What's In A Nickname, Anyway?

While others struggled to get into shape under Pitt strength and conditioning coach-General Buddy Morris in the early summer, freshman Chris Jacobson just needed some fine tuning.

Since Chris Jacobson, rated among the nation's top offensive linemen from Keystone Oaks High School in Pittsburgh, has been ahead of the curve in that area, he quickly moved up the University of Pittsburgh's depth chart and is in the two-deep at offensive guard.

"I'm a little beat up, but it's been a long camp,'' Jacobson said. "It's been good, I think, for all the freshmen. It's not like high school anymore. We're with the big boys now, and I'm looking forward to getting more involved. But I knew what I was getting into, because I played in some all-star games.

"The further along I went, the harder the competition was. And in college, you have to compete really hard all the time. My high school, we had a great program there, and our coach did a great job getting us in shape. And now, with Buddy, he's one of the best. He's worked us hard from the beginning.''

Even though his nickname is Lumpy, after a character on the old "Leave It To Beaver'' TV show, Jacobson is a solid 6-foot-3, 295 pounds. And with continued hard work with Morris, he believed the Panthers would be among the best conditioned teams in the country.

That was an area Pitt was in dire need of an upgrade. The Panthers were manhandled on both sides of the line the past two seasons, as they were unable to run the football effectively or stop it with any success, either.

"We're going to be good up front, but it's not something that happens right away,'' Jacobson said. "It takes time to work together, but we're getting there. Right now, I'm backing up C.J. Davis at left guard, but I'm also getting some work on the right side behind Joe Thomas. So, it's been going well.

"I'm able to handle the physical aspect of the game, but it's been tough for me to learn my plays. I'm having a tough time of it, but I'm getting better. I just have to keep studying my playbook. I'm doing all right, and the veterans are helping me out a lot every day. I might have a few mistakes, but I'm getting better. And Coach Dunn keeps us on point when we watch the film.''

Jacobson already has given Pitt offensive line coach Paul Dunn much credit for his development thus far, and there's certainly proof that he has improved. After starting out on the third team in a lean area, Jacobson has solidified a backup role on the offensive line.

Dunn's response to a query about Jacobson was mostly positive.

"You won't want to have him at your lunch table,'' Dunn said. "Look out, you'll be fighting for your fingers. He's a bull in a China closet right now. That's what he is, but hopefully we can get him directed in the right manner so he doesn't knock over the Lennox China. And when we get him going the right way, I think he's going to develop into a pretty good player for us.''

It's not like Jacobson is continually chastised for going the wrong way or keying pre-snap penalties. In fact, he doesn't appear to make the same mistakes twice. That comes from intensive video watching.

"They just want me to learn my playbook, and it's tough,'' Jacobson said. "It's maybe four inches thick, so it's big, and the plays are tough. But I'm learning them. I'm getting there. It's a slow process, but I'm getting there. I've gotten beat a couple times, but you can't let that bother you.

"We're all learning together here, and we're going to get better all the time. I'm looking forward to the rest of camp and getting a chance to show what I can do. I've been running with the second group on a regular basis since that first day or so. I guess I must be doing something right.''

No matter how much Jacobson contributes this season, it's more important that he and players like classmates Jordan Gibbs and John Fieger, as well as redshirt freshmen Jared Martin and Alex Karabin, gain experience for the future. And it does look bright for Pitt's offensive line.

"Oh, I definitely think we have a lot of young guys that will make an impact for a few years to come here,'' Jacobson said. "But don't count this O-line out this season. We have to get everybody healthy and working together. Then, you'll see our offense really click.''

One thing is certain, the Panthers offensive line and Jacobson will always be in terrific shape.

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