Pitt endures change on O-line
By Jerry DiPaola
Published: Monday, Aug. 6, 2012, 9:52 p.m.
Pitt coach Paul Chryst isn't trying to put pressure on his offensive linemen — the ones who are left — but he hopes they understand that circumstances demand immediate results amid a difficult situation.
Pitt opened summer camp Monday with five first-team blockers who have starting experience. But after the loss of four starters, three of whom exhausted eligibility, only senior center Ryan Turnley returns in the same position where he ended last season.
Plus, the backups enter the season with no starting experience.
“Certainly we are thin there,” Chryst said.
The toughest blow is the season-long suspension of left tackle Juantez Hollins for violating team policy. That shuffles former guard Cory King to left tackle, the toughest position on the line.
Plus, depth is compromised because King was planning on competing with senior Chris Jacobson at right guard. The result is plenty of pressure on starters to play well and stay healthy, and on backups to improve enough to hide their inexperience.
“There are a lot of young kids right now who are running second team who need to step up; they need to hit the film room,” said Jacobson, who returns for his sixth season after two knee injuries.
King, a redshirt junior, believes he is ready for the challenge.
“There is a lot more responsibility (protecting) the blind side of the quarterback,” said King, who started five games at guard last year. “I think the pressure is really going to help me.”
He admitted he is more comfortable at guard because he has known little else during his collegiate career, but he was encouraged after a long day in the sun under the directive of demanding line coach Jim Hueber.
Meanwhile, Jacobson is getting accustomed again with hitting and getting hit.
“This is my first time hitting something in like 10 months,” he said. “That felt pretty good, a little sore. I still have three weeks to get everything right (before the Sept. 1 opener).”
Jacobson said he has a lot of faith in King, his workout partner and neighbor on the line.
“Cory is a guy who works hard, and I believe in Cory,” he said.
Chryst had no desire to evaluate his line after one practice, but he said the development of the line “will be one of the stories through camp.”
“Cory King is one guy who has to step up and embrace that role,” he said. “A big part of it is can Ryan (Turnley, center) and Chris and Schliep (Ryan Schlieper, right guard) do it so we don't have to move someone out there?”
He added coaches will be counting on 6-foot-6, 335-pound redshirt sophomore Matt Rotheram at right tackle.
“Matt has to continue to work and get himself into shape and be accountable,” he said.
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7997.
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