When Adam Bisnowaty locked down the left tackle position at the start of last season, many thought that he would hold the job down without question. Unfortunately, after starting eight games last season, he missed the last part of the season with a back injury. During the spring practice sessions, Biz was not held out totally from drills, but the Panthers were cautious and kept him out of contact drills. Some were surprised to learn that Pitt put in redshirt freshman-to-be Jaryd Jones-Smith in his place.
While Jones-Smith is raw, his size is something that cannot be duplicated. At spring practice, it was reported that he used last season to grow to 6'8" and 330 pounds. That is a massive human being and according to many, one of his strengths is his wing-span and athleticism. Could that translate into some playing time this year? One person that seemed to be happy about the Philadelphia native getting a lot of reps was offensive line coach, Jim Hueber:
"He's got physical tools," Hueber said of Jones-Smith.
"He's a baby, he's still learning. He's still got some basketball traits as far as instead of pushing guys, he's still peeling guys off and boxing them out. He wants to work, so it's great. We're making money with him every day.
Jones-Smith isn't shy about the challenge either.
"Going with the ones, there's a lot of pressure on you to come in and be perfect, Jones-Smith said. "I'm a freshman, about to be a redshirt freshman, and having not really been in a game, that pressure was tough at first, but I've got it."
A little competition is not a bad thing, especially when the incumbent is a player that is thought of highly by coaches and fans. If there is some time sharing in training camp, I just hope the fan base sees the positive out of it (i.e. Jones-Smith improving) rather than the bad (Bisnowaty not playing well enough to keep a stranglehold on the job). If Jones-Smith is pushing Biz at that time, it doesn't have to mean that there has been a drop off in his ability or his progress has been slowed. It may just mean that Jones-Smith is better than people thought.
Bisnowaty is the projected starter here, but if his back issues remain, we could see more of Jones-Smith.