Pitt's Turnley now Mr. Consistency in often-juggled offensive line
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Pitt's offensive line has had plenty of shakeups this season, resulting in an extremely inconsistent unit in pass-protection and run-blocking.
There has been one constant, according to coach Todd Graham, and that has been the consistency of center Ryan Turnley.
Graham called Turnley an "anchor" on the line, but Turnley's performance tells half the story about why Graham also called him a player "that embodies everything a Pitt man is."
Turnley has battled through injuries to both feet while consistently performing at a high level. His feet are so bad that he wears a walking boot during the week, can't practice other than some light drills Thursday in order to get a feel for the game plan.
- Game: Pitt (4-5, 2-2 Big East) at Louisville (5-4, 3-1), Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
- When: Noon, Saturday.
- TV: WTAE
- The skinny: The Panthers need two wins in their final three games to attain bowl eligibility. After Louisville: West Virginia (6-3) and Syracuse (5-4).
"The courage he shows to play and will not, not play, is phenomenal," said Graham Tuesday after practice.
"And he didn't even go through spring [he was injured], so we had no idea what he could do but he came to us and said 'coach I can snap the ball' and, when we started working with him, it was like wow he was a natural snapping the ball."
Graham said he also has been impressed by the redshirt junior from Hopewell's ability to get better each week, even though he is not practicing.
"His courage and his toughness are unbelievable, but what's amazing is the level he is playing," Graham said.
"He is playing really good and he has improved every week without practicing. The courage and the toughness and heart he is showing -- he has developed into being the anchor to our line.
"[He is in a lot of pain], both of his feet are injured and he has not been able to practice, but he has shown up to play each week."
Freshman linebacker Ejuan Price was one of the freshmen that coaches were extremely excited about coming out of camp, so much so that he started five of the first six games and earned high praise for his performances.
But, in the past three games, he has become somewhat invisible as his snaps on defense have decreased dramatically. He still plays on special teams, but ...
"We worked him some at the linebacker spot, and he will work in our nickel and dime rushing the passer like he has all year," Graham said of Price (Woodland Hills).
"I don't think [his decreased time] has been as much him as it has been how well Greg Williams and Brandon Lindsey are playing.
"It is tough on those guys when they are freshmen, they get overwhelmed. The complexity of what we are doing can get confusing to those [freshmen], but he is going to be a tremendous player, and his reps will hopefully move back up."
Graham said Price will work at Panther linebacker and inside linebacker this week and hopes that will give him more opportunities to play.
Graham said that even though the Panthers (4-5, 2-2 Big East) have not had as much success as they were predicted to have, the one thing he has been proud of is that they have not quit and still are playing hard.
"One thing I noticed after watching the film is just how hard the effort, our relentless effort, our guys are giving," Graham said. "You kind of see it and we couldn't be more proud of the effort, especially from the seniors. Those guys are really special to me, they mean a lot to me.
"These seniors still have a lot to play for."
Offensive guard Lucas Nix (knee) is day to day, and his status for the game Saturday at Louisville is unclear. ... Graham had high praise for his freshman class and said that it has "far exceeded" his expectations, given the fact that he and his staff had about two weeks to put it together after being hired so late. . ... One other freshman who Graham said has really played well of late is linebacker LaQuentin Smith.
First Published November 9, 2011 12:01 am