Pitt's Jack Lippert goes through drills Tuesday at practice on the South Side.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma talks to the Pitt football team at the beginning of practice Tuesday on the South Side.
By Sam Werner Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Jack Lippert enrolled at Pitt three years ago as a defensive end. Since then, he has been a center, defensive tackle and nose guard.
For now, at least, he is back home at end.
"I came in as an end, I played end my whole high school [career]," he said. "I'm an end, and it feels great to be back."
Lippert, a redshirt junior, has been one of the pleasant surprises of Pitt's training camp, working primarily with the first team. The player who seemingly got lost in the shuffle his first three years is determined to prove to the coaching staff that he can make an impact on the defensive line.
"He's working his tail off, all the things you want," coach Paul Chryst said. "He's doing everything he can to give himself a chance to be the best he can be."
Lippert's rise to the first unit started with a position change, not surprising given his history. The coaching staff put him in at nose guard when K.K. Mosley-Smith went down with an injury. After Tyrone Ezell moved up to the first unit, they moved him to nose guard and slid Lippert back outside.
"Our job is to find the best four up front," defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield said. "We've been working different combinations and, right now, [Lippert's] in that combination."
While Lippert is glad to be back outside, he learned some things working at nose guard. Specifically, he said he got a lot better at using his hands, a necessity on the inside.
"I like nose guard, but I'm not really as big," Lippert said. "I took kind of a beating on my body. I was pretty sore the first two weeks, so it feels pretty good to get in some space."
If nothing else, Lippert should be adept to switching positions. Recruited out of Central Dauphin High School (Harrisburg, Pa.) as a defensive end, Lippert moved to center in his second year at Pitt to shore up depth at the position. He played in six games at center in 2010, but moved back to defensive tackle in '11 and didn't see the field.
It might be unusual to think that one of the Panthers' starters along the defensive line could be a fourth-year player who hasn't seen a snap on defense in his career, but, with a new coaching staff this season, every player had a clean slate.
"It's football. It's a new year," Breckterfield said. "Everyone's getting a new shot. Whatever happened in the past with whatever player we had, it is what it is. But this year it's, 'Hey, come out and show us what you got.' "
Lippert said that after he felt he "got looked over a little bit" in the spring, he dedicated himself over the summer to make an impression this fall. Breckterfield noticed, saying Lippert "transformed his body" since Pitt's spring game in April.
Now, Lippert has one message for the coaching staff.
"I've just got to show them I'm here to stay," he said. "I'm supposed to be here."
NOTES -- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma addressed the team before practice Tuesday and stuck around to watch practice and film some videos for the Heinz Field jumbotron. The beginning of Pitt's practice also overlapped with the end of the Steelers practice, so Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert stuck around for a while, too. "I took a look there and what a special and unique thing for our team," Chryst said. "The Steelers are practicing one field over and the Penguins coaching staff was there. That's pretty neat. I want everyone to know this is quite a privilege to be a part of the sports scene here and part of that group."