Pitt Panthers Positional Preview: Offensive Line Looks To Protect Voytik And Conner


Sep 27, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers offensive linesman Adam Bisnowaty (69) knocks the helmet from Akron Zips defensive lineman Cody Grice (36) while blocking during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Akron won 21-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

If you had to choose one positive aspect of the Paul Chryst era at Pitt, you would likely suggest the strengthening and depth of an offensive line.

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Before Chryst arrived at Pitt, the O-line was in shambles, as the running backs and quarterbacks barely had time to make a play. Todd Graham was more interested in his explosive “high-octane” offensive before jetting out of town after one season.

Three years later, the offensive line has gained a Wisconsin-like identity, with six players having garnered starting experience and eight returning lettermen overall. When you read the players below, take note of the size of these athletes. Pitt boasts one of the largest offensive lines in the country, and I can assure you that running backs like James Conner and Chris James will appreciate them. Conner did give out gift cards to the starting lineman and tight ends as a sense of gratitude for his big sophomore season.

The Pitt offense averaged 435.4 yards per game last season, the highest average since 1992. On the ground, Pitt totaled nearly 250 rushing yards per game, the highest since 1988.

Pitt returns their trio of talented juniors in quarterback Chad Voytik, wide receiver Tyler Boyd, and running back James Conner. The top two tight ends in J.P. Holtz and Scott Orndoff also return. Holtz and Orndoff are also excellent blockers who will further solidify a potent offensive line.

The left side of the offensive line, as well as the center position is very experienced, but the right side has some mystery to it, due to graduation and a knee injury.

Left tackle will be junior Adam Bisnowaty (6-foot-6, 300 lbs) from Fox Chapel, who was selected to the All-ACC preseason first team. He has started 18 games the past two seasons and will be backed up by junior John Guy (6-foot-7, 310 lbs). Bisnowaty was named to the Rotary Lombardi Award watch list, awarded to the country’s top lineman or linebacker.

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  • Left guard will be anchored by Belle Vernon junior Dorian Johnson (6-foot-5, 300 lbs), who started every game last season. Sophomore Carson Baker (6-foot-5, 325 lbs) and redshirt freshman Mike Grimm (6-foot-6, 325 lbs) from Bethel Park will be vying for time.

    Despite missing last season due to a knee injury, senior Artie Rowell (6-foot-2, 310 lbs) will battle to run the show, along with sophomore Alex Officer (6-foot-4, 335 lbs) who replaced Rowell and made 10 starts last year. Officer was named to the Rimington Trophy watch list for outstanding center. Rowell had started in 15 games before his injury against Boston College in the second game of the season. Junior Gabe Roberts (6-foot-5, 300 lbs) and redshirt freshman walk-on Alex Galiyas (6-foot-2, 270 lbs) will be backups for a strong core.

    The right side of the line is where there will be some change, since tackle T.J. Clemmings and guard Matt Rotheram have graduated and moved onto the NFL. Sophomore Jaryd Jones-Smith (6-foot-7, 335 lbs) was set to take over at right tackle this season, but a knee injury will keep him sidelined. Sophomore Aaron Reese (6-foot-5, 315 lbs) from Chambersburg will attempt to fill the void.

    The right guard competition is between Mount Lebanon redshirt freshmen Alex Bookser (6-foot-6, 310 lbs) and redshirt freshman Mike Herndon (6-foot-4, 305 lbs).

    Two top local prospects will also be welcomed to the squad, as Canon-McMillan’s Alex Paulina (6-foot-3, 300 lbs) and Hempfield’s Tony Pilato (6-foot-5, 315 lbs) are incoming freshmen.

    Though there is some uncertainty on the right side of the line, I think this Pitt offense will be very efficient and powerful. A strong offensive line is often overlooked in college based on the play of the skill positions, but Pitt needs both to have a successful season.

    Next: Pitt: Can Boyd be even better in 2015?

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