Pitt OL coach Dave Borbely hopes ‘moments’ with players lead to improvement
Pitt offensive line coach Dave Borbely admits he has “his moments” when he gets a point across using special emphasis.
But in the case of how the players performed Saturday night against Virginia, Borbely believes he can teach by espousing reasonable logic in a normal tone of voice.
“I make it very crystal clear to them,” Borbely said. “I don’t have to go in and just rip them. They see what the mistakes are.”
In the 30-14 loss to Virginia, Pitt’s offense struggled, going three-and-out in five series, failing to score in the second half and getting only one first down after halftime. Virginia put what coaches call 14 “pressures” on quarterback Kenny Pickett.
Asked to grade his linemen’s performance, Borbely said, “C, maybe a C-plus.”
“I wanted it to be better,” he said. “I was looking for an A, and I know they were, too.”
There are ways to improve that grade, and Borbely said the process involves finding out what went wrong and why.
“Sometimes, you look at it and (say), ‘Man, you got your butt kicked,’ ” he said. “So here’s the question: Why did that happen?
“Look at your first step here, Nolan (Ulizio, right tackle). Look at your hands here, Gabe (Houy right guard). It all comes down to fundamentals … and the technique of how-to. They’re very receptive to it.”
The issues involve blending four new starters on the line with two at running back. Borbely’s job is to get the least experienced linemen — left tackle Carter Warren and Houy – accustomed to the speed of the game while working smoothly within a group that is together for the first time.
“As a unit, we (fought) a good fight,” Warren said. “We just have to keep working. Everyone is telling me it’s going to be a different atmosphere, and I felt that overall. But I felt really comfortable out there.”
That’s admirable, but the harsh reality is a difficult early schedule can stunt a team’s growth.
“Just like it was a year ago (when more than half of the linemen also were new), it’s going to be on-the-job training for a couple of games until they get used to the speed of the game,” Borbely said.
Can they learn their lessons in time for Ohio on Saturday and No. 15 Penn State and No. 18 Central Florida in subsequent weeks? The answer will come over the next three weeks.
Borbely trusts his five starters, which includes holdovers Jimmy Morrissey and Bryce Hargrove, to the point he is reluctant to use backups. At least, not during the crucial learning stage.
““I played the same five guys the entire game,” Borbely said. “Carter Warren got caught on a (defensive line) twist in the fourth quarter. At that point in time, I felt like he was tired.
“I wished I could have gotten (Carson) Van Lynn in there earlier in the game, but that thing was such a (debacle) early that I didn’t want to risk putting new guys in. Part of that was on me.”
Asked about using reserves against Ohio, Borbely said, “I guess that depends on the score and how tight a game it is. Right now, I’m really not even thinking about it in that regard because this Ohio defense, they’re pretty salty.”
Building an offensive line requires patience and commitment from players and coaches.
“I told them we’re not running a 100-yard dash. It’s a marathon,” he said. “We got 12 guaranteed (games). This is the first one. The one thing we talked about going into that game was there was going to be some adversity.
“This week’s game is going to be the same as last week’s game and the one after that and the one after that. You have to not get too high and not get too low and you have to keep rolling. I was proud of our kids that way. Nobody flinched. I think this will be a good step-off point for us to really grow and take a big jump forward.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .