Pittsburgh is replacing three starting offensive linemen this season, overhauling its entire interior from 2009. There is much hand-wringing about the state of center and right guard for the preseason Big East favorites.
Left guard, however, appears to be in solid hands.
Fourth-year junior Chris Jacobson has only one career start, but it was an impressive one. Filling in for an ailing Joe Thomas at the Meineke Car Care Bowl, Jacobson was part of the line that pushed North Carolina's star-studded defensive front around so Dion Lewis could rush for 159 yards in the Panthers' win. If Jacobson could handle the bevy of potential NFL draft picks on the Tar Heels, he should be fine for whatever comes this season.
"I got to experience what it's like to play in a big game, or just a college game in general," he said. "That definitely helps me confidence wise for this year."
Big things were expected of Jacobson when he arrived at Pitt. He was a U.S. Army All-American and the No. 7 guard in his class, according to ESPN's Scouts Inc. But after redshirting, he hurt his knee and was limited in the 2008 season. Last year, he said, he struggled with the mental part and preparation aspects of the game.
Now he thinks he's ready to fulfill his high school acclaim.
"I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life right now," he said. "I'm ready to go and I feel great. The mental preparation, it's all there now."
The 6-foot-3, 290-pounder looks the part and has the physical tools. He could help make Pitt's left side the dominant run side with Jason Pinkston.
"When he comes off that ball, he comes off low and hard," said defensive tackle Myles Caragein, who was Jacobson's high school teammate. "When you line up against him, it's not a walk in the park. It's a brawl every time."
As for the rest of the line, Jacobson said he feels confident in center Alex Karabin and right guard Greg Gaskins. The three new starters, he said, "are going out there every day and proving ourselves."
Jacobson started that process in December. And that's allowing Pitt to feel confident in at least one of its three new starting interior linemen.