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Breaking Down the Panthers: Offensive line

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Offensive line

Lost: John Simonitis*, Joe Villani*

Returning: Mike McGlynn*, Jeff Otah*, C.J. Davis*, Joe Thomas*, John Bachman, John Brown, Chase Clowser, Scott Corson, Kevin Hughes, Jason Pinkston, Chris Vangas, Dom Williams

Newcomers: Chris Jacobson, John Fieger, Greg Gaskins, Dan Matha

Breakdown: The line returns four starters, but there is some shuffling to do. The left side will stay intact with Otah at tackle and Davis at guard. Pinkston moved to right tackle when McGlynn missed most of the spring with a shoulder injury. The big question marks are at right guard and center.

Positives: The Panthers wanted to five find linemen, and they accomplished that. Otah developed into the best of the bunch and could be an All-Big East performer. With Davis next to him, the left side of the line could be an asset. Pinkston looks like he has a future at right tackle. And, for once, Pitt has depth with Bachman, Brown and Williams.

Negatives: There are some serious concerns in the interior. After stepping in for the injured Simonitis and becoming a freshman All-America, Thomas took a step backwards this spring. He showed up overweight, struggled against Gus Mustakas and lost the coaches’ confidence. Even worse, neither Vangas nor Bachman performed well enough to win the starting center job. McGlynn suffered a torn labrum early in spring drills and might not be ready for the season opener Sept. 1 against Eastern Michigan.

X factor: Jacobson was a U.S. Army All-American, where he dominated practices against the nation’s best defensive line prospects. He brings a mean streak to an offensive line that has been lacking one, and has a chance to push Thomas for starting right guard. First, Jacobson must get eligible. Then, he has to learn the offense. But his arrival will further fortify the line and put some on alert.

Projected starters: LT Jeff Otah, LG C.J. Davis, C Mike McGlynn, RG Joe Thomas, RT Jason Pinkston. For once, the Panthers have size and experience on the line. McGlynn is a three-year starter who knows the calls, played center in high school and is a long snapper who could make a seamless transition if he is healthy. That would allow Bachman a year to get comfortable playing center and back up every position in the meantime.

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