It was an ugly year for Pitt’s offensive line in 2013 by virtually any measure.
No line in the ACC allowed more sacks than the 43 coughed up by the Panthers.
The 3.62 yards per rush for Pitt’s ground game ranked 12th in the conference, despite two 700-yard rushers on the roster.
Against AQ-conference teams, the Panthers mustered just 2.35 yards per carry -- a league worst.
But there is plenty of optimism that things will be better for Pitt in 2014, and one of the reasons for that optimism is that Pitt will be bigger.
Per the Pittsburgh Tribune:
When training camp opens next Sunday, Pitt's offensive linemen will stand, on average, taller than 6-foot-5 and weigh 311.4 pounds. That's not unlike how it was in 2011 when former coach Todd Graham's line stood at 6-5 and 313 pounds. But it's a half-inch taller and more than 16 pounds heavier than in Dave Wannstedt's final season in 2010.
Obviously there’s a lot more than goes into a successful O line than simply height and weight, and as the Tribune notes in its story, Paul Chryst will pick his starters based on ability, not size. But bulking up in the trenches is generally a sign of good things to come.
Take, for example, what Jimbo Fisher built at Florida State. As the Tallahassee Democrat noted this week, expectations are immensely high for FSU’s senior-laden offensive line, which features four returning starters.
But take a look at 2011. FSU’s O line returned plenty of starters then, too, but the group was simply awful. Injuries played a part, sure, but what Fisher learned early on was that the Seminoles simply didn’t have the bodies up front for his offense to run as efficiently as he wanted.
For the 2011 opener, FSU’s line averaged about 308 pounds. The interior of the line (a young Bryan Stork, David Spurlock and Jacob Fahrenkrug) averaged about 302 pounds. The expected line for the opener in 2014 checks in averaging 315 pounds with the interior group (Austin Barron, Tre' JacksonJosue Matias) in the neighborhood of 316.
The results for Florida State:
2011: 3.34 yards-per-carry (9th in ACC), 40 sacks
2012: 5.62 yards-per-carry (1st), 26 sacks
2013: 5.63 yards-per-carry (1st), 33 sacks
There’s no question there has been a significant upgrade in talent -- Barron, Jackson and Matias were part of the freshman-heavy line that started 2011’s bowl game -- but there was a clear upgrade in size, too.
And make no mistake, there is talent on Pitt’s O line. Adam Bisnowaty and Dorian Johnson were both four-star recruits. Matt Rotheram is an All-ACC caliber player. There’s depth with the likes of Jaryd Jones-Smith.
But there’s also size for Pitt’s line, which now -- from a physical standpoint anyway -- measures up favorably against the best of the ACC.
Left tackle: Pitt (Bisnowaty, 6-6/305); FSU (Cam Erving, 6-6/308)
Left guard: Pitt (Johnson, 6-5/300); FSU (Matias, 6-6/325)
Center: Pitt (Artie Rowell, 6-2/315); FSU (Barron, 6-3/293)
Right guard: Pitt (Rotheram, 6-6/335); FSU (Jackson, 6-4/330)
Average: Pitt (6-5/314); FSU (6-4.5/315)
On to more links …
John Swofford can finally take a breather after a pivotal year for the ACC, writes the Charlotte Observer.
Filling the leadership void left by the departures of Telvin Smith, Lamarcus Joyner and others will be the key obstacle for Florida State this season, writes USA Today.
Speaking of Fedora, here’s Part IV of Inside Carolina’s extended conversation with the UNC head coach.
Frank Beamer says Virginia Tech is going in the right direction to get back on the national stage, writes the Richmond Times Dispatch.
Miami is adding strength and speed this offseason, writes the Miami Herald. Though, I must say, I’m always a little skeptical of team-reported workout numbers, especially when those numbers routinely involve 4.2 40 times.
Syracuse's Tim Lester is working hard to recruit Central Florida, writes The Post-Standard.