Experienced Davis Solidifies Line

While some might view Pitt's offensive line as a liability with inexperienced depth and its most-experienced player missing time during the spring and training camp after shoulder surgery, junior left guard C.J. Davis believed that those two areas make the Panthers offensive front a strong point.

"We're very deep this year,'' Davis said. "We brought in five freshmen O-linemen this year, so we have a lot of linemen and a lot of competition, and we just moved Craig Bokor and Jared Martin there. So, we have some guys who at least have been with the program for a while.

"Sure, after the first teamers, we're pretty young overall, but we have a good group and are very close-knit. As soon as McGlynn gets healthy, which should be soon, we'll be able to get even more cohesion in the offensive line. And that's certainly what you want from the guys up front.''

Among the most experienced players at the University of Pittsburgh, C.J. Davis enters his third season as a starter. He played in eight games as a freshman, ending 2005 with six straight starts, and was a full-time starter last fall. This year, some even talked about him moving to center. He has taken some snaps there in the past, but any talk about Pitt's center position during training camp hasn't included Davis at all.

"Sure, I heard my name mentioned before, but the coaches haven't told me anything about it,'' Davis said. "I think we're waiting for (fifth-year senior Mike) McGlynn to get healthy to see where he's going to fit in.

"If that's going to be at right tackle or center, or even a guard, who knows? They haven't said anything about it to me. I just want to play my position and do whatever I can to help this football team win some games this season.''

Davis, 6-foot-3, 315 pounds, has been a solid run- and pass-blocker for the Panthers, if not spectacular, but he provides the left side -- along with 6-6, 340-pound senior tackle Jeff Otah -- with some stability. And when McGlynn, out while rehabbing his left shoulder after surgery this past spring, returns to full-time duty next week, Pitt line coach Paul Dunn can start gearing the unit for the regular-season opener against Eastern Michigan Sept. 1.

"C.J. is a strong contributor on our offensive line,'' Dunn said. "He's probably our most consistent lineman as a run-blocker and in pass-blocking, and he's been working very hard on his conditioning. He's one of our most experienced players, too, and we're looking forward to another good season from him.''

One can't discount having experienced offensive linemen on team, especially with the situation at Pitt where the quarterback will be inexperienced, no matter who wins the starting job. Junior Bill Stull is the only one with any game experience and the others, Kevan Smith and Pat Bostick, have freshman eligibility. Smith is in just his third year as a quarterback. And Bostick has been in camp less than a week.

"Losing Tyler Palko was big,'' Davis said. "A three-year starter like Tyler, he kept us in line and told us what to do when we got confused in a couple games, especially some big games at the end of the season.

"So, the way I see it is that our quarterback is going to have to keep studying and working hard in the classroom to prepare as much as they can. And after that, it'll take work on the field to get them more experience.''

When that starter is finally chosen, he'll still have to get a lot of work with Pitt's offensive line to get their timing down. Until that time, Davis said, the line has to worry about improving itself before it can think about helping out the starting quarterback.

"We worked very hard in the offseason in the weight room, and all our lifts have increased,'' Davis said. "We're a lot stronger. That's the biggest difference so far, and I think we're working pretty well together. But we need to get things settled, on the line and at quarterback.

"I don't think it's something we want to wait to long to decide, the starting offensive line and the starting quarterback, because we have to get working together to be ready for the regular season. So, we're working hard, but camp ends next week, and we don't have a lot of time left.''

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