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Panther Hollow: Linebacker Thomas Suddenly Leaves Football Team

PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) -- The first major storyline of Pitt football training camp mushroomed into a surprising development Wednesday, when head coach Paul Chryst announced "Will" (weak side) linebacker Todd Thomas has left the Panthers.

"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 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."

On Tuesday Chryst raised a few eyebrows when he said redshirt freshman and Woodland Hills product Mike Caprara had, for the time being, unseated Thomas, a redshirt junior, as the favorite to begin the season as a starter at his position.

"I think he can give us some stuff, but he can play at a higher level than what he's been, [and we] need him to. That's not negative. I think he thinks a lot of himself, and [he has to] match it," Chryst explained when asked about Thomas' unforeseen demotion at the time.

Caprara, as a high school senior, was one of the most heavily recruited players in the WPIAL, like Thomas. He was the all-time leading tackler in Woodland Hills history, and he was expected to play at least semi-regularly for the Panthers this year after an outstanding showing during spring drills and the annual Blue-Gold Game.

Therefore, it shouldn't come as a total surprise Caprara was getting a long look in camp. However, Thomas is coming off an impressive sophomore campaign, despite missing several games in his first two collegiate seasons due to multiple knee injuries, and recently told Panther Hollow he was feeling as physically healthy as he had ever felt at Pitt.

So the decision by Chryst was, on some level, not well received. Nevertheless, Thomas insists there's more to this developing story than meets the eye:

As of the time of publication, an interview request submitted to Thomas had not received a response.

Although the saga of Pitt's thinning linebacker corps has taken a sharp turn, it may not be over yet. As former Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt can attest, college football is full of stories about players who parted ways with their teams, only to return at the drop of a hat.

Under Chryst's still-brief watch, the number of players who have left the program unofficially stands at 20.

Keep reading the Panther Hollow blog for more on this story, as we focus on the battle currently led by Caprara for Thomas' job.

(Contact me at and/or follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)

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