State Of The Line

Injuries are the last thing the offensive line needed. Luckily, Chris Jacobson is "feeling better" according to Dave Wannstedt's Monday press conference. Still, even after two games, the offensive line is still a work in progress.

Pitt still has ten games left to play in its regular season. With the bye week this past week, which was preceded by a nine-day layoff from the Utah game to the New Hampshire game, there has been more time to analyze the team, and make adjustments. One of those areas has been the offensive line.

"We go back and talk about each play," Wannstedt said. "We went back and said, ‘Okay, on this play, this is where we're trying to attack the defense, and this is where the soft spot would be.' We really had a chance to come back and pull things together with the entire group."

The guy who overseas this unit on a daily basis, is offensive line coach Tony Wise. Wise has been generally pleased with what he sees at tackle, but like Wannstedt addressed Monday, still has concerns about his interior line.

"It's been slow," Wise said of the offensive line's progression. "(Jason) Pinkston and Lucas have done a nice job. I think they've done well. Lucas had a good training camp."

With the three interior spots, he didn't sound as reassuring. Chris Jacobson is closest of all the interior guys to being a complete lineman, and he‘s not that far off. Unfortunately, he enters this week as a question mark based on him leaving the New Hampshire game with a sprained ankle.

"Lumpy, physically, is just wonderful," Wise said. "There are things, which I've talked about forever, as games go on, you have to see things, and things happen differently."

Jacobson has always had the physical tools, and the mean streak. Wise said that as a result of being the starter and taking most of the snaps, Jacobson is getting that more natural feel for the left guard position. He's more aware of where he needs to be. Surprisingly, Wise says it's not always about the film work, when trying to learn the X's and O's better.

"You gotta to play," Wise said. "It's like any sport--golf, baseball--he just gotta play. ‘Well, I saw it, well I didn't see it, well I saw it.'--those type things; just play. The film room is fine, but I think that gets overstated sometimes. You gotta get out there--see this angle, see that angle, kind of thing. That's what it is. I said to him the other day, ‘we missed the linebacker,' the simplest of things, and he says, ‘I don't have an explanation. I gotta get it done.' He knows. He's perfectly capable, but it is some game experience."

While left guard looks in pretty good hands, with a healthy Jacobson, both Wannstedt and Wise will have the kind of physical play they need from an offensive lineman--much like they have seen out of Nix and Pinkston. Greg Gaskins and Alex Karabin are lacking in that right now.

"Greg lacks a little bit of the explosion and power that Lumpy has," Wise said. "He has to work at it constantly."

With that said, is it a matter of teaching players how to be angrier in practice?

"You don't (teach them)," Wise said. "They come out of high school, they come out of their neighborhood, that's the way they are. I've always made the comment, as we recruit guys, that you have to find a guy who's angry. I can't make them angry.

"It has to be (inherited). That's why (John) Malecki was good. That's why C..J. (Davis) was good. The guys that are soft, will be soft. They push guys around, and hopefully they're real good athletes. Guys that are angry, or love contact, love contact."

Though the Pitt offense came out throwing the ball nine consecutive times in last week's game, and even though that increased passing helped set up the run game, Dave Wannstedt wants and needs a successful offensive line to run the football with. This offensive line still has a chance to be great, but for now, it's still a work in progress.

"We just have to keep progressing as an offensive line," Wannstedt said. "We need to be able to be balanced--the run and the pass. If we do that, we have a chance to make improvements in the running game."

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