Battle For Center Position Marches On

Dave Wannstedt is still saying the center position is up for grabs. With almost one week in the books, though, Alex Karabin has been working exclusively with the first team at center, while Jack Lippert has worked exclusively with the second-team.

Things can still change, but it's still looking like Alex Karabin has the edge--mostly in part to experience, and being around for a few years. Jack Lippert, through the first week, has made a few strides in staking his case.

Anyone that has followed Pitt football, at least since Wannstedt took over in 2005, knows it's extremely difficult for a younger player to unseat a more experienced veteran, even if this veteran in question has never made a start, and is a former walk-on.

"The center and right guard positions are up for grabs," Wannstedt said. "It might be a situation where we play a couple of guys every game."

In one-on-ones this week, with the offensive and defensive linemen squaring off against each other, both players went different directions. On Wednesday, in the first day of full pads, Jack Lippert got a hold of Tyrone Ezell, and spun him to the outside. Ezell will be in the rotation at defensive line, and still has plenty of room for growth--as far as learning the schematics of his position, but is the counterpart to Lippert on the defensive line--the redshirt freshman clamoring to make a name for himself this year.

On one of his one-on-ones on Wednesday, Karabin matched up against Myles Caragein--who anchors the defensive tackle position. Caragein, who has already played in 25 career cames, got a quick first step, then used his hands to knock Karabin to the ground. On Monday, when the team put on shoulder pads for the first time, Ezell, who was tossed aside by Lippert in one-on-ones, was able to get by Karabin.

Before full pads went on Wednesday, the coaching staff had Lippert working out at guard. Part of it was to better acclimate Lippert to the center position--to give him a feel for what the guard assignments are, but also, to see how Lippert could fare at guard either now, or somewhere down the road.

"Jack has got to get some guard," offensive line coach Tony Wise said. "Give him a shot, he's going to have to play some guard, he could be a guard. Watch them start to hit each other, that's going to be big."

Karabin has the experience, and has been here for awhile. Lippert appears to have some potential as a redshirt freshman--certainly a chance to see the field this year, but lacks the experience.

"Alex, (plays) extremely well , but we knew that," Wise said. "He did that very well last year. He was playing very well in a backup role last year. We have a lot of confidence in him."

Though there have only been two days of full pads, Wise is just now starting to make his analysis of where--not just the center--but how the right guard spot, and how the rest of the depth chart will fall in place. Wise likes the athleticism of the line--Lippert is the perfect example. He came to Pitt as a defensive end, with the size of a defensive tackle. He was switched to the offensive line for spring ball.

However, in order to fill these missing spots, Wise wants to see how they line up and hit each other, now that full pads are on. Once he sees that for a few days, both he and Wannstedt will have a better idea of who will end up with the starting job.

"Alex is right here, Alex knows it all," Wise said. "Alex's deal is that he's not quite as gifted as (Robb) Houser was. That's all. It's very difficult to gauge these guys because being able to hit and block is what they're trying to do. You're spending all your time (without pads) trying and pulling off each other. It is (frustrating). They hit their shoulders, it's extremely frustrating."


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