Center Jimmy Morrissey accepts role as ‘vet’ of Pitt’s offensive line
Jimmy Morrissey didn’t want to use the word “power” when describing his hold on Pitt’s offensive line. He’s not that kind of leader.
But he knows he has plenty of responsibility, given he’s approaching his third season as Pitt’s starting center and the guy who calls out blocking schemes.
“Not power,” he said, “but, I guess, control of the line.”
That’s probably an apt description. The former walk-on, now a junior tipping the scales at more than 300 pounds, is the only returning starter up front. Tackles Stefano Millin and Alex Bookser and guards Connor Dintino and Mike Herndon exhausted their eligibility.
“I’m used to having to give calls,” he said. “Now, it’s more off-the-field stuff in the meeting room, making sure (his teammates know what to do). I guess I’m the vet.”
He’s a vet whose progress will be monitored closely as he recovers from an ankle injury and subsequent surgery that forced him to miss the last three games of the 2018 season. Pitt lost all three, by the way.
“We know Jimmy can play,” coach Pat Narduzzi said. “We’re going to be smart with him the entire spring.”
Morrissey went through several conditioning drills Thursday as the team prepared for the opening of spring practice Wednesday.
“It’s an ongoing process,” he said of his recovery. “I wouldn’t say I’m fully where I want to be yet. But it’s definitely nice to get out of the boot, get out of the scooter, start running around and do some O-line drills.
“I want to be out there with the boys because we have a lot of new guys. We’ll be smart about it, take it one day at a time, see how I feel.”
The only other experienced lineman is rising junior Bryce Hargrove, who filled in for Dintino while he filled in for Morrissey at the end of last season.
But there are several linemen eager for a chance, including Upper St. Clair graduates Brandon Ford and Gabe Houy, Justin Morgan, Jerry Drake Jr., Chase Brown, Owen Drexel, Kenny Rainey III, Carson Van Lynn and Carter Warren.
“It’s time for all of them to step up,” Morrissey said. “They should be excited for the challenge. I’m excited to see a lot of those guys play.”
Meanwhile, Morrissey said he notices a change in his body after regaining more than the 20 pounds he lost during rehab.
“I feel a lot stronger in the upper body, which was definitely a weakness of mine,” he said. “So, I feel confident going into the season with my upper body strength.
“I always wanted to gain a little more weight. (The injury) has allowed me to focus more time on my upper body.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .