It’s been well documented with returning offensive lineman and big-time recruits ready to step up, many saw the Pitt offensive line as one of the best. It was a consensus that it was one of the best in a very long time, for the Panthers, coming this fall. With a stable of running backs that rivals any in the country, there didn’t seem to be many questions coming into training camp. Now, there seems to be some questions, and for once with Pitt, they seem to be questions that make Pitt better.
Several people, including Jerry DiPaola, have reported there now appears to be no less than eight players who the coaching staff trusts this coming fall. “Trusts” meaning the staff is comfortable with these players in pretty much any situation, should injuries or type of play dictate during the season.
The left side seems set and it’s going to be a good one with Adam Bisnowaty at left tackle and Dorian Johnson at left guard. Those two are only going to be better than previous seasons and both look like they can play at the next level. Starting at center is where things have gotten interesting for Pitt.
Center was thought to be locked down by returning starter Alex Officer. Officer was nominated for the Rimington Award, given annually the top center in college football. Officer was also hurt in last year’s Military Bowl. That allowed for some other players to get involved, as Officer recovered in the spring. That has led to some movement, as players have stepped up and it’s caused pretty significant depth along the offensive line.
Now, former big-time recruit, Alex Bookser seems to have taken a hold of the center position, while senior and former walk-on, John Guy, is getting an awful lot of time at right guard. Add to that, that last year’s feel good story, of former tight end Brian O’Neill seemingly able to be holding off some big competition for right tackle speaks volumes. The person that O’Neill is trying to hold off is former right tackle STARTER Jaryd Jones-Smith. Jones-Smith sat out last year with a knee injury and is now 100% and ready to go, but he’s having trouble finding a spot. Knowing how JJS played before his injury, that’s pretty impressive.
That, along with Officer’s return from injury, is seven people right there, so let’s introduce you to the eighth lineman involved here. Connor Dintino was moved from the defensive line to the interior of the offensive line. He’s reportedly done well enough to move into second team and the coaching staff seems to like him. That leaves Pitt with a whole lot of options right now.
To put it in perspective, based on the various reports, past playing history, skill set, and finally the coaching staff’s quotes, the Panthers have multiple people they are comfortable playing at multiple positions. O’Neill, Bisnowaty, Bookser, and Jones-Smith can all play the tackle position. Jones-Smith and Bisnowaty are the favorites for left tackle, but can play right as well. Bookser, Officer, and Dintino can all play the middle of the line, as the center. Finally....Guy, Bookser, Officer, Johnson, and Jones-Smith can all play guard.
Let’s hope that injuries do not force Pitt to try all kinds of different combinations. Offensive lines tend to work better as they play more and more together. However, it is nice, for once, that a unit on Pitt’s roster has more questions than many thought...and it’s actually a good thing.