Bachman Likely To Replace Thomas

After more than two seasons searching for his spot on Pitt's offensive line, it appears that redshirt sophomore John Bachman finally has found a home.

John Bachman, who started out as a tackle and also got a shot at center during the spring, is expected to get his first start at right guard when Pittsburgh (3-4, 1-1) faces Louisville (4-4, 1-2) Saturday at noon at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Ky.

Sophomore Joe Thomas, who Bachman has spelled the past couple games, had a hamstring injury against Cincinnati last Saturday and is still unable to practice. So, Bachman should get the call against the Cardinals.

"The biggest thing with John, to his credit, when you go back three years ago he was one of the few freshmen ... he was a backup whether he wanted to be one or not,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "But he's a smart guy, and he knew what to do. He was forced into action due to injuries. Then, when he was ready to compete his next year, he breaks his leg.

"Then, he comes back this year, and we were trying to find a spot for him. He played all the positions, and very few guys can do that. No. 1, you have to be athletic enough to do that, which he is, and you have to be intelligent enough to do it. And he's very valuable to our football team.''

Wannstedt noted that Bachman is a good example for young offensive linemen to emulate. He hung in there after being thrown into the fire as a freshman, losing the battle for the left tackle spot to Jeff Otah, breaking his leg, not working out at center and finally settling in at right guard.

"I've been around a lot, and that's been an experience for me,'' Bachman said. "But it's been a positive experience. And I think it works for me, because I understand the workings of the offensive line a little better than some other people. I feel more comfortable at guard than I did at tackle and center, and I think it's going to be my natural position.

"The week before I practiced with the ones for a while, and I jumped into some games here and there. I was in the Virginia game a lot, so it wasn't a big shocker. I was prepared for it mentally and physically, and when my number was called I just did my job.''

When asked to comment on Bachman's performance, both quarterback Pat Bostick and center Chris Vangas mentioned one play in particular from the Cincinnati game when the Panthers were driving for a touchdown to win the game. Bachman was supposed to pull on the play to throw a block for tailback LaRod Stephens-Howling. Bachman actually tripped on the play, but he was able to bear crawl for a time and hurl his body at the defender to give his back enough room to get into the end zone.

"That's more a testament to my desire to win and do what I have to do for the team, but we have guys doing it all the time,'' Bachman said. "Joe's a very good player, but I'm working this week like I'm the starter out there.

"I don't want to take anything away from him, and we're good friends. I am approaching this like I'm the starter, but we're a better team if Joe's healthy and both of us can push each other to play better.''

Vangas believed that play was a tribute to Bachman's athleticism.

"Bachman really stepped up,'' Vangas said. "(And) he did a great job after getting thrown in there. We didn't miss a beat when he came in. He's a veteran guy and took advantage of his opportunity.''

Pitt offensive line coach Paul Dunn called Bachman invaluable.

"For me, it's who's your five best guys and where do you place them,'' Dunn said. "John just kept pecking away, but we needed to find his best position. He practices at left and right tackle, and he's among our top guys. So, we needed to find a place for him to play. And he's done well at right guard.''

Bachman is happy just to be settled into one spot for now.

"Actually, I was excited about the initial change, because I felt more comfortable at center than I did at tackle,'' Bachman said. "And I thought that was a good move for me, but it wasn't easy. And the next change was very abrupt, because there was a fumbled exchange between me and Kevan Smith, and Coach Wannstedt moved me right back to tackle.

"So, that was hard, but the best thing for me is whatever's the best thing for this team. And I'm very happy to be at guard, because I can help the team. I also think it's the best move for me. I never played guard here, but I played it in high school. I played everything but center in high school.''

If Thomas isn't in the mix, Dunn said that redshirt junior Dom Williams would back up Bachman at right guard.

Notes: Wannstedt said that he will visit his surgeon Wednesday and if the stitches aren't taken out, which he didn't believe they would be, he probably will be in the press box another week. ... Redshirt sophomore Craig Bokor is officially back at defensive tackle and listed on the depth chart behind Mick Williams and Tommie Duhart.

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