Pitt well-stocked along offensive line

Jerry DiPaola
| Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, 9:21 p.m.

There are barely enough chairs in Pitt's offensive line room, with 15 men totaling about 2 13 tons jockeying for position in front of position coach Jim Hueber.

From a football perspective, that's good. Pitt has more offensive linemen than at any time in three years under coach Paul Chryst. Finally, Pitt has depth in the trenches.

“There have been years when we haven't had much depth,” senior right guard Matt Rotheram said. “So, it's nice to have some guys who are ready to play off the bench.”On the other hand ...

“The room isn't that well-ventilated,” Rotheram said. “We have a lot of big bodies. It's pretty hot.”

Small price to pay for what Pitt has needed for a long time: Competition on the line. It's a commodity Pitt didn't have as recently as two years ago, and Chryst and Hueber are putting it to practical use.

Redshirt freshman Jaryd Jones-Smith, a mountain of a man at 6-foot-7, 335 pounds, is pushing hard for a starting job at left offensive tackle. When Jones-Smith entered the game last Saturday, starting tackle Adam Bisnowaty moved to left guard, replacing Dorian Johnson.

The switch wasn't merely an exercise in giving everyone a ride on the merry-go-round during the 62-0 romp over Delaware. Bisnowaty and Johnson remain No. 1 on the depth chart, but Jones-Smith will be a major part of the mix again Friday in the ACC opener at Boston College.

“He has made big improvements,” Hueber said. “Game experience does that for you. Practice does that for you. You can't get enough of it.”

Jones-Smith's size might be a useful counter for Boston College senior defensive end Brian Mihalik (6-9, 295), one of only eight players in the FBS who stands 6-9 or taller. The Eagles also line up defensive tackles Mehdi Abdesmad and Connor Wujciak at 6-7, 297 and 6-3, 304.

“If you stand around and let them use their size to an advantage, we'll have a problem,” Hueber said. “If we stay under them, we will be OK.”

Compare them to Delaware's starting defensive linemen: Three of them are 6-2 or shorter, and overall the four starters weigh an average of 276 pounds.

“We are going to start playing better teams,” Rotheram said.

Chryst said Pitt's dominance against Delaware wasn't just a matter of size.

“Guys were doing the things we asked them to do,” he said. “They did more than just be bigger than them.”

Asked what he does well, Jones-Smith said, “Being physical, playing fast, not going out there looking like a rookie.”

Bisnowaty said he enjoys bouncing from tackle to guard. He spent a lot of time at guard at Fox Chapel, but he said his natural position is “whatever Coach Hueber tell me it is.”

He said it doesn't matter where he is at the snap. Where he ends up is what matters.

“Scoring touchdowns and picking the running back up is a lot of fun,” he said. “I'm getting goose bumps just thinking about it.”

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

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