Offensive Line Searching For Identity

John Malecki switched from the defensive line to the offensive line in the offseason. After getting accustomed to the change through the spring, he's ready for the Pitt offensive line to solidify heading into training camp.

Despite looking back at the guys he played with last year as a defensive tackle, John Malecki found it strangely comfortable among Pittsburgh's offensive playmakers.

"I used to play with Scott [McKillop] and with [Greg] Romeus," Malecki said. "Now, it's a different side of the ball, playing with different players now. It's a good feeling."

Malecki now lines up with the likes of LeSean McCoy and Bill Stull at right guard, executing instead of reacting. And after the offense surprised Malecki's former linemates to the tune of 60 points in Saturday's annual spring scrimmage, Malecki knows the importance of his unit and its role in the offense.

"Being able to help LeSean and Hot Rod [LaRod Stephens-Howling], they're awesome players. Bill's playing real well right now, too. Just hopefully as offensive linemen we realize that we're going to have players make plays, and we're not going to run the ball every down."

Pitt came out throwing on Saturday, and moved the ball efficiently – something the offense hadn't been able to do on the defense all spring.

"We didn't blitz today, so maybe that had something to do with it. But [the offensive line] rose up a little bit. That was good," Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "I think our offensive line performed better today than they performed all spring. I like that the guys that were in there met the challenge."

That's a progression that started from scratch for Malecki, who said he wanted to see himself progress from practice to practice throughout the spring.

"That was my goal for this spring, to try and get better from day to day," Malecki said. "[Offensive line coach Tony] Wise is a great coach, and I'm just trying to take what he's telling me and put it on the field. It was a big thing for me to get better from day to day."

Even if the Pitt staff saw Malecki progress, it could have been lost in the circumstances of the whole offensive line. Neither C.J. Davis, Jason Pinkston nor Chris Jacobson were able to play all spring with different injuries, and tackle Dan Matha got hurt in Pitt's second scrimmage. Robb Houser, a first-year junior-college transfer, was Pitt's starting center. Joe Thomas switched from right guard to tackle, and redshirt freshman Jordan Gibbs saw his first action as the first-team left tackle.

Pair that with the strength of a two-deep Pitt defensive line, and the offensive line seemed suspect. But Malecki sees a visible difference in himself now, as opposed to at the beginning of spring practices, and sees a promising future for both himself and the offensive line.

"Right now, I feel tons more comfortable," he said. "I got to learn and run the position a lot more … learning technique and things instead of just going out there and trying to outmuscle people.

"We just have to stay positive going into this off season, to try and get stronger and better as a whole."

Panther More Top Stories