Jason Pinkston was recruited as a defensive tackle from Baldwin, Pa., University of Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt's alma mater, but he was switched to offensive tackle in September, 2006, and played in seven games. He was a backup on the left side and also a member of the Panthers' "jumbo'' backfield in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
Pinkston played right tackle in the spring, and after fifth-year senior Mike McGlynn was injured he became a starter there. He had a solid spring and has looked pretty good during the first two weeks at Pitt's training camp as McGlynn is still rehabbing his left shoulder after surgery.
"We've been though a couple weeks already, it seems like it's been a month,'' Pinkston said when asked to summarize his first two weeks at camp. "But everything's going pretty good, moving along real well for me, I think. So, I'm just working hard to get better every day. Coach says that every day is an opportunity, so I'm just looking forward to taking advantage of mine.''
Pinkston's opportunity arose due to an injury, and so did classmate Joe Thomas, Pitt's right guard since fifth-year senior John Simonitis was broke his leg last fall. The two are rising stars on the Panthers offensive line.
"They're two good ones, and we have a lot of freshmen who are going to fill backup roles,'' Pitt offensive line coach Paul Dunn said. "That's why we moved Craig Bokor back to offense and moved Jared Martin over, too. But we need to keep working our first unit to gain cohesion, and Jason's development has been a big part of what we'll do this year and in the future.''
While Pinkston was happy for the chance to play, he still hoped that McGlynn would come back soon to solidify the unit and establish the depth chart.
"I think it's gone pretty well for me, but I believe that Mike McGlynn will still be an important part of the offensive line here at Pitt,'' Pinkston said. "We're still not sure how that's all going to play out, but I'm very happy to get a chance to play. Until Mike comes back, I just want to do whatever Coach Dunn tells me to do and work hard to get better every day. That's all I can do.
"But I'm glad he's coming back. Mike's the most-experienced offensive linemen coming back, and he probably knows a little bit about every position. So, we need him to come back. I don't know exactly what that means for me, but it should mean that our offensive line will be better. And I want that to be the case no matter who plays what position. That is what's important.
"It's always a plus when you can get more playing time, which I've been able to do since the spring, but I want to look at it as what's best for the team and how the team can get more wins than losses,'' Pinkston added. "And the best way to do that is to have the best players at every spot on the O-line.''
Pinkston believed that Pitt's offensive line would eventually be a strong point on the team, and he wasn't concern that it was been a lightning rod for criticism to this point.
"We make some little mistakes here and there, but we can correct them,'' Pinkston said. "I think we're all doing pretty good. We have an experienced line, with C.J. and Jeff Otah and Joe Thomas, they all started last year. C.J. has been a three-year starter, so it helps me to be next to them.
"But we can't worry about what people think about us. We can only play to the best of our abilities and do what we can to help this team be successful. As long as we can do that, nobody will be able to say anything about us other than we were able to help the team win some football games.''
And that's what is most important for the Panthers this season.