It's not a snap for No. 1 center Turnley

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A properly executed snap of the football often is taken for granted, but when done incorrectly, it can ruin a play.

And, when the snap isn't consistently successful, it can destroy an offense, particularly an attack like Pitt's that depends on timing and rhythm.

That is why the Panthers coaching staff tried so many different players at center in spring drills and paid so much attention to it in preseason camp. As a result, there is pressure to perform on the current No. 1 center, redshirt junior Ryan Turnley.

"Yeah, I still feel the pressure," said Turnley, who has held down the starting spot most of training camp. "But it is getting more natural for me, and I'm starting to get more comfortable. I am starting to learn the offense really well and learn what everyone else on the line is supposed to do."

Turnley's consistency has improved since the start of camp, but he still hasn't reached a point where the coaching staff is completely comfortable.

The snap nearly always will be in the shotgun formation, and the quarterback must make his final reads as the ball comes to him.

That means the snap has to be perfect or it will throw the play's timing off, which could lead to disaster.

Early in camp, Turnley struggled with his consistency and had a few snaps sail over quarterback Tino Sunseri's head each day, but coach Todd Graham said coaches stuck with him.

The reason for that is the coaches believed Turnley was their best option because, if he played center, senior Chris Jacobson could start at left guard.

Jacobson was expected to be the starting center in the spring, and he was successful there, but guard is his natural position.

When camp opened, the only players competing at center were Turnley and Greg Gaskins, but Turnley quickly proved to be much more consistent and Gaskins moved to tackle.

Once Gaskins was no longer in the mix, Turnley knew it was an all-or-nothing proposition for him.

"I knew this was my shot and I knew that coaches were really counting on me to come through," Turnley said. "So, I had to just settle down, get focused and make sure that every single day I get better and I get the snap to where it needs to be. It is getting where it is a more natural movement for me and a more natural motion, and that has eased some of my nerves.

"But the good part is that I've learned offense so well that the only thing I really still have to think about every play is getting the snap right. I know what I am supposed to do and where I am supposed to be on every play, and that is half the battle."

Graham said his staff spotted some flaws with Turnley's technique and corrected them..

Turnley, from Hopewell, is big for a center at 6 feet 6, 320 pounds, but he moves well and is more athletic than many guys his size. His position demands that he be quick on his feet.

The Panthers would like to get a snap off every 15 seconds, and Graham said he would like to see the offense run about 82 plays per game. Such expectations mean that Turnley will be under fire every game.

He said he is ready mostly because he has spent the training camp snapping with Pitt defensive tackle Myles Caragein in his face every day.

Turnley is not likely to face a tougher opponent.

"We play a 3-4 on defense, so Myles is lined up right over top of me ready to pounce every single play," Turnley said. "That's not exactly an easy assignment, but I figure if I can handle the snap and then blocking Myles, I can handle anyone.

"The key is we still have some time until the first game, so I will continue to work to get it right and I'll be ready to go when the first game begins."

NOTES -- The annual FanFest will be from 6-8 p.m. today at Heinz Field, with the autograph session starting at 6:30 p.m.. There will be live music, games and an opportunity to buy season tickets. Admission is free and parking is $5 in Gold Lots 1 and 2. ... Pitt received a verbal commitment from St. Edward (Cleveland) defensive end Darryl Render. He chose the Panthers over Cincinnati, Louisville, Connecticut and Iowa and is the 13th commitment for the class of 2012.

Paul Zeise: or 412-263-1720.


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