Gibbs Has Mountain To Climb At Left Tackle

At 6-foot-7 and about 290 pounds, Jordan Gibbs is a mountain of a man, only the Pitt redshirt freshman is just 18 years old and won't turn 19 until May 5.

But that doesn't diminish the mountainous task for the former scholastic star from Penn Manor High School in Lancaster, Pa. Gibbs is slated to replace future NFL first-round pick Jeff Otah at left offensive tackle for the Pittsburgh football team, and he has been starting at that spot during spring drills.

"It feels good to be up with the first group on the offensive line,'' Jordan Gibbs said. "Greg Gaskins has been behind me, and he's working hard, too. But we're in the process now of just learning from Coach Wise and what he's doing.

"So, I'm in a learning process right now. He really helps us out when we need it, and he doesn't put anyone down. He's always encouraging us, and he doesn't yell at us, really. So, hopefully, I'll be able to contribute when we start.''

Gibbs and Gaskins, a 6-4, 280-pound redshirt freshman from William Penn High School in York, Pa., are Pitt's top two left tackle candidates this spring. Frosh recruit Lucas Nix, a 6-6, 300-pound five-star stud, has not yet graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Jefferson Hills, Pa. But he will join the Panthers this summer and also should compete for playing time. Gaskins just turned 18 in January, so a youngster will man the left side for Pitt no matter who plays.

"We have some veterans, but there's a lot of youth on our offensive line,'' new Pitt offensive line coach Tony Wise said. "That means there's a lot more teaching involved for me, but I enjoy that. It's been a lot of fun so far.

"(And) Gibbs, he has a lot of ability and a strong up-side. He was a former tight end and basketball player, so he's very athletic. And that's what you need in a tackle, especially a left tackle. But it's early, so we'll see what happens.''

Gibbs acknowledged that learning to be an offensive tackle, a position he played sparingly in high school, was not easy when he arrived at Pitt this past summer.

"I really had a lot to learn when I got here, because I really didn't know anything about the position,'' Gibbs said. "I really didn't think I'd get in, but I guess there was a chance. I learned a lot from watching Otah, but I know it's going to be tough to replace him. He really was terrific last season.''

A three-year starter in high school, Gibbs tallied 47 career receptions for 833 yards (17.7-yard average) and a school-record nine touchdowns. An all-state selection in football, Gibbs also was a four-year basketball starter and three-time all-league selection on the hardwood with more than 1,500 career points.

"Being a high school basketball player has really helped my foot quickness,'' Gibbs said. "And I was a little bit faster than some of the other guys, because basketball is such an up-and-down sport. So, I was used to the running.

"(But) the speed was a lot different on the football field once I got here. It was a real high intensity. (And) I was a tight end, mostly, on offense in high school. I blocked a little bit, but not much. I mostly was in pass patterns.''

While his size and athleticism make him an intriguing offensive tackle candidate for the Panthers, Gibbs has been schooled a bit during spring drills.

"Being an offensive tackle in college, guys like Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard are really strong and quick,'' Gibbs said. "All our D-linemen are strong and quick, but Romeus is something else. He really gives me a workout.

"He's been (playing against) me every time, and that should benefit me. At least I hope it does. He's such a great athlete that you have to improve when you're playing against a guy like him or you won't play.''

And considering Pitt's limited experience at offensive tackle, Gibbs certainly should get some playing time no matter who becomes the starter.

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