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Pitt football notebook: Offensive linemen working through marathon duty

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Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 8:42 p.m.

Pitt started the season knowing there wouldn't be much depth on the offensive line.

The result has been marathon men Corey King, Chris Jacobson, Ryan Turnley, Ryan Schlieper and Matt Rotheram taking every important snap in all five games after running most plays in practice since the first week of August.

Turnley said no one asks for a rest.

“Guys like it,” he said. “We like working hard. Everyone is starting to buy into that. We are going to take every rep and get better every single time, instead of just trying to get through it.”

The results have been mixed, with 11 of the 13 sacks on Tino Sunseri occurring in two games. The running game has been productive and out of sync: Pitt is fourth in the Big East in rushing (155.4 yards per game).

• It's unusual for a freshman to play a key role, but tight end J.P. Holtz continues to turn heads. Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph is surprised because Holtz often lined up at running back at Shaler High School. Yet Holtz is Pitt's main backup to starter Hubie Graham, and he has received plenty of playing time. “He doesn't flinch,” Rudolph said. “He gives you exactly what you want. Nothing makes him take a step back from his approach. It doesn't matter who is lining up across from him. He is going to go a million miles an hour.” Holtz has only two catches for 35 yards, but he has shown toughness. At Syracuse, he caught a pass and lowered his shoulder into defensive back Sharmarko Thomas. Thomas' helmet collided with Holtz's helmet, and Thomas was on the ground for several minutes before walking off the field.

• Syracuse coach Doug Marrone said Thomas is recovering. “He's doing fine. I talked to him the other day,” said Marrone, who did not rule out Thomas playing Saturday at Rutgers.

• Wide receivers Devin Street and Mike Shanahan were productive against Syracuse's man-to-man defense, something they may see Saturday against Louisville. Shanahan leads the Big East in receiving (90.2 ypg), and Street is third (80.6). Street is second in receptions per game (5.6), and Shanahan is fourth (5.0).

• Turnley said he doesn't mind the 11 a.m. kickoff, even if it means a 6:30 a.m. wakeup call — an hour earlier than for a noon kickoff. “You'll be done at 2:30,” he said. “The wakeup call, that will be different, but it's great. You don't have to wait around all day for kickoff.”

— Jerry DiPaola

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