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Panthers' Jacobson happy to act his age

| Monday, Sept. 17, 2012, 8:12 p.m.
Pitt offensive lineman Chris Jacobson blocks against Virginia Tech at Heinz Field Sept. 15, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

At the age of 23, Pitt senior left guard Chris Jacobson realizes he must face reality:

He just can't keep up with the young guys anymore.

The truth hit Jacobson recently when he and his buddies on the offensive line visited an all-you-can eat buffet, probably their favorite activity outside football.

There, 350-pound tackle Matt Rotheram consumed six plates of food and 340-pound Arthur Doakes ate nearly enough crablegs to sink a small fishing boat.

Awestruck, Jacobson only could watch with envy.

“(When you get older), your metabolism isn't the same,” he said.

That's OK, though, because Jacobson and Pitt senior center Ryan Turnley are showing the way on the field where the years have been good to them.

“They are taking ownership of it,” coach Paul Chryst said. “They are enjoying every phase of what we are doing and what we are asking them to do. Not that they are always having fun when we are grinding on them on the field. But they know why we are doing it, and it's a group that likes to work.”

The results started to show Saturday when the offensive line helped clear the way for Pitt to reach a 12-year high in total yards (537) in a victory over Virginia Tech. Quarterback Tino Sunseri was sacked only once.

If no one else did, Jacobson said he saw it coming.

“There was a better vibe in the building,” he said. “Guys were watching more tape. I think we knew we had to get something started. Now, we just have to keep it rolling.”

The line is improving after a few setbacks at the outset of training camp when starting tackle Juantez Hollins was suspended for the season and Penn State transfer Tom Ricketts was lost with a shoulder injury.

That left Pitt with almost no depth, but the five starters — Jacobson, Turnley, Rotheram, guard Ryan Schlieper and tackle Cory King — bonded into a cohesive group against Virginia Tech. A few of them played — and played well — with minor injuries, Chryst said.

The linemen have been pushed doggedly by 39-year veteran line coach Jim Hueber, who is quick to holler passionately when someone or something goes wrong. Before coming to Pitt, Hueber, 64, was with seven schools and the Minnesota Vikings where he was on a staff with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

“Huebs' style has worked for a lot of guys at different places,” Chryst said.

“The beautiful thing is linemen are still linemen no matter where they're at. That's why we like them. You can ask a lot of them, you want to ask a lot of them, and they respond to that.”

Hueber is Jacobson's fourth offensive line coach in six years at Pitt, following Paul Dunn, Tony Wise and Spencer Leftwich.

“He gets on us every day,” Jacobson said. “You know he's doing it for a good reason. He is yelling at you because he knows you can do it better. I like that.

“Younger guys will learn that, too, over the years.”

Notes: Sunseri was named Big East offensive player of the week after throwing for 283 yards and three touchdowns. Safety Jason Hendricks (two interceptions) was named to the Big East honor roll.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jdipaola@tribweb.com or 412-320-7997.

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