Coaching, scheme changes not stopping sophomore in battle to start
August 17, 2013 8:00 AM
Pitt starting quarterback Tom Savage finished Friday's scrimmage 5 of 7 for 63 yards and a touchdown.
By Sam Werner Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
There were plenty of times Artie Rowell could have opted to leave Pitt, or even football all together, and it would've been tough to blame him.
But after two coaching transitions that left the center in an offense not perfectly suited toward his skill set, Rowell kept pushing and didn't quit.
Friday, that effort began to pay off when he took the lion's share of first team snaps at center during Pitt's first open scrimmage of training camp. Offensive line coach Jim Hueber said the move was not permanent, but that Rowell was very close with redshirt freshman Gabe Roberts, who had been working with the first team since the beginning of spring practices.
"I just made the decision that we needed to do something to shake it up," Hueber said. "Artie deserved it because of what he's done. He needed a chance to run with the ones and show what he could do."
At 6 feet 2, Rowell seems better suited for a spread offense that has him moving around more, but Hueber said he added 35 pounds since coach Paul Chryst's staff arrived in 2012 and has become a viable option in Pitt's pro-style offense.
"Here's a guy that came in, really didn't know what to expect from us," Hueber said. "I talked to him, told him it's going to be hard to play with the style of offense we're playing if you're going to be 270 pounds. Now he's about 305, he's the first guy here, he studies tape, he's done everything he could do to put him in a position to compete and a chance to run with the ones."
Rowell said he knew it would take a little extra hard work to fit into the offense, but didn't shy away from the challenge.
"When adversity hits you, what are you going to do, run away from it?" Rowell said. "Or are you going to stand up to it and fight it?"
Hueber didn't provide a timetable for when he hopes to make a final decision on his starting center but said that Rowell and Roberts have their pros and cons.
"Gabe's big, you know what I mean?" Hueber said. "He's got a chance to be a physical player. Artie bends a lot better, probably runs a little bit better for some of the stuff we're doing. Both of them have done a good job in pass protection."
First-team offense productive
Newly named starting quarterback Tom Savage worked just two series during the scrimmage Friday. He finished 5 of 7 for 63 yards and a touchdown, passing to freshman Tyler Boyd.
Savage said the rest was "precautionary."
Redshirt freshman Chad Voytik took over with the first team and finished 14 of 20 with 123 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Trey Anderson took Voytik's reps with the second team.
Freshman James Conner led all running backs with 72 yards on nine carries. With presumed starter Isaac Bennett out with a knee injury, Conner has been taking most of the snaps with the first team.
"He's learning," Chryst said. "Mistakes aren't necessarily bad because you can learn from them. I thought he certainly did. He ran hard and did some good things. There's still things he's got to keep cleaning up. We're all in that boat."
Season tickets selling out
Pitt is close to 90 percent sold out of its season ticket allotment for the 2013 season, according to assistant athletic director Justin Acierno.
Acierno said that lower level and club level season tickets have sold out, leaving only upper level tickets remaining.
Friday, Pitt released 4,000 single game tickets for its opener Sept. 2 against Florida State, which can be purchased online or by phone. All other single game tickets will go on sale Sept. 3.