Where the position stands now:
This unit hasn't been above average for awhile now and while there doesn't seem to be a sure thing as far as a star, the experience and depth may help the unit move above average for once. The three players that will be pencilled in as starters are seniors Todd Thomas and Anthony Gonzalez on the outside, and sophomore Matt Galambos in the middle. Thomas has been a three year starter and while he's a good player he's down to his last season to become the star that once was predicted of him. Gonzalez has stuck through many position changes and suspensions to also become a solid player. Galambos played a lot as a true freshman and handled himself well for such a young, unheralded player. His athletic ability isn't high but he plays hard, hits hard, and is smart. He's the kind of player that would be really good if he was surrounded by good players in the front seven.
Three more letterman return in redshirt junior Nicholas Grigsby, and redshirt sophomores Bam Bradley and Mike Caprara. Grigsby isn't big, but he's fast. Bradley is a solid 230 pounds and also moves well. Caprara is a fan favorite despite not being on the field yet.
Beyond that there's redshirt freshman Zach Poker, and incoming freshmen Jamal Davis, James Folston, and Quintin Wirginis. Unless they really surprise they won't see the field this year, but they all have potential.
All in all, six of the top seven linebackers return, and there are four more young players after them so the position should be improved.
Recently committed Kevin Givens was talked about in the defensive line post because he's probably going to outgrow linebacker, but it's possible that the staff will try to see if he can stick here. it would help the unit immensely if he could stay here and produce in the near future because he is strong and fast.
The Panthers desperately need some future NFL quality linebackers if they want their defense to reach the next step, but they're going to have to battle hard to get such a linebacker. The best of the linebackers they have offered is Jahvoni Simmons of Ocean Lakes HS (Virginia Beach, VA), but the Panthers are not considered one of the frontrunners. Middle linebacker Jake Cooper of Archbishop Wood HS (Warminster, PA) is a personal favorite of mine but once Penn State offered it's just a matter of time until he commits to them. Nick Conner of Scioto HS (Dublin, OH) is a tough old school linebacker but he's flirting with an Ohio State offer and that would be it for him.
Five others with offers are 6'1" 220 pound Tyriq Thompson of Martin Luther King HS (Detroit, MI), 6'4" 215 pound Chad Smith of Dominion HS (Sterling, VA), 6'2" 200 pound Anthony McKee of Walnut Ridge HS (Columbus, OH), 6'3" 225 pound Christopher Hart of St. Thomas Aquinas HS (Fort Lauderdale, FL), and 6'1" 205 pound Markus Bailey of Hilliard Davidson HS (Hilliard, OH). I think Thompson will probably stay in the Big 10. Hart was a teammate of the departed Wade Freebeck and recruited by the departed Brian Bollinger, so things may change in his recruitment. McKee is leaning to Kentucky at the moment. Bailey is a teammate of incoming freshman Phillipie Motley. Smith is active and tall, and he's my favorite of these five, but truthfully none of these five strike me a sure thing difference maker.
The Panthers can have a good defense and be a top 25 team with a group of good, quick linebackers, but if they ever want to move beyond that they are going to need to had more players with NFL type talent, especially since the defensive line is in the same boat. That's not to suggest that Pitt can't produce a difference maker or two in the near future. But it would be nice to have a big, fast, talented player or two in the front seven.