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Spate of injuries concerns Pitt football coach Chryst

| Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, 10:48 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt quarterback Tom Savage is sacked by North Carolina's Terry Shankle in the second quarter Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, at Heinz Field.

Pitt coach Paul Chryst said he's concerned about the injury epidemic that has struck his team, but he's not ready to change or blame the conditioning program.

“You always (re-evaluate),” he said. “If we had inkling that was causing it, you would change it right now in a heartbeat.”

Yet, he will continue to examine what may be causing all injuries that aren't tied to a specific on-field incident, including back injuries that have idled left guard Cory King and offensive left tackle Adam Bisnowaty.

“You are concerned about (injuries),” he said. “You don't know what drove those. Did it just happen? Is it something we are doing? You go through all of that and try to answer it.”

Chryst said he and his staff, including strength and conditioning coach Todd Rice, are trying to find answers.

Chryst said Bisnowaty's back problems are not new, calling it “a long-term thing.”

“Cory, (doctors) don't think it's anything that happened, but, yeah, you have to look at everything.”

Junior guard Matt Rotheram, 6-foot-6, 340 pounds, said he never has had a problem with his back, despite many years of playing football. Rotheram came to Pitt in 2010 after starting three years at North Olmsted High School in Ohio's largest classification.

“You take a lot of hits during the season,” he said. “Your back definitely takes some abuse. I've never had back injuries, myself. I know some guys, it bothers them.

“That's football. It's a tough game.”

Meanwhile, Chryst and line coach Jim Hueber juggle bodies at the affected positions while trying to keep quarterback Tom Savage upright and healthy. Savage, 6-5, 230, has been sacked 37 times in 10 games and briefly left the North Carolina game with a knee injury suffered while evading the pass rush. Pitt has lost 317 yards because of sacks, last in the ACC.

Two weeks ago against Georgia Tech, freshman Dorian Johnson struggled in his first start as Bisnowaty's replacement. Given another start Saturday against North Carolina, Johnson was replaced by fifth-year senior Juantez Hollins.

“At the time, I thought (Hollins) would give us a little better chance than what we were doing at the time,” Chryst said. “Dorian did some very good things, in many ways played better than Georgia Tech. I thought he made some progress from start one to start two.”

Chryst said Hollins and Johnson played well enough to deserve future consideration.

When asked if his regular starting linemen will return Saturday at Syracuse, Chryst said he must wait to see how they respond to treatmen t.“You want Cory to finish out his senior season playing,” he said. “I know Bis is fighting through it.”Also, he said he must “be smart” in monitoring how much Savage and wide receiver Devin Street (ankle) will practice. Both were hurt against the Tar Heels, but finished the game.

Freshman tight end Scott Orndoff (leg) is “a longshot this week.”

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.c om or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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