Pitt asst. coach keeps hard line
Pass rushers often come at Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri in waves. Running lanes close too quickly, and the backs have nowhere to go.
But offensive line coach Jim Hueber is proud of his five starters, no matter how imperfect they may be, and it's not just because they haven't missed an important snap all season.
“We haven't had anybody hang their head,” Hueber said. “They bounce back fast, and that's the way it should be.”
That's the way it needs to be. There is no experienced depth behind the starters, with redshirt junior tackle Juantez Hollins suspended for the season.
The result is the starters take 70-80 snaps a day, and no one asks for a break.
“We don't even think about it,” left tackle Cory King said. “That's just what we are expected to do.”
Fortunately, Hueber has their backs.
Aware of the limits of the human body, Hueber allows players to skip post-practice sprints and some meetings on the field.
“I try to get them off their feet,” he said. “Durability-wise, we haven't shown any signs of fading in a game. I think they are taking some pride in what they're doing.”
Pitt's line has been good enough to help the team score 20 touchdowns, but the ground attack is 83rd in the nation in yards per game (145.0) and tied for 103rd in sacks allowed (3.0).
“Our biggest problem is coming in protection,” Hueber said. “We are getting out-athleted. We try to help them on the edges (with a fullback or tight end). But we can't do it every snap. You'll never get anybody out in the pass route.”
King played mainly guard before moving to tackle this year to replace Hollins. The situation could change next season after seniors Chris Jacobson and Ryan Turnley exhaust their eligibility.
Hollins and freshman Adam Bisnowaty will compete for playing time, along with several other young players. Three starters return — King, guard Ryan Schlieper and right tackle Matt Rotheram.
“We may have to play some young guys again until we get it squared away,” Hueber said. “Hopefully, we are going to do some things in recruiting.”
Meanwhile, Hueber will keep shouting when he sees mistakes.
“He expects perfection,” King said. “He'll jump me, and I appreciate when he jumps me because it gets me going. If you don't do it right, he's in your face. I like that.”
“I still think there are some guys who look at me like I have 10 heads,” Hueber said. “But I think they understand it's strictly business. It's nothing personal. There are no shortcuts.”
Notes: Coach Paul Chryst said weakside linebacker Manny Williams (leg) won't play against Buffalo. Todd Thomas could make his first start this season in Williams' place. ... If middle linebacker Shane Gordon (leg) can't play, Dan Mason may make his first start in two years.
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7997.