Pittman, Part I: Stoic Leadership

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- One of the burning topics of the off-season will continue to be the state of the offensive line. We decided that the issue was so important that we'd go to the source: offensive line coach Sam Pittman.

The adversity the line faced doesn't bear repeating; it is old hat around here. When the season started, here's the way the Tar Heels lined up, left to right, Kyle Jolly, Jon Cooper, Lowell Dyer, Alan Pelc, and Mike Ingersoll. Of those players, only Jolly played all twelve regular season games and the bowl game at his original position.

Pittman actually didn't recount all the games missed by starters because of injuries, or dwell on who was able to play and who wasn't. Offensive line coaches are generally a stoic bunch that accept their fate, and Pittman is no different.

"For years, every offensive line coach knows, if the back rushes for over 200 yards you've got a great back, and if he rushes for fifteen, your line is terrible," Pittman said. "If the quarterback throws for 300 yards, he's a great quarterback, and if he throws for 10, you couldn't protect him. It has always been that, it's that way at every university, so if you're looking to win a popularity contest, don't coach the offensive line."

Pittman only discussed the problems of dealing with the multiple injuries to his 2009 starters tangentially. For example, when discussing his philosophy of playing, at the most, eight players or so, Pittman had this to say:

"People say you can't rotate a lot of guys on the line and I agree with that. That happened the first half of the season because it just happened, and it didn't happen so that we'd have a week to get ready, a lot of time it would happen on Wednesday, on Thursday, but it is what it is and you deal with it."

When explaining why Alan Pelc was moved to center for the bowl game, Pittman said:

"Part of the bowl situation was that Lowell Dyer was in and out with his injury, so we didn't know we could count on him, we didn't want to practice 15 days and him not be able to play. Cam Holland had had the stinger that had kept him out of the last three or four games of the year, so part of that was to get Travis (Bond) on the field, part of that was we wanted to make sure we went in with a healthy center."

When discussing how important it is to cross-train players so as to have depth at center, Pittman stated:

"You can't have enough centers and obviously last year against Duke we proved that, we got down to number four, so you just can't have enough of them."

Finally, when discussing the value of five players working together as a unit, Pittman said:

"You have to know the guy next to you, you have to know his strengths, his weaknesses, how much you have to help him, how much you don't, how fast he comes off the ball, and all those things happen in practice."

If you are weary of hearing "excuses," then blame this writer, not Pittman. He only mentioned these issues in context when necessary to explain other actions the staff took, like moving Pelc to center for the bowl game. But in this writer's defense, you can only think about where you are going if you know where you've been, and last year's offensive line was a train wreck of injuries, before and during the season.

Check back tomorrow for Part II from Inside Carolina's one-on-one interview with Sam Pittman …

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