Veteran Linemen Showing Leadership

After Tuesday's practice, head coach Dave Wannstedt was split on his offensive linemen. He praised the veterans, but still finds himself asking who the other two spots will go to.

For the returning starters on the offensive line--Lucas Nix and Jason Pinkston, as well as Chris Jacobson who made his first career start in the Meineke Car Care Bowl last year, there's a greater pressure on them to help break in the new starters.

The toughest thing with any new offensive line is gelling as a unit. That's something that took a few years to build, as evidenced by the combination of talent and experience last year's line had. It was one of the best line's Pitt had in some time, evidenced by an average of 180.3 yards rushing per game, and once sack allowed per every 15 passing attempts.

After Tuesday's practice, head coach Dave Wannstedt said that the positions at center and right guard are still up for grabs.

"It might be a situation where we play a couple of guys every game, I don't know," Wannstedt said. "Once we get the pads on and we start doing everything live, top-to-bottom, then what I think usually happens is that guys have a tendency to separate themselves at that point."

On the other hand, he did praise the leadership of the returning veterans--something that may play a factor into this position battle, more than anything.

"I think that Chris Jacobson is doing a nice job," Wannstedt added. "Jason Pinkston and Lucas Nix have come to camp in shape and with good attitudes."

Though Pinkston, Nix and Jacobson all have different backgrounds of experience, all bring something to the table that should be able to help out whoever is ready.

Pinkston, for being the most experienced lineman heading into this season, has a lot on his plate. His name is tied to several preseason accolades around the country. He also has the NFL in his reach, a potential early-round pick, at that. His first priority, is setting the tone for whoever to start.

"I'm just trying to help everybody out, whatever they need to know," Pinkston said. "I tell them to just ask. It's better for you to ask, instead of going out there and try to do something, you don't know what you're doing. If you don't know what you're doing, you can't play full speed."

Though it's a big hole, trying to replace seniors in Robb Houser and John Malecki, things are a bit different from when Pinkston was forced into duty, playing seven games as a true freshman in 2006.

"Everyone's been around a long time," Pinkston said. "They say we have younger guys, but they've been here. They might not have played a lot, but they've been around, and they've got good reps at it."

Pinkston feels if Jacobson can be thrown in for his first career start in a bowl game, then whoever wins the two interior line spots this camp, should be able to do so because of the same thing--continuity, and just being a part of the program for awhile.

"Like Lumpy, he started the whole North Carolina game," Pinkston said. "He wasn't going against just bad defensive linemen, (North Carolina) was a tough group. He did really well. We have Greg Gaskins, who has been around. They're young, but they all have the potential, and they're all working hard."

Reflecting back on being announced as a starter prior to that game, Jacobson felt prepared and wasn't nervous at all for his first start.

"Not really," Jacobson said. "It happens everywhere. New guys have to step up and make plays. Everyone has got to come out here and prove themselves. As long as everybody comes out every day and wants to hit people, and get better, then we'll be all right."

When Nix became a starter last year, he had the benefit from playing right next to Malecki. Now, he feels the pressure to be a Malecki, and break somebody else new in, as a starter.

"Malecki taught me on and off the field, he kept me out of trouble," Nix said. "When we were here, we came here to work. He didn't let me fool around that much. He kept me in line. It was his senior year, and he didn't want to mess it up."

If it's going to be Greg Gaskins at guard, Nix already feels up to the challenge of breaking in Gaskins as a starter--even though Gaskins has been on campus a full year longer than Nix.

"It feels awkward, saying that I'm going to break in Greg, since he's a year ahead of me, but he's a good player," Nix said. "He played behind me last year. It's not like he's new to the system. He's been around, and he knows what he's doing."

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