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Pittsburgh LB Todd Thomas tells coaches he is leaving team

Pittsburgh starting LB Todd Thomas, who has undergone two surgeries on his left knee, told Panthers coaches Wednesday that he was giving up football.

"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," coach Paul Chryst told reporters Wednesday afternoon. "I'm not going to talk about any of our discussions with him; should something change, then I'll visit that.

"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."

Thomas, a junior, suffered his first knee injury as a true freshman in 2010. He was hurt while serving as a wide receiver on the scout team.

He moved to linebacker for the 2011 season and worked his way into a starting role until suffering another knee injury, which forced him to miss the final three games of that season.

Thomas returned a month into the 2012 season, playing in nine games and starting seven. He had 59 tackles, 1.5 sacks, five pass breakups, one interception and one blocked punt, which he recovered for a TD against Louisville.

Thomas (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) was a three-sport star in high school in Beaver Falls, Pa., earning all-state recognition in football, track and basketball.

His decision means Shane Gordon is the only returning starter at linebacker for the Panthers. He'll start in the middle. On the outside, coaches are high on junior Anthony Gonzalez, who arrived at Pitt as a quarterback, and redshirt freshman Mike Caprara -- while undersized at 6-0 and 215 pounds -- runs well and has a great football IQ. In addition, sophomore Ejuan Price was a starter as a true freshman in 2011, but he missed last season with a pectoral injury. Price originally signed with Ohio State before asking out of his letter-of-intent so he could play closer to home -- he is a Pittsburgh native.

Third-year sophomore Nicholas Grigsby and redshirt freshman George "Bam" Bradley also should be in the mix. Bradley is the youngster brother of Grigsby, and they were teammates at Dayton (Ohio) Trotwood-Madison High.

Follow Mike Huguenin on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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