|Pitt proves there's downsizing in college football|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 04 August 2008 23:00|
The trend toward NFL-sized linemen is one Wannstedt doesn't particularly like, so he is reversing it by going with offensive linemen who weigh less than 300 pounds. It's a major switch in philosophy, given that Ohio State's offensive line in last season's national title game averaged 318 pounds.
After the Panthers had trouble handling some of the Big East's quick but strong defensive linemen, Wannstedt decided to downsize. Strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris was told to get the linemen stronger but, whenever possible, smaller, too.
When Pitt opens preseason training camp Tuesday at its practice complex, Wannstedt knows he'll like what he sees.
A smaller Joe Thomas. A smaller Jason Pinkston. A smaller C.J. Davis. All had initially gotten bigger since last season, but have shed weight since spring practice.
``We have drastically changed the bodies of some of the guys. Joe Thomas and C.J. Davis have both lost more than 30 pounds,'' Wannstedt said Monday. ``I love the way our football team looks. We're a lean and very athletic group right now - what we were shooting for.''
The decision to get leaner came after 285-pound defensive lineman Mick Williams was so quick off the line of scrimmage during spring ball, the offensive linemen had trouble containing him. It was the same problem Pitt had last season with linemen such as Terrill Byrd of Cincinnati and Eric Foster of Rutgers.
``(Offensive line coach) Tony Wise had an interesting observation. He comes here from coaching with the Jets, against all those All-Pros, and we're going through spring practice ... and the best players in our conference, that we have to block - not that the Steelers have to block - have all been guys who are athletes that can run,'' Wannstedt said.
``We took this another step and said, `We've got to be able to match up with these guys.' A 6-foot-5 guy that is an athlete who can move and is 320, there aren't many like that. So what can we do ... how can we match up against them, counter that? That's how we started the ball rolling.''
Smaller or not, Pitt's offensive lineman remains unsettled 25 days away from the Aug. 30 opener against Bowling Green, now that both starting tackles from last season, Jeff Otah and Mike McGlynn, are in the NFL. Otah was the No. 19 overall pick by Carolina.
For now, redshirt freshman Jordan Gibbs is penciled in at left tackle ahead of senior Chase Clowser, with junior Thomas, a guard last season, currently at right tackle ahead of sophomore Pinkston, who sat out after hurting a shoulder in the third game of last season. Davis and junior John Malecki are the starting guards and junior college transfer Robb Houser is at center, but all that can change.
``Our middle guys are very solid. And we have a lot of talent at tackle, but we have to work out our starters there,'' Wannstedt said. ``Those spots are up for grabs.''
Gibbs was a tight end and defensive linemen at Penn Manor High School before switching to tackle.
``It's going to be a different speed now in camp, especially when we scrimmage, and in the game as well,'' Gibbs said. ``But I'm looking forward to the challenge.''