No quick fix for Panthers when it comes to O-line
Help for Pitt's struggling offensive line may be on the way — just not this season.
Coach Paul Chryst said Monday that the five starting linemen who have taken every meaningful snap are the best blockers on the team, by far.
“I think (the backups) are getting better,” he said. “I like to think that, but no one is at the point where we feel like they are ready to take over.”
Pitt's line will come under deeper scrutiny this week after a spotty performance last week in a 14-13 loss at Syracuse.
• Quarterback Tino Sunseri was sacked five times.
• False-start penalties by Chris Jacobson and Cory King helped eliminate offensive momentum in the fourth quarter.
• Pitt running backs averaged 2.1 yards per carry.
Despite the problems, Chryst doesn't have immediate plans to make changes.
Depth on the line was compromised at the start of training camp when tackle Juantez Hollins was suspended for the season for violating team rules. That forced Chryst to move King, a redshirt junior, from guard to left tackle.
“It's really hard,” said senior left guard Chris Jacobson of the move, “especially (to) left tackle.”
The options are limited, but freshman Adam Bisnowaty, who is listed at 6-foot-6, 275 pounds, appears to have a promising future after he adds weight. Freshman Gabe Roberts was headed toward a redshirt when he had left shoulder surgery last week.
Pitt also has received verbal commitments from offensive linemen Carson Baker (6-5, 315) and Aaron Reese (6-5, 290) of the Class of 2013, and is awaiting a decision from four-star Dorian Johnson of Belle Vernon.
Meanwhile, Pitt (2-3) struggles to find offensive consistency, even with Sunseri playing better than at any time in his collegiate career.
Pitt has allowed an average of 2.6 sacks per game (13 total), next-to-last in the Big East and 96th in the nation. All but two of those sacks occurred in games against Cincinnati (six) and Syracuse (five).
“Tino is doing a great job,” Jacobson said. “He just needs some time in the pocket.”
Jacobson, a sixth-year senior, said there is no excuse for the false-start penalties.
“I shouldn't be undisciplined,” he said. “They brought a blitz. I was anticipating it.”
He added that Syracuse lined up in different defenses, which might have helped put the brakes on the Pitt running game.
“But that's not an excuse,” he said.
Jacobson said the linemen continue to work hard, taking every rep at practice and watching plenty of video.
“We are doing a good job,” Jacobson said. “There were just some situations where we needed to adjust and we didn't.”
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7997.