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Pitt O-line adjusts yet again

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Pitt offensive line coach Jim Hueber will instruct, yell, push and offer his players the benefit of his 37 years of experience.

What he won't do is feel sorry for them.

There was instability and turmoil in the program before coach Paul Chryst was hired, but those days are gone, Hueber said.

"These guys have been kind of up and down, and everybody is kind of giving them, 'Well, you know, they had this happen to them, that happen to them,' " he said. "Now, all of a sudden, it's only going to be this way. We are not going to look back. We are just going to keep going forward."

After three days of spring drills, which resume Tuesday, Hueber said he likes the mindset of most of the Panthers' linemen.

"You have a lot of good players here, just what you thought you'd get when you come to Pitt," he said. "You have guys who like football.

"We probably got a couple of guys who are making a decision if this is for them. It's an entirely different deal now. You have to like football to be around us."

Senior center Ryan Turnley, the veteran of the group until guard Chris Jacobson is medically cleared after knee surgery, said Hueber has been intensely teaching the pro-style offense in film sessions and on the field.

"We've learned a lot," Turnley said. "It's been a lot of hard work, a lot of mental preparation."

Turnley said there were some presnap reads under former coach Todd Graham's system last season. "But it was mostly, hurry up, get set, snap the ball. Now it's get set, shift the formation and then the defense changes, and you have to adjust to that."

The Panthers struggled offensively last season, particularly on the line. Pitt ranked last among 120 FBS schools in sacks allowed (64) and yards lost (422).

The new offense places more demands on the linemen, who are asked to hold blocks longer. But it's a system with which the players are more familiar, resembling that under coach Dave Wannstedt.

"Maybe what we are demanding from them in some areas is a little bit more than what was asked of them," Hueber said. "Our expectations of the line are probably higher. We are not trying to get the ball thrown on one count or anything like that."

That type of line play is what first attracted most Pitt veterans.

"With a lot of the older guys, it started to click right away," Turnley said.

Hueber is a long way from naming a first-team line, but tackles Juantez Hollins and Matt Rotheram, Turnley, and guards Cory King, Ryan Schlieper and Jacobson have starting experience.

"We are going to coach them hard, and we are going to make sure they prepare, and we are not going to accept mistakes," Hueber said. "We are going to expect nothing but excellence, and if we don't get it, we are going to try to get it the next time."

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