A standout two-way player at Baldwin, Pa. High School, University of Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt's alma mater, Jason Pinkston was expected to win a key depth-chart spot at camp last summer and play immediately on the defensive line. While that didn't happen, Pinkston's potential was revealed as an offensive player.
So, he moved to the offensive line and eventually got some playing time. He filled in for injured fifth-year senior Mike McGlynn at right tackle during the spring and could be the starter there this fall. And McGlynn could be a candidate to play at the center spot this season.
"I'll be going into camp playing right tackle, but I think I'll be fighting with Mike McGlynn there,'' Pinkston said. "I'm really not sure, though, because he hasn't been doing anything except rehabbing his shoulder. And he looks pretty good, so we'll see what happens once we get to camp.
"I feel all right about where I'm at right now, but there's still a lot I have to do to be ready to compete at this level. I don't want to say I'm the starter or anything like that, because I'm not, but I'm getting closer to where I need to be. And like I said, we'll see what happens in camp.''
There are those who believe Pinkston's freshman season was wasted, and he should have been redshirted once he moved from defense to offense in September. But the Panthers were so thin on the offensive line that he had to step in shortly thereafter.
Pinkston played in seven games as the backup left tackle. His special teams assignments were on the extra point and field goal blocking unit. Pinkston also was used in Pitt's "Jumbo'' set in short-yardage situations, as he lined up in the backfield as an additional fullback.
"I played a little bit last season, some special teams, so I got my feet wet,'' Pinkston said. "It doesn't bother me that I didn't play a lot and didn't get to redshirt. I helped the team out, and that was very important to me. I helped out in the South Florida game.
"I played the second half and did pretty good, so it was all right that I got in a few games. That was real important for my development for this season. I played. I liked it, and I feel real comfortable as an offensive tackle. I just have to get ready to play a full game.''
Pinkston is in a group that includes Aaron Berry, Dorin Dickerson, John Malecki and Elijah Fields, to name a few, that were expected to be strong contributors as freshman. But they played sparingly. However, they all could play key roles for Pitt as sophomores this season.
And by all accounts, Pinkston is ready to take his game up a notch.
"We've basically just been running and lifting and training hard with Buddy,'' Pinkston said. "So, we're just trying to get ready for camp and the season, and I think we're all working hard to get there. I played in the spring at about 315 pounds, and I lost around 15 pounds and put a lot of muscle on since then. So, I'm about 300 even right now. And I feel real good.
"This is a very important offseason for us. We just started with Buddy a short time ago, and he expects a lot from us. So, we're working hard to get back to the type of Pitt team that we were in the past. The guys you mentioned, I think it was good for all of us to kind of get a taste for it last year. And now we're ready to play even more this season.''
Pinkston's improvement has given hope to an offensive line that has been maligned in recent years for inconsistent play and depth problems due to injuries and attrition. He certainly appears to be capable of handling a starting assignment, should McGlynn move to center or anywhere else for that matter. And while nothing is set, Pitt's coaching staff has more options on the line than it has in a while. And that can't hurt.
"I think we'll be all right on the offensive line,'' Pinkston said. "We're training hard and getting into great shape, so we just have to get back in the film room with Coach (Paul) Dunn to get things going for the season. We're all looking forward to camp, and we're very excited for this season.
"I think we're going to be real good. I played both ways in high school, so I still had a feel for it when they switched me. Sure, it was different playing offensive tackle at this level, initially, but it wasn't totally different for me. And I enjoy playing offense. I have to love it now. That's for sure.''
And after Pinkston bangs some people around this year, the Panthers and their followers are certain to love how he plays on offense, too.