Officer Makes First Start At Center

It's part of how head coach Paul Chryst likes to keep the competition going. Gabe Roberts filled in for Artie Rowell against Boston College. Alex Officer, then started at Florida International. Heading in to the Iowa Game, though Officer remains listed as the starter at center, both head Chryst and offensive line coach Jim Hueber say they'd like to keep both guys competing.

Offensive line coach Jim Hueber said there was one main reason why he went with Alex Officer over Gabe Roberts on Saturday against Florida International.

"I just thought he gave us a little life in practice," Hueber said. "Once we got into the game, I didn't feel like making the change."

Much like continuing with running back James Conner, in the running back rotation, it depends on the feel of the game. As Hueber indicated, he felt comfortable with Officer in terms of how the game was going.

That does not mean, however, that Officer has locked up the job for the rest of the season. And that's not a bad thing.

"Don't ever assume anything," Hueber added. "I don't know, myself. He's got to do it every week. We're not going to give him anything. I thought he deserved it last week, so we'll see."

Among other factors Hueber likes about Officer--his energy, his athleticism--things he saw in Officer that made him want to recruit him.

"I think he can still do a better job with his weight, but I think he can run, he's physical, he's really a bright guy," Hueber said. "He's got all the things you want, to be an O-lineman."

Head Coach Paul Chryst admitted that Officer was nervous. Even that factor doesn't sway him one way or another, as to whether Officer will start this Saturday, or beyond.

"Talking to (Officer) after the game, he admitted about being nervous," Chryst said. "I thought he did some good things. I thought he did some real good things. A lot of these guys, it's about doing some real simple things. There was a quarterback-center exchange with him and Trey (Anderson). Certainly a lot of things he can get better at. Great opportunities for both of them.

"We still, we want to look at them. It forces them to truly grow. If one is approaching it like 'I'm the guy,' and the other is not."

As for Officer, he seems unfazed by anything. He's okay whether he starts or not this coming week. He does feel more confident, going back into practice this week, after now seeing some live game experience. That may factor in to whether he starts this week. Regardless, it's another young offensive lineman that has been plugged into the lineup the last two years. Whether it helps the 2014 team remains to be seen, but it does open the door for Officer to build upon his first start, as he matures through his Pitt career.

"I love playing football, and I love having fun with the guys," Officer said. "I like to keep everyone's spirits up, I like to keep everyone going. I just have to keep my head up, and keep going."


Panther More Top Stories