Spring Preview – Offensive Line

This is the final in a series of position previews. The offensive line is an area of concern for the Panthers this spring. They need to find a replacement for 4-year starter and 1st team All-Big East guard Bryan Anderson. They also need to replace center Chad Reed, who had been the leader of the offensive line the last few years. Both Anderson and Reed will be difficult to replace because not only were they excellent players, but they were team leaders also.

Pitt returns three very talented starters this season. Redshirt junior Rob Petitti (6-6/330) returns as the starter at left tackle. Rob has started since his redshirt freshman season and was named 2nd team All-Big East last year. Rob could possibly be moved to guard this season but that is still up in the air. The returning starter at right tackle is 6-7/295 senior Matt Morgan. Matt had a strong season last year and has a great chance to be an All-Big East selection this season. The 3rd returning starter is left guard senior Dan LaCarte (6-4/295). Dan is very quick and athletic for his size, and he had a very good season last year. There is a possibility he could be moved to center if nobody steps up to fill Reed's shoes.

The two leading candidates to fill the center position include 6-3/290 junior Justin Belarski and 6-3/295 junior Rob Frederick. Justin is one of the strongest players on the team and has seen some playing time the last two seasons. Rob is a transfer from Tulsa who has shown a lot of promise.

The two leading candidates to fill the right guard position include 6-4/295 senior Jon Schall and 6-3/290 redshirt freshman John Simonitis. Schall is a former starter who provides a lot of experience. Simonitis is a big, strong, powerful prospect who has a ton of potential.

For the first time in a long while, we have the numbers to have quality competition for the backup positions along the line. The top candidates at the tackle positions include 6-3/290 senior Nick Pietracatello, 6-5/285 sophomore Dale Williams, and 6-9/300 redshirt freshman Jason Capizzi. Nick is a former walk-on that nobody talks about, yet he's beaten out the competition for backup left tackle each year. Williams is a prospect that the coaches speak highly of, and may end up starting this season if Petitti is moved to guard. Capizzi has outstanding athletic ability and only needs to add weight and strength to his 6-9 inch frame to become a future starter.

The top candidates to secure backup positions at guard include 6-5/330 senior Penny Semaia, redshirt freshman Zach Schlundt (6-4/290), and redshirt junior Matt Maiers (6-3/275). Semaia was in the two-deep last season behind LaCarte. Also, whoever loses the competition for starting right guard, Schall or Simonitis (or possibly both), will also provide depth at guard. True freshman Neal Tracey (6-4/295) is another guard prospect. Neal was part of 2002 recruiting class but he enrolled late to rehab a knee injury. He re-injured the same knee last season and will miss spring drills. The staff hopes to have him ready for fall camp. Schlundt is also a prospect at tackle.

After the starting and backup spots are determined, there could be several position changes for the depth linemen, which I won't speculate on, at this point.

The staff has a lot of work to do in replacing two excellent, multi-year starters at the center and guard positions this spring. On the other hand, this is easily the best depth we have had on the offensive line since the late 80's. Although they are lacking in experience, we do have talent and depth among our backups fighting for positions within the two-deep.


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