Why has the Pittsburgh line been so erratic this season?
LeSean McCoy is averaging 4.4 yards per carry, Bill Stull has a 57% completion rate, and the team averages 152 ypg on the ground, but there are a series of glaring issues that should be exposed by the South Florida defense tonight.
The Pittsbugh Offensive line has given up 8 sacks this year. Bill Stull, and the Panther offense have only scored 2 passing touchdowns all season, and Stull's average completion goes for 5.8 yards!
A short completion average is a direct sign of a weakness in pass protection. Syracuse and Bowling Green kept Stull's longest pass under 20 yards. His longest pass completion went for 36 yards this season (against Buffalo). Otherwise, he's sticking to the 6 yard routes. That mindset is a RED-ZONE nightmare (consequently resulting in only 2 passing TD's)
Why is Stull forcing the ball to the checkdowns? How is a 300 pound line giving up 8 sacks to the likes of Bowling Green, Buffalo, and Syracuse? And how will they survive against South Florida's front-seven? Why are they so inconsistant?
Lets start with the the Guard spot.
Here is John Malecki, #1 Guard on the depth chart for the Panthers:
He's the guy that made the tackle in this play (underneath the opponent). He was on the defense last season, so his shift to the Offensive line must have been a difficult situation for him. I reviewed his scout film and he was featured as a nose Tackle in High School. I think he's still a work in progress on the offensive side of the ball. We have a converted defensive lineman as the #1 Guard. CLICK HERE to see John Malecki attempting the triple jump (humorous aside). There's your #1 problem on the line.
The Panthers also have a JUCO that was not highly regarded out of High School sitting at Center! Rob Hauser emerged out of Butte College to lead this offensive line. When you add an unfamiliar force at the Center position, and you place a young QB right behind him, then the chances of missed blocks become amplified.
WE have a JUCO at Center and a Defensive lineman standing next to him.
Jason Pinkston (So.) is one of the starting Tackles and, like his friend at the guard spot, he was a powerful member of his high school defensive line. He served, primarily as a guard on offense, and he was rated as a 3 star recruit (out of 5). He's still young, and developing nicely, but his inexperience has been apparent since the first game.
Joe Thomas is the other Tackle and he is perfectly suited for run blocking, but does not have the speed to get out on the edge rush. This is a considerable concern against the South Florida pass rush. Thomas rated as a 3-Star recruit when he came out of high school.
C.J. Davis was a 2-Star recruit, he's big, and effective (LG) in run blocking, but he appears to be slow in picking up the line-backers on the blitz on passing downs. It seems as if his vision never developed with regard to picking up the interior blitz.
There are two things I want to stress about the line instability for Pitt:
1. There is a JUCO at Center and a converted defensive lineman at Guard.
2. There is not a single 5 star recruit in the starting five. This is a patchwork unit, that was pieced together with a JUCO, and a converted defender.
Whether this is a result of poor recruiting, or a simple result of natural attrition, we cannot miss the glaring weakness of this Offensive line. I think this merits consideration in terms of backing the favorite, or seeking the Under. I believe South Florida has a great shot at penetrating the Pittsburgh line.
South Florida has the 4th ranked Rush Defense in the Nation, and they proved their depth in the front seven last week with Selvie and Mompremier injured. They held NC State to 26 yards rushing!
If the Bulls stop the run, then the sack totals should rise in this game....Perhaps we can find a sack prop, and also look into the longest play from scrimmage!
Good Luck Tonight!