Fall Camp Preview: Offensive Line

This is the fourth in a series of articles reviewing the Panthers units going into fall camp. This article features the offensive line. Offense, defense, and special teams will be covered. Returning players and incoming freshmen will be included.

The offensive line is one unit that still has the coaching staff concerned going into fall camp. This unit does return three starters, but it also has some questions marks at the center position. They went into spring ball needing to find a replacement for 4-year starter and 1st team All-Big East guard Bryan Anderson. They also needed to find a replacement for center Chad Reed, who had been the leader of the offensive line the last few years. The staff was pleased with the play of 6-4/295 senior guard Jon Schall, and they believe he will be able to step into Anderson's position and perform well. Schall has been a starter in the past which should help lead to a smooth transition. Returning at left guard is senior Dan LaCarte (6-4/295). Dan is very quick and athletic for his size, and he had a very good season last year. He should be a candidate for the All-Big East team if he picks up where he left off last season. There is a possibility he could be moved to center if nobody steps up to fill Reed's shoes.

The two leading candidates to fill the center position include 6-3/290 junior Justin Belarski and 6-3/295 junior Rob Frederick. Justin is one of the strongest players on the team and has seen some playing time the last two seasons. Rob is a transfer from Tulsa who has shown a lot of promise. Both struggled to take hold of the starting position this spring and will battle it out again at fall camp.

The tackle position is easily the strongest and deepest unit on the line. Redshirt junior Rob Petitti (6-6/330) returns as the starter at left tackle. He is an outstanding talent that has NFL promise. Petitti started since his redshirt freshman season and was named 2nd team All-Big East last season. Petitti is an All-American candidate and has been named to the Outland Trophy Watch List. The returning starter at right tackle is 6-7/295 senior Matt Morgan. Morgan quietly had a very good season last year. Morgan didn't get the press that some of his linemates received last season, but he should finally get the recognition he deserves in his senior season. He should make the All-Big East team with another performance like last year's.

The backups at guard include 6-3/290 redshirt freshman John Simonitis and 6-5/330 senior Penny Semaia. Simonitis is a big, strong, powerful prospect who has a ton of potential. He could wind up starting at guard if LaCarte is moved to center. Redshirt junior Matt Maiers (6-3/275) also will provide depth.

Three solid backups at tackle will be 6-3/290 senior Nick Pietracatello, 6-5/285 sophomore Dale Williams, and 6-9/300 redshirt freshman Jason Capizzi. Nick is a former walk-on that nobody talks about, yet he's beaten out the competition for backup left tackle each year. Williams is a prospect that the coaches speak highly of and has a bright future ahead of him. Capizzi has outstanding athletic ability and only needs to add weight and strength to his 6-9 inch frame to become a future starter.

True freshman Neal Tracey (6-3/290) is another guard prospect. Neal was part of 2002 recruiting class but he enrolled late to rehab a knee injury. He re-injured the same knee last season and will miss spring drills. The staff hopes to have him ready for fall camp. The staff signed four excellent offensive line recruits last season. Zach Slates (6-3/305), from Massillon, Ohio was an All-Ohio selection and performed very well in the prestigious Big 33 Classic. Mike McGlynn (6-6/310), a tackle prospect from Youngstown, Ohio, also had a strong showing in the Big 33 game and looks to have a bright future ahead of him. Mike DeLuca (6-5/285), from Chardon, Ohio, is a talented prospect that can play either tackle or guard. Mike played his senior season not long after recovering from ACL surgery, so his best is definitely yet to come. Chris Vangas (6/3 290), from Dayton, Ohio, is another outstanding prospect. He can play either center or guard. Vangas played in the Ohio North/South All-Star game and had a strong showing against a High School All-American who is going to Ohio State. This was easily the best offensive line class signed since Walt Harris has been at Pitt.

If this unit stays healthy and somebody steps up at the center position, the offensive line has a chance to be very good this season. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Petitti, Morgan, and LaCarte were all named to an All-Big East team this season, and Petitti also has a chance to be an All-American.

Brian Gold

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