Trib HSSN Preseason Football All-Star Team: Sean FitzSimmons
Sunday, July 4, 2021 | 5:45 PM
The Tribune-Review and the TribLive High School Sports Network are profiling each member of the 25-player Trib HSSN Preseason Football All-Star team. The players will be recognized July 22 during HSSN Media Day at Kennywood Park.
While visiting with Pitt’s coaches, Panthers recruit Sean FitzSimmons watched videos of Aaron Donald’s jump cross-chop.
It’s a twisting pass-rush move the NFL All-Pro uses.
“You kind of jump and flip your hips in mid-air, land and go to the quarterback,” FitzSimmons said. “It’s a pretty difficult move compared to all of the other ones, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a great move to have.”
The Central Valley senior said he isn’t there yet, but opponents might see it sometime this fall. The 6-foot-3, 283-pound lineman has worked on improving his other pass-rush techniques as well, in hopes he can dominate at the line of scrimmage this fall.
“That is my goal,” FitzSimmons said. “I want to be able to dominate the whole game and help the team repeat as state champs.”
A year ago, FitzSimmons already was one of the best defensive linemen in the state. He was credited with 18 sacks, 48 quarterback hurries and a team-best 112 total tackles as undefeated Central Valley won the PIAA Class 3A title. The Warriors won their first 11 games by mercy rule.
FitzSimmons committed to Pitt in April.
“For a lot of people the question is: ‘Can he top what he did last year?’ ” coach Mark Lyons said. “That’s going to be the challenge for Sean because he had a phenomenal year. But I like to believe his offseason is going to pay dividends. If you can imagine him stronger and faster off the ball than last year, that’s going to be a good thing for us.”
FitzSimmons sees room for improvement. That is where the pass-rush techniques come into play.
“As a freshman and sophomore, I was mostly relying on making contact and trying to get off of the block,” he said. “Last year, I really perfected my bull rush. I’ve got speed moves. I love doing a swim move.”
Talks with Pitt assistant head coach/defensive line coach Charlie Partridge introduced FitzSimmons to Donald’s cross-chop. As he jumps, Donald uses his arm to chop across his body and knock down the offensive lineman’s hands.
FitzSimmons also has watched videos of other NFL players and Pitt linemen using the move.
“I’m still trying to learn that one,” he said. “I’ve just started.”
Yet, before his senior season ends, there might be some cross-chop video of FitzSimmons, too.
“Possibly, if I get it down right,” he said. “I’m feeling confident I’ll get it down.”
FitzSimmons also starts on the offensive line at guard, and Lyons said his blocking and pulling skills might be underrated. FitzSimmons was recruited to Pitt as a defensive lineman, the position he prefers, but Lyons said he’s versatile enough to play offense in college, if needed.
“If that would ever happen, I would probably embrace the change, but I do like playing defense and making the big plays,” FitzSimmons said. “I like making tackles. I like making sacks. I like being aggressive and getting after guys.”
Opponents already have spent two seasons coming up with new ways to block him, with limited success. As a sophomore, Central Valley credited FitzSimmons with 133 total tackles, eight sacks and 26 tackles for loss.
It’s no coincidence the Warriors are two-time defending WPIAL champions.
“We saw a lot of different schemes against him — double and triple teams at times,” Lyons said. “Every team is going to try something different against him or run away from him. It’s going to be our job to make sure he’s in the right position.”
FitzSimmons’ job is to keep frustrating opponents.
“The biggest thing now,” Lyons said, “is he has to play with that kind of swagger as far as, I’m supposed to take over a game. And I will take over a game.”
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
Tags: Central Valley
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