Pitt football loses Wirginis, Sears on same day


Anna Bongardino

Senior captain Quintin Wirginis (58) lunges for Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley (9).

By Trent Leonard, Sports Editor

The Pitt football team didn’t play a game on Wednesday, but they still suffered a loss — two losses, actually.

The Panthers didn’t lose to an opponent, as their next game will come at Notre Dame this Saturday. Instead, the team lost two players — redshirt senior middle linebacker Quintin Wirginis and sophomore tight end Tyler Sear — due to an injury and a leave of absence, respectively.

Wirginis suffered a non-contact knee injury during the Panthers’ Tuesday practice, and the team’s Twitter account later broke the news that he underwent season-ending surgery on Wednesday.

It was a devastating blow for Pitt, as Wirginis led the team in tackles, tackles for loss, sacks and forced fumbles through six games. On top of being the Panthers’ most productive defensive player, he also served as one of the team’s three senior captains.

If that wasn’t bad enough, news broke shortly after that Tyler Sear was leaving the team for personal reasons. Sear didn’t play quite as large of a role on the team as Wirginis, only catching two passes for nine yards on the season. Still, Sear was the team’s primary player at the tight end position.

Sear’s lack of inclusion in the offense may have played a role in his decision to leave the team, as Pittsburgh Sports Now reported that Sear got into a heated argument with head coach Pat Narduzzi during practice Tuesday and left the facility.

Sear’s departure is the latest in a series of program troubles at the tight end position, with 2019 junior college recruit Travis Koontz decommitting from the team last week. Both developments likely stem from Pitt’s reluctance to involve tight ends in the passing game — so far, that position has accounted for just six receptions and 45 yards this season.

Moving forward, it will be a team effort to replace each player. Senior linebacker Elijah Zeise, as well as junior Saleem Brightwell and sophomores Chase Pine and Elias Reynolds, will form the coalition that will take over Wirginis’s production. In Sear’s stead, junior tight ends Will Gragg and Jim Medure should see the bulk of the work for the dwindling position group.