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Just two weeks in, offensive line deals with injury woes

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Just two weeks in, offensive line deals with injury woes

By Jasper Wilson / Sports Editor

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With the news coming out Sunday that redshirt junior center Artie Rowell will miss the rest of this season, after tearing his left ACL, what effect his loss will have on Pitt’s offensive output has become a topic of discussion.

In their two opening games, the Panthers have rushed for a combined 712 yards — the highest total from back-to-back games in program history since 1988.

Additionally, they have collected 914 yards of total offense. But can that high level of production continue — with one front-line player gone and another’s status up in the air — on Saturday at noon in Miami against Florida International University?

The other potential loss, besides Rowell, on the offensive line is redshirt senior T.J. Clemmings — the starting right tackle — who left the game during the second half on Friday with an undisclosed injury. 

In his post-game press conference, head coach Paul Chryst said he didn’t have an update on either Rowell or Clemmings but said the initial knowledge was that the center’s injury was more severe. 

After Rowell left the game and didn’t return, redshirt sophomore Gabe Roberts, the backup center, took his place.

Roberts is expected to fill Rowell’s starting position for the remainder of the season. He played in last season’s first three games, seeing time with the PAT and field goal unit and as the second-string center. He later suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the third contest at Duke on Sept. 16.

Roberts’ ability to adapt to the new role will be key for the offense to have continued success, since his position is responsible for analyzing the defense before the ball is snapped, and adjusting his and his linemates’ duties accordingly on a given play.

“It starts with us every snap. A lot of the calls are determined by me in terms of where people are going and which way things are going, so it’s very important,” Rowell said during training camp. 

If Clemmings’ injury does keep him sidelined for this week’s game against Florida International University on Saturday, it’s likely that Adam Bisnowaty, a redshirt sophomore capable of playing either guard or tackle positions, will fill in for him. The starter at left tacklemoved over to right tackle against Boston College after Clemmings’ removal.  

Bisnowaty has said he doesn’t have a preference for where he lines up. 

“To me, honestly, whatever is going to help the team. If I’m a tackle, and that’s going to be the best position for our team, then I’ll play tackle. If they want me to guard, then I’ll play guard. If they want me at center, tight end, quarterback, I will,” Bisnowaty said during training camp. “Wherever they want me that will help the team the best, I’m for it.”

Taking over for Bisnowaty could be sophomore Dorian Johnson, who played left guard in the second half, with freshman Jaryd Jones-Smith taking over at left tackle. Jones-Smith has seen a mix of time with the first and second line units in two games this season, a sort of fluid role he has had since before the season started last month.

“I did the same thing when I played basketball when I was in high school. I had to prepare to be the first one off [the bench]. It’s kind of similar,” Jones-Smith said during training camp. 

He said, in August, there was a level of understanding between the first-string linemen out on the field, which he, through his time with them, had begun to become privy to.

“I can definitely feel the chemistry and, like I said, going and getting some reps now [helps],” Jones-Smith said.

Offensive line coach Jim Hueber, somewhat prophetically, talked during training camp of the need to try players in different pairings and scenarios so, when injuries or other unforeseen circumstances arise, his group would be prepared. 

“I did move Jaryd [Jones-Smith] around a little bit. Paul [Chryst] said … that this is halfway for us in terms of preparation for the games,” Hueber said. “So I have to have an eye on what we are going to do when we start putting a team together and what we have to do if something would go wrong, rather than just say ‘Hey, we have some guys.’”

 

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Just two weeks in, offensive line deals with injury woes