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Pitt takes step toward rebuilding O-line

With Pitt losing at least three of its starting offensive linemen after the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Dec. 26, it will be a challenge for coach Dave Wannstedt to rebuild an offensive front that helped freshman tailback Dion Lewis become the leading rusher in the Big East.

Wannstedt and offensive line coach Tony Wise are hoping Shane Johnson, a 6-foot-5, 310-pound recruit from Hyattsville, Md., will help fill the void.

Johnson, who helped lead DeMatha High School to an 11-1 record this season and a state title in 2008, committed to the Panthers after visiting the campus this past weekend. Pitt had received commitments from two other offensive linemen - Arthur Doakes of Lebanon and Matt Rotheram of North Olmsted, Ohio.

Johnson played mostly at guard during the past three years. However, DeMatha coach Bill McGregor, a Pittsburgh native, said Monday that Johnson is among the most versatile offensive linemen he's had during his 28-year career at DeMatha.

"He can play multiple positions, and I'm sure he'll be big enough to play tackle at Pitt," McGregor said. "He's definitely excited about the challenge and having an opportunity to play for Coach Wannstedt.

"He has a great work ethic, which really impressed the 20 to 25 schools that recruited him. He does what he has to do. We're primarily a run team, but he's a terrific pass-blocker."

Johnson, a likely all-state selection, considered several FBS schools — including Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, Boston College, North Carolina State, Wake Forest and Rutgers — before opting for Pitt.

Johnson will be joined at Pitt by DeMatha teammate Jeff Knox. Knox, a cornerback, and McGregor are among 23 recruits who have committed to the Panthers.

Note : The Pitt athletic department has announced that it will be offering free tickets to the Meineke Car Care Bowl for Pitt students who are able to make the trip to Charlotte, N.C., for the Dec. 26 game against North Carolina. Only Pitt students will be extended the offer, and they are encouraged to call or stop by the Pitt ticket office by Dec. 23 to reserve their ticket to the game. In addition, students may reserve their ticket online at www.PittsburghPanthers.com until Dec. 25. When arriving at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, students will need to show their Pitt identification in order to receive their ticket.

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