When Pitt opens spring football practice Tuesday, a pair of juniors who arrived as highly touted WPIAL recruits will be making debuts not just at new positions but on the other side of the line of scrimmage than they played last season.
After a season at outside linebacker, Dorin Dickerson will play his fourth position in three seasons by moving to tight end to add depth to a spot where Nate Byham and John Pelusi will be limited while recovering from injuries.
Where Dickerson showed the toughness necessary to play defense, he never displayed the appropriate instincts and failed to unseat Adam Gunn on the strong side. At tight end, Dickerson has the potential to be another Kris Wilson, but realizing that potential has been Dickerson’s problem.
Tight end is the only offensive skill position Dickerson didn’t play at West Allegheny – he also has played receiver and running back at Pitt – and he figures to be a hybrid to the position much the way Darrell Strong was the past two seasons, more receiver than blocker.
“Dorin is one of strongest guys on the team, can run fast and has good hands,” Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. “The biggest change will be the blocking. As a running back he had to block also, but it was a different type of blocking. Having him at tight end will give us flexibility in some situations. He’s a guy who can make big plays.”
Meantime, John Malecki is expected to line up with the first team at right guard, a position where he was dominant in leading Franklin Regional High School to the 2005 PIAA Class AAA title.
Malecki spent the past two seasons in Pitt’s rotation at defensive tackle and made some big plays, but was going to split time with Rashaad Duncan and possibly Mick Williams or redshirt freshman Myles Caragein.
“When we moved John Malecki over, I told him with the depth on the defensive line and experience he would be a factor and in the rotation,” Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said, “but I really believe in my heart that you can be a starter on the offensive line. Move over in starting right guard and prove that it’s your job. John’s a guy that’s played for two years, and brings toughness and maturity. We need that bad, desperately.”
Perhaps the most crucial position change will be that of junior Joe Thomas, who will begin spring practice at right tackle after starting much of the past two seasons at right guard. That’s not to say Thomas will stay there – senior left guard C.J. Davis, a four-year starter, is the only lineman with job security – but it makes things interesting.
“The thinking is, Joe’s got a little bit more range, more experience,” Wannstedt said. “The transition for him to move to tackle and Malecki to guard is the best fit and gives those two guys and, more importantly, our team the best chance to be successful.”
Dickerson and Malecki are the most prominent of the major position changes. Here are some others:
• Redshirt sophomore Tyler Tkach, from defensive end to tight end;
• Redshirt sophomore Jared Martin, from offensive guard to center;
• Redshirt sophomore Scott Corson, from center to offensive guard;
• Redshirt freshman Greg Gaskins from center to offensive tackle;
• Redshirt freshman Wayne Jones from defensive tackle to offensive tackle;
• Redshirt freshman Sherod Murdock from cornerback to free safety;
• Redshirt freshman Greg Williams from running back to outside linebacker.
• Also, a pair of walk-ons, senior receiver Austin Ransom and sophomore quarterback Steve Malinchak, also have moved to the secondary at strong safety.