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Pitt making adjustments along offensive line

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Friday, Aug. 12, 2011

Pitt senior Chris Jacobson will play guard or center this season. He said it doesn't matter to him.

No matter where he lands, the job description is the same.

"You still have to hit somebody in the mouth," he said. "That's what you get to do at both. If I hit somebody right under their chin, that's the best part."

The hitting under the chin, upper body, lower body intensifies today on the fifth day of drills, when the Panthers strap on full pads for the first time. Now, coach Todd Graham can get a better view of his trickiest position battle, with redshirt junior Ryan Turnley trying to prove he's physical enough to play center.

If Turnley is up to the challenge, Jacobson, a Keystone Oaks product, can stay at left guard — his best and most natural position — and Pitt's offensive line might turn into a strength.

"We are hoping he will step up and be a heck of a center," Graham said. "But you have to get more physical than what I have seen the first couple days."

Graham said his offense is based on power, not finesse, and that puts a lot of pressure on the blockers to show toughness.

"Power is our base gap scheme game," he said. "You have to be able to be physical."

Turnley, who played at Hopewell, is learning the center position for the first time after backing up Jacobson at left guard last season. He spent most of the summer at center after a shoulder injury limited him in the spring.

Through the first three days of camp, his shotgun snaps were on target until a few went awry Thursday.

"I'm starting to feel a lot more comfortable there," he said. "I'm starting to feel the rhythm of the snap along with the steps and the blocks."

The biggest adjustment, he said, is learning to make the calls, snapping the ball and then launching himself into a defender.

"I was OK at snapping, but I had to get into the flow of making all the calls and things like that," he said. "But I feel good with it right now. I've still got some work to do. I'm still thinking about it. I haven't had a live rep. I'm sure once I get through a couple of weeks of practice, it will come naturally. But right now, there's still a thought in the back of my head."

Graham will give Turnley an opportunity to prove he can play center, largely because Jacobson is such an outstanding guard. It's the kind of problem that develops when one player is the best at two positions. Even Jacobson has a difficult time choosing.

"The thing I like about guard better than center is that I love to pull," he said. "But at center, I really do like it. I like being in the middle, making calls. I like being that guy, but whatever they want me to do."

In any case, Pitt will have three experienced senior offensive linemen Jacobson and tackles Lucas Nix and Jordan Gibbs who have combined to start 49 games.

"We have been around the block," said Jacobson, who joins Gibbs as a fifth-year senior. "It's time to win a championship."

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