It’s been well-documented this week that Pitt is looking for leaders after the loss of one of the best group of seniors in more than a decade.
OK, here were the leaders Friday morning — or, at least, the guys in the front of the lines — when the team did its calisthenics as part of the first 30 minutes of the second day of spring drills.
Senior offensive lineman Alex Officer , junior offensive tackle Brian O’Neill, junior right guard Alex Bookser, senior wide receiver Jester Weah, junior running back Qadree Ollison, junior linebacker Seun Idowu, senior quarterback Max Browne, senior defensive end Rori Blair and junior fullback George Aston.
Of course, there could be others leading the lines Saturday and in subsequent days, but that’s what it looked like Friday. Each player deserves whatever distinction leading calisthenics carries with it because they’ve all been productive members of the team — with the exception of Browne — at various times over the years.
Every player on the list will be a starter at some point, if not for the entire season.
Browne, a first-year transfer from USC, is the quarterback and that automatically entitles him to a bit of swag. Although, by all accounts, he has shown no sense of entitlement, which is probably one of the reasons coaches placed him at the front of one of the lines.
Weah has been a quiet guy through his first four years at Pitt. But when you average 24.2 yards every time you make a catch, you deserve to stand up and be heard.
Coaches continued to experiment with the offensive line, but nothing dramatic.
Hempfield’s Tony Pilato lined up with the first team at right tackle, at least in one drill during the open practice session. Jaryd Jones-Smith was at right tackle Thursday, but he got some work at left tackle with the second team Friday.
Officer took snaps at center with Connor Dintino moving to left guard. That was a swap of positions from Thursday.
You should know, however, that occurred during only one five-minute session on a Friday in March with no game scheduled for nearly six months.
Still, it’s not outrageous to believe O’Neill, Officer, Dintino, Bookser and Jones-Smith will be the starting offensive linemen, from left to right, Sept. 2 against Youngstown State.
Dintino is the only one of the group who hasn’t started a game on the offensive line. He was a starting fullback for last year’s opener. If Dintino can handle the center duties, moving Officer to left guard looks like the right move.
The problem is developing depth. None of the backups have any significant experience, but that’s why teams practice in the spring.
Offensive line coaches will try different combinations in March, April and August, but when the games start, I bet the same five are intact every day (barring injury).
If you’re not aware, there is a fifth quarterback on the roster behind Browne, Ben DiNucci, Thomas MacVittie and freshman Kenny Pickett. Indiana High School graduate Jake Zilinskas is on the roster as a walk-on. I’ve been told this could be the strongest quarterback room at Pitt in many years.
Kicker Alex Kessman, a redshirt freshman from Clarkston, Mich., was banging field goals from inside the 40. He didn’t try any longer kicks during the open window.
The good news is that Kessman, a former walkon, has been awarded a scholarship, bringing Pitt up to the maximum number allowed (85). That includes 23 freshmen, most of whom haven’t arrived yet.
“We promised him when (Chris) Blewitt left, he’d have one,” coach Pat Narduzzi said. “He earned it. But you still have to go make the kick.”