Football: Alecxih building off 3-sack performance

By Alex Oltmanns

Coming out of high school, Chas Alecxih didn’t have a scholarship offer to Pitt. In fact, he… Coming out of high school, Chas Alecxih didn’t have a scholarship offer to Pitt. In fact, he was set on going to Albany, a Division 1-AA school.

But he decided to take a chance and come to Pitt as a preferred walk-on, a chance that is now paying off for him.

“It was a combination of my parents encouraging me to come here because they liked the program, the coaches here convincing me that I wasn’t going to be just a piece of meat and really giving me a chance, and my confidence in my abilities,” Alecxih said. “I could come here and I could contribute.”

After earning a scholarship before the 2009 season, Alecxih is now a starter at defensive tackle and he’s giving all Panthers fans reason to have the same confidence in him that he had of himself coming out of Penn Manor High School in central Pennsylvania.

He compiled four sacks last season playing behind now-departed seniors Mick Williams and Gus Mustakas, and almost matched that total in one game, with three in the team’s home-opener against New Hampshire Sept. 11.

That type of pressure on the quarterback from Alecxih and the defensive line is crucial in Pitt’s defensive scheme which does not blitz much, relying on the line to cause havoc in the backfield on its own.

Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, this plan was more successful in the New Hampshire game than the Utah game.

“The first game I don’t think it’s a big secret, we didn’t really get after the pressure unless we max blitzed and we had to go to blitzing and we don’t like that as much,“ Bennett said. “He came out on Saturday and played very well.”

“Coach Bennett definitely knows what he’s doing and I like that he has confidence in us that we’re going to rush the quarterback even if it’s just the four of us,” Alecxih said.

Alecxih disrupted the New Hampshire offensive all day long, dominating the Wildcats’ George Pecoraro, the man assigned to block him.

Whereas Alecxih is performing well at defensive tackle, he’s still learning the position after being moved there from defensive end, a fact that points toward only better numbers over time from the 280-pound tackle.

“When I came in I really didn’t do many moves, and I still don’t do a ton of moves. I kind of just try to slip by people,” he said. “I try to use my hands real well but I’m still working on developing a good bull rush, a good wiper and arm mover.

“I hope that by the time I keep playing a little bit more I can have those moves as well as being slippery.”

He’s also picked up a lot of tips about playing the position from the guy who starts next to him on the line, fellow redshirt junior defensive tackle Myles Caragein.

“Myles is smarter than me when it comes to this kind of stuff. He’s the rock in the middle and makes sure everyone knows what they’re doing,” Alecxih said. “He’s a very technical player, whereas I’m very different. My technique needs a lot of work sometimes and I can get out of wack.”

Yet, Alecxih thinks that it’s this exact thing that makes it difficult for opposing teams to handle their contrasting styles.

“I think our style helps us because for opposing teams it’s hard to handle both of us, his kind of conservative style and my kind of reckless,” he said.

Caragein said he expects big things from Alecxih every game, and if he keeps working hard, more of the types of games like the one he had against New Hampshire will come.

“He had a really good game Saturday,” Caragein said. “Now, the key for him is to not expect to get that every game and to keep working hard. As soon as you think you’re going to get that every game that’s when you have a big drop off.”

Collecting five tackles and three sacks in one game might make some players complacent, but not Alecxih. He doesn’t care about the stats, and if his strong play causes him to get double teamed, it’s just going to help free up Caragein or someone else on the defense to make a big play.

“I know if I give Myles a single block and if I draw the center and the guard, I know he’s going to make a play,” Alecxih said. “If given the opportunity he’s going to make a big play.”

With the highly anticipated game against the Miami Hurricanes coming up tomorrow, there’s some added excitement around the team’s practice facility in the South Side.

Alecxih said that he’s had this game circled on his calendar for months now.

But maybe Miami itself, after watching the game tape from Pitt’s first two contests this season, might want to circle Alecxih’s name as someone its offense should pay close attention to in the game plan.

Because if they don’t, more sacks will be on the way.