Offensive line coach Matt Moore believes that will come as the unit gains more experience.
“We’re getting better. Got a lot of guys back but it’s not like we are fourth and fifth-year seniors, you know. We are still making mistakes,” Moore said. “We are going out there every day and are learning. At this point in camp, we are trying to put a lot of pressure on them. For instance, in the spring if a guy jumped offsides it’s like ‘okay let’s go to the next play,’ but now it’s to the point it’s a pressure situation.
Junior right guard Doug Nester has the most collegiate experience in the first group, but only has 13 starts as Mountaineer.
Redshirt junior James Gmiter has 25 starts in three years while junior center Zach Frazier and redshirt right tackle Brandon Yates have 22 and 21 respectively over three seasons.
Sophomore left tackle Wyatt Milum has the least starting experience with 8 games.
Ja’Quay Hubbard, who is currently battling with Yates for the right tackle spot has no starting experience with the program.
“Ja’Quay plays really, really hard. He just gets his body out of position, makes some mental mistakes. That’s what we are trying to fix,” Moore said. ”With Yates, it’s more of being physical enough. He’s a finesse guy, really athletic, bit doesn’t play as physical as he needs to all the time.”
Physically, Moore is impressed with his group’s improvements. Now, the focus is attention to detail.
“Things like your footwork, your hand placement, where are your eyes,” Moore said. “Not having holding calls. We’ve had way too many of those in the last couple of days. Not having offsides. We had a couple of offsides penalties in the scrimmage. We can’t have that.”
Versatility is also an advantage for Moore this season. Almost every player has taken reps at multiple positions to ensure they are ready to step into any position necessary.
Nester can play in all five spots. He, Gmiter and Jordan White get snaps at center daily. Moore said he needs to have eight players game ready, he currently feels confident with six, including three on each side and two centers.
The cross-training has already proven effective as Gmiter was out all last week, allowing Moore could to see the benefit of the versatility firsthand.
“I’m a completive person by nature, so when we are going ones vs. ones, I want to beat the defense, right? So, when a guy has a miss a few days, it makes me take another guy and let him step up. Next man up mentality,” Moore said.
“We had a couple of guys out (Monday). One had a blister, one has this, so next man up. We ended up having a really good end of the scrimmage with guys playing who were third and fourth team.”
Normally, season openers don’t feature the toughest opponent of the season so if mistakes happen, it isn’t necessarily detrimental. It will be quite the opposite come Sept. 1 as Pitt’s front four are some of the best in the nation, making it even more critical for everyone in the rotation up front to play fundamentally sound.
“I told them there’s going to be 67,000 people there so you better be ready. You are going against some of the best people you are going to go against all year and maybe even your whole career. We have to be ready to go. We can’t make mental mistakes. We can’t put our eyes in the wrong spot. We can’t over set. We got to get our hands outside,” Moore said. “They are really good. We are going to have to play our best if we are going to stay in that stadium with them upfront. That is where the pressure is. That’s where they are the best and that’s where we have to be.”