he surpass what he did last year?’ Said coach Mark Lyons. âIt will be the challenge for Sean because he has had a phenomenal year. But I like to believe that its offseason will bear fruit. If you can imagine him stronger and faster than last year, that will be a good thing for us.
FitzSimmons sees room for improvement. This is where pass-rush techniques come in.
âAs a freshman and sophomore, I mostly relied on making contact and trying to get out of the block,â he said. âLast year I really perfected my bull rush. I have speed movements. I love to do a swimming movement.
Interviews with Pitt assistant head coach / defensive line coach Charlie Partridge introduced FitzSimmons to Donald’s cross cut. As he jumps, Donald uses his arm to cut off his body and knock back the offensive lineman’s hands.
FitzSimmons also watched videos of other NFL players and Pitt linemen using the motion.
âI’m still trying to learn this one,â he said. ” I just started.
Still, before his senior season is over, there could also be a cross-cut video from FitzSimmons.
âMaybe, if I understand correctly,â he said. “I am confident that I will take him down.”
FitzSimmons also starts off the offensive line at guard, and Lyons said his blocking and pulling skills might be underestimated. FitzSimmons was recruited by Pitt as a defensive lineman, the position he prefers, but Lyons said he’s versatile enough to play on offense in college if needed.
âIf that ever happened, I would probably take the change, but I like to play defense and play the big games,â said FitzSimmons. âI like to tackle. I like to make bags. I like to be aggressive and tackle guys.
Opponents have already spent two seasons finding new ways to block him, with limited success. In the sophomore, Central Valley credited FitzSimmons with 133 total tackles, eight sacks and 26 loss tackles.
It’s no coincidence that the Warriors are two-time defending WPIAL champions.
âWe’ve seen a lot of different ploys against him – doubles and triples sometimes,â Lyons said. âEach team is going to try something different against him or run away from him. It will be our job to make sure he’s in the right position.
FitzSimmons’ job is to continue to frustrate their opponents.
âThe most important thing now,â said Lyons, âis that he has to play with that kind of swagger as I’m supposed to resume a game. And I’m going to resume a game.
Keywords: Central valley