Hulking pair of Pitt linemen pleased with move to guard
Pitt senior left guard Cory King stands out in a crowd when he walks among his peers on the practice fields.
Now imagine him on a basketball court, where the players are shorter, thinner and perhaps unaccustomed to the chaos King can cause with his mammoth frame.
King, who played both sports at Lakeview High School in Mercer County, smiles at the memory, trying not to appear sinister.
“We had a special play where the point guard would bring the ball down, and I stood at half-court and tried to pick him,” King said. “A lot of times, (the defender) wouldn't see it, and (he) would just fall over.”
That's the kind of mayhem Pitt offensive line coach Jim Hueber is expecting from the 6-foot-6, 325-pound King and junior right guard Matt Rotheram (6-6, 340). They are the tallest and heaviest starters on Pitt's offensive line.
After they moved from tackle to guard — where their wide bodies are better suited — the expectations also are bigger.
“If you ask Cory,” Hueber said, “he is happy he doesn't have to worry about those wide rushes (from the defensive ends).”
When told about the move at the end of last season, King admitted, “It was kind of relief.”
Rotheram played both positions as a redshirt freshman in 2011 before suffering a season-ending ankle fracture at midseason. He played tackle last season because Pitt had a manpower shortage, but he understands guard is where he belongs.
“At tackle, sometimes you are on an island, and it's not as good to be a big-body guy out there,” he said. “I did what I had to do to get on the field and put our team in the best position to win.”
King admits he struggled at tackle.
“I felt like I was on another planet for a while,” he said. “The latter half of the year, I started to feel real comfortable.”
Hueber wants production from his guards, but he also leans on his two veteran linemen (33 combined starts at Pitt) to help teach the other players.
Pitt has its biggest line in the past four seasons, but it's also lacking in experience. Of the remaining six players expected to play most of the time, only senior Ryan Schlieper, a backup guard, has started on offense in college (16 starts).
On the field and in the weight room, Schlieper brings competition, something Pitt's line had little of last season.
“He's a phenom on the bench,” King said, noting Schlieper has bench-pressed as much as 420 pounds. “He just crushes it.”
While trying retain their jobs, King and Rotheram also are mentors for the tackles: redshirt freshman Adam Bisnowaty on the left and former defensive end T.J. Clemmings and freshman Dorian Johnson on the right.
“They can point to the rush and help the guy lined up next to them immensely,” Hueber said.
“The techniques (coaches) talk about I have done for years,” Rotheram said.
Through nearly two weeks of training camp, the new alignment is working, although practice is easier than games.
Clemmings is nailing down his position to the point where there is talk about redshirting Johnson.
Meanwhile, the line is working in the same system two years in a row for the first time since 2010, providing a confidence boost.
How that will translate in the opener Sept. 2 against No. 11 Florida State is unknown. But Rotheram and King are eager to be tested.
Rotheram said he respects Florida State and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, an honorable mention All-ACC selection last season. But he doesn't stand in awe.
“They are definitely some talented players,” Rotherham said, “but I think I have played some talented players.
“We went to Notre Dame (last season), and people were telling us that was the best defensive line in college football.
“We came into that game saying they are just college football players and we are going to block them like they are college football players.”
The result: Running back Ray Graham rushed for 172 yards.
“We did well,” Rotheram said. “You have to approach everybody like they are no different.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Moon area pediatrician found dead in country club lake
- Pitt’s Narduzzi names 4 captains
- LaBar: The upgrade of The Wyatt Family in WWE
- Trib Total Media puts 9 Western Pa. newspapers up for sale
- Penn State to face Idaho to open 2019 season
- Starkey: Steelers stopping themselves with suspensions
- Federal judge does not order removal of Ten Commandments monument from Connellsville school
- Heyl: Vick haters’ Facebook bark much worse than their protest’s bite
- Nonprofit hospital titan UPMC’s income eclipses record
- Moon teacher settles lawsuit against online university
- Kane: Emails released not everything she wants to make public