Spring Outlook: Offensive Line

University of Pittsburgh Head Coach Dave Wannstedt has consistently stated that he would like to develop a physical run-first offense. To achieve his goal, the Panthers must develop a strong and cohesive offensive line. The PantherDigest.com takes a closer look at this critical position.

Spring practice for the University of Pittsburgh is less than a week away. The PantherDigest.com will begin with a series of articles covering each position and the storylines involved with them. Pitt recently inked one of the top ten recruiting classes in the nation. Many of the incoming freshmen are expected to make an early impact and crack the two-deep lineup. Spring practice will allow the upper classmen on the football squat to solidify their spots on the depth chart prior to the onslaught of freshmen.

The PantherDigest.com decided to begin with the offensive line due to its importance. One can argue that the success of the football program is directly linked to the success of the "Big Uglies" up front.

Center

Senior Joe Villani (6-foot-3 inches, 300 pounds) returns after starting the large majority of games in 2005. Villani played inconsistently last year and often caused nonsensical penalties. He appeared to improve towards the end of the season. Junior Chris Vangas (6-foot-2 inches, 300 pounds) returns to compete against Joe for a starting position. He was considered the primary backup a year ago. Villani, a former walk-on, made a name for himself last summer due to his mobility and excellent work ethic. Vangas, a physical player, performed well in limited appearances last season.

There is a possibility the coaching staff will move the highly talented C.J. Davis (6-foot-2 inches, 295 pounds) from guard to center. Davis was placed into the starting lineup midway through the 2005 season and he performed well. His move to center is directly correlated to the improvement of sophomore Dominic Williams.

Guard

Senior John Simonitis (6-foot-4 inches, 320 pounds) returns for his final campaign as the Panthers' starting right guard. He has been a fixture on the line for the last three years. Despite ample talent, Simonitis lacked consistency last season. The coaching staff is hoping he can take his game to the next level. Sophomore Dominic Williams (6-foot-4 inches, 300 pounds) may be the most important player to watch. Williams impressed the new coaching staff with his physicality and mobility prior to the 2005 season. He performed fairly well as a starter until he was slowed by injury and eventually replaced in the lineup. Offensive line coach Paul Dunn will be scrutinizing Williams throughout spring practice attempting to determine if he can handle starting duty. If Dominic responds to the challenge, C.J. Davis will be moved to solidify the center position.

Redshirt freshman John Brown (6-foot-3 inches, 295 pounds), junior Mike DeLuca (6-foot-3 inches, 300 pounds), sophomore Dave Weber (6-foot-3 inches, 310 pounds) and New Mexico State transfer Kevin Cimador (6-foot-5 inches, 305 pounds) will provide depth.

It's imperative that Simonitis and Williams establish themselves as starters during the spring. The coaching staff will be less than shy about inserting blue-chip freshman Joe Thomas (6-foot-4 ½ inches, 295 pounds) into the starting lineup.

Tackles

The Panthers enter spring practice with only one established starter. Junior Mike McGlynn (6-foot-5 inches, 320 pounds) has retained the starting right tackle position since his redshirt freshman year. McGlynn is a tough, physical lineman that is known for his nasty disposition on the football field. He is generally a solid lineman that tends to struggle with speed rushers. McGlynn has the opportunity to elevate his game this season and position himself amongst the top offensive tackles in the Big East. Junior Neal Tracey (6-foot-3 inches, 295 pounds) and massive sophomore Chase Clowser (6-foot-7 inches, 330 pounds) will compete to solidify the backup sport.

The coaching staff is anxiously awaiting the arrival of blue-chip junior college transfer Jeff Otah (6-foot-7 inches, 340 pounds) from Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, PA. Otah is expected to be the Panthers' starting left tackle on September 2nd when the Panthers open their season against the University of Virginia.

The top spring candidate at left tackle appears to be sophomore John Bachamn (6-foot-4 inches, 265 pounds). Offensive line coach Paul Dunn was hoping to redshirt Bachman last season. John, like fellow freshman C.J. Davis, began to dominate during practices with a combination of technique and physicality. The coaching staff eventually decided to burn his redshirt and allow him to play.


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