Pitt OL Reshuffled; Freshmen Might Play

With sophomore right tackle Jason Pinkston now out for the season due to pending shoulder surgery, the Pitt football team was reshuffle its offensive line once again, and the impending moves could force two freshmen to lose their anticipated redshirt seasons.

While discussing the situation during the weekly Big East teleconference, Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt noted that he wouldn't be opposed to burning redshirt years for John Fieger and Jordan Gibbs.

Fieger (6-foot-5, 265 pounds) is an Upper Perkiomen, Pa. High School graduate, while Gibbs (6-7, 270) graduated from Penn Manor, Pa. High School. Fieger was a first-team all-state performer on the offensive line, while Gibbs played tight end and on the defensive line in high school.

"John Bachman split time at guard last week, and he could play some tackle for us,'' Wannstedt said. "We've got Chase Clowser on the other side, and we may have to play a couple young kids. So, I've come to the conclusion that if we have to play Jordan Gibbs or John Fieger, then we're going to play them.''

Wannstedt's reasoning was that several Panthers have played as freshmen and then used a redshirt season sometime after that. Pinkston falls into that category, of course, and so do junior defensive tackle Gus Mustakas and wideout Derek Kinder, who are out this year after knee surgery. Both had redshirt years available. The same is true for sophomore tailback Kevin Collier (wrist). Frosh offensive guard Chris Jacobson also was lost for the season due to a knee injury.

Bachman actually was redshirted during his second season as well, and he has moved from tackle to center and now to guard. Fifth-year senior Mike McGlynn, the starting right tackle the past three seasons, opened Pitt's second game at right guard for sophomore Joe Thomas. McGlynn moved out to tackle when Pinkston first got hurt a couple weeks ago, while Thomas and Bachman have played some at right guard.

"I'm not going to get hung up on using a young kid here,'' Wannstedt said. "If we play him some, I'm not locked in on who's redshirting and who's not. (But) it's tough to lose Jason, because we need him. And this was a tough one. Jason has been trying to deal with this all year, and it's a shoulder injury that does need surgery. He knew it needed surgery at some point, and we knew it needed surgery at some point.

"But he was trying to tough it out and get through the year. But, to be honest with you, for the kid to be the best player he can be for us he needs to get it corrected. When you've got a true sophomore, who a year ago at this time was a defensive lineman, and he hasn't even been an offensive lineman for us for an entire year and is trying to play with one arm, that's not fair to the kid. So, I think we're doing the right thing for him.''

And even though losing Pinkston diminishes an area where the Panthers are already paper thin, surgery is the best option for Pinkston's future at Pitt and the team's long-term success as well. And success on the offensive line, as well as depth, are something that the Panthers have long needed.

Wannstedt offered explanations for the current O-line struggles.

"We do have some veterans, but Mike McGlynn, had no training camp,'' Wannstedt said. "When he came back in the second game, he played a little at guard and planned on playing guard until Pinkston got hurt. So, you've got a guy coming off shoulder surgery that has juggled between positions, but I think Mike will get back in a groove.

"But there's a little bit of unsettledness (on the offensive line). And Jeff Otah, we can't lose sight of the fact that this is only the fifth year that he's played football. And this is only his second year with us, so it's not like he's been with us 4-5 years. Chris Vangas has been around here for a few years, but he's a first-time starter.''

For the third straight week, pre-snap penalties were a huge problem.

"We haven't clicked a little bit,'' Wannstedt acknowledged, "but some of the penalties -- particularly the false-start penalties -- it's a combination of the young quarterbacks, the snap-count thing and an inconsistency with how these guys give their commands at the line of scrimmage -- so there's more involved with it than might meet the eye.

"But our offensive linemen have to play good, and they have to play better for us to have success during the second half of the season.''

Pitt (2-3) doesn't play until Oct. 10 against Navy at 8 p.m. at Heinz Field.

Panther Digest Top Stories