There's a lot of things this Pitt coaching staff can do with 15 extra practices, in preparing to face Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
Aside from getting ready for this game, a bigger picture is trying younger players in different positions. These experiments could be in preparation for the spring, or beyond.
One such experiment has been that of defensive end T.J. Clemmings to the offensive line. Clemmings played in eight games, starting six. He had 20 tackles, including a career-high eight in the win over Buffalo. That was the last game we saw Clemmings, before injuries slowed him down.
Now, after getting some extra time to heal--another bonus of these extra set of practices--Clemmings is trying out a new role. He's been moved over to the offensive side of the ball in preparations for the bowl game. The move was a combination of Clemmings wanting to give it a shot, and also the coaching staff wanting to give it a shot.
"Coach Chryst, he asked me if this was something I wanted to do," Clemmings said. "I didn't have to. It was no big deal (if he didn't switch). The team needed some help on the offensive line, so I stepped in and tried to help the guys out."
Just a week into it, Clemmings feels he is there to stay.
"I think so," Clemmings said. "I do like it. It feels a little more natural. The first time I went out there, it wasn't like I couldn't do this, or it's too much. I actually felt like I did it before.
"I'm going to say it's moving forward, for the future. I don't think the coaches thought I was going to go for it for the future, but I'm probably going to stick with it."
One thing that helps Clemmings right away, is his understanding of what the defensive line is going to do, from simply playing the position himself.
"It was fun, because I knew everything that they were going to do," Clemmings said. "It was pretty easy."
From a depth standpoint, Clemmings has an opportunity to start on either side of the ball, based on some of the graduations coming up.
Aaron Donald, who earned first-team all-Big East honors at defensive tackle, will be a senior in 2013. Tyrone Ezell, who started 11 games at defensive tackle, also returns. The tackles also return Khaynin Mosley-Smith, who played in all 12 games with one start, and Darryl Render who played in nine games, starting one. Mosley-Smith will be a junior in 2013, Render a true sophomore.
At defensive end, despite losing Clemmings to offense, and Shayne Hale to graduation--who started the final five games of the season, making 23 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss over that span--the ends return Bryan Murphy and Devin Cook. Murphy played in all 12 games, starting 11. Cook played in all 12 games, starting one. Murphy will be a junior next year, Cook a sophomore. Behind them are no other experienced players, but room for one of the redshirts or someone like Render to move out to end.
Here's a look at what defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield has to work with, in picking four starters from this group.
Aaron Donald (6-0, 275, SR) 37 games, 16 starts
Bryan Murphy (6-3, 255, JR*) 18 games, 11 starts
Khaynin Mosley-Smith (6-0, 305, JR) 24 games, 1 start
Tyrone Ezell (6-4, 300, SR*) 24 games, 11 starts
Devin Cook (6-4, 235, SO*) 12 games, 1 start
Darryl Render (6-2, 270, SO) 9 games, 1 start
LaQuentin Smith (6-2, 265, JR) 13 games played
Terrell Jackson (6-3, 275, FR*)
That also does not include incoming freshmen James Conner, Tyrique Jarrett and Shakir Soto, who will be here in August. Conner may still switch positions, but Jarrett and Soto will be here for the spring. Even with starting experience at defensive end, Breckterfield still has options with Clemmings moving over to offense.
Cory King returns at left tackle for his senior year. He started all 12 games this year at that spot, and has 27 career games played with 17 starts. Matt Rotheram will be a junior in 2013. He started all 12 games at right tackle, and has a total of 20 career games with 14 starts. Both players have also spent time at guard in their career.
The interior spots may be open heading into next year, but return Ryan Schlieper, who started eight games at right guard before going down with a right foot injury in the Temple game. Arthur Doakes has started the last four games at right guard, and played in all 12 games this season. Both players will be seniors next season.
Juantez Hollins will be a senior next year, coming off his suspension. He played in all 13 games as a redshirt sophomore in 2011, starting six games at left tackle and one at left guard. Artie Rowell will be a redshirt sophomore in 2013, and may be in line to take over for Turnley. Shane Johnson will be a junior next year, and also tried out some center this season, though he doesn't have game experience there. Adam Bisnowaty was able to redshirt this past season, giving him four years ahead.
Looking ahead to next year, based on experience, this is what Jim Hueber will have to work with, in terms of picking five from this group.
Cory King (6-6, 325 SR*) 27 games, 17 starts
Ryan Schlieper (6-5, 310, SR*) 22 games, 16 starts
Matt Rotheram (6-6, 335, JR*) 20 games, 14 starts
Juantez Hollins (6-5, 330, SR*) 13 games, 6 starts
Arthur Doakes (6-6, 340, JR*) 12 games, 4 starts
Artie Rowell (6-2, 300, SO*)
Shane Johnson (6-5, 325, JR*)
Tom Ricketts (6-5, 275, JR*)
T.J. Clemmings (6-6, 285, JR*)
Gabe Roberts (6-5, 295, FR*)
Adam Bisnowaty (6-6, 275, FR*)
That's also not including four verbal commits who will join the roster in August for training camp.
Jim Hueber was thin on options this year, but if he and the rest of the offensive line got anything out of this year, it was laying a solid foundation for going forward. Five players with starting experience, another six who have been in the system for awhile, and another three at this point to compete and add depth. The move of Clemmings only bolsters that.
"Everyone gets a chance to keep developing their craft," head coach Paul Chryst said. "That's, I think, important. There's a lot of things, and we've been taking advantage of it, pretty well."