Pinkston On The Right Track

There were several key Pitt players watching from the sideline during the spring practice sessions, but it can be argued that none are more important to the Panthers' success this fall than redshirt sophomore Jason Pinkston.

Despite playing just 10 games at offensive tackle in two seasons, Jason Pinkston -- a converted defensive lineman -- is slated to be the starting left tackle for Pittsburgh this fall. So, his recovery from left shoulder surgery and quick development as an offensive lineman is crucial for the Panthers.

"I'm just about all the way back,'' Pinkston said recently. "I've been working hard to get all my strength back, but it's been going pretty good. I have all my range of motion now, but it's been a long, long time since I played.

"When it first happened, I couldn't even move my arm at all, but now I can move it all around. I have a full range of motion in it, and I feel pretty good. I'll definitely be ready to go when we start camp in August.''

Pinkston played in seven games as a freshman in 2006, after moving from defense in training camp, and started the first three games at right offensive tackle last fall before suffering a season-ending injury at Michigan State. Pitt lost three starting seniors from its offensive line, tackles Jeff Otah and Mike McGlynn to the NFL, and center Chris Vangas to graduation.

This year's offensive line prospects are much deeper than the past couple years, but still aren't experienced as a unit with Pinkston at left tackle, senior C.J. Davis at left guard, junior-college transfer Robb Houser at center, junior John Malecki at right guard and junior Joe Thomas at right tackle. Other than fifth-year senior Dom Williams and redshirt junior John Bachman, however, the majority of the backup offensive linemen are redshirt freshmen this year.

And among the prospective starting linemen, Davis would be a fourth-year starter. Houser has not played at the D-I level, but he is an experienced center. Thomas is playing tackle for the first time after gaining starts at right guard the past two seasons, while Malecki played defensive tackle the past two years.

"That's true,'' Pinkston said. "We still have a lot to prove on the offensive line, but I think we're really talented. As long as we can stay healthy, we'll come together and jell. I'm confident about that. We also have some talented young guys. They're very good, and I think they'll push the starters.

"None of us can take a day off, because if they have to play somebody else I'm sure they'll be confident enough to stick a young guy in there. They're always there pushing guys at every position, getting ready to take that spot.''

Pinkston hasn't taken much time off since his rehab began a short time after the surgery, and he eventually packed about 320 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame.

"My weight was up for a while, but I'm on my way back down now that I can do everything,'' Pinkston said. "I'm about 305 pounds, but I played and 295 last season and probably will get back down to that. But I feel good and can't wait to get back on the field. I'm really looking forward to camp this summer.

"It was tough in the beginning, the whole rehab process, because I couldn't do too much. But Buddy (Morris) always finds something for us to do. There's a lot of things, actually, with range of motion work. We got a new machine that helps with that, and I rode a bike and worked on my lower body as well.''

New Pitt offensive line coach Tony Wise can't wait to work with Pinkston.

"Jason has a lot of talent, like all our linemen, talent and potential,'' Wise said. "But we have to get all five of the starters playing together and coming together quickly this summer. Fortunately, they're all healthy now, so we should be ready to hit the ground running once camp starts in August.''

And Pinkston's development will be critical to the offensive line's development.

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