rom the pee-wee leagues through his time at Baldwin, Pa. High School, redshirt sophomore Jason Pinkston has never played on the left side. He was a right offensive tackle for the Highlanders and worked exclusively on the right side after moving over from defense at Pittsburgh.
Still, Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt and offensive line coach Tony Wise that Pinkston's the man to watch the blind side for quarterback Bill Stull.
"Sure, it's going to be a little different for Jason, but that's why we're doing this in camp,'' Wise said. "He's very athletic and moves well, and we believe he can play the left or the right side and be successful.''
Wannstedt gave redshirt freshman Jordan Gibbs a shot to secure the starting left offensive tackle spot the first week in camp, but he didn't get that done to the level that the head coach wanted. Now, it's Pinkston's job to lose, but he realizes that nothing is guaranteed.
"It's new,'' Pinkston said. "I'm still trying to get my feet right over there on passing plays, because I'm so used to the right side. He just asked me to move over to he left side, so I did it in the afternoon practice. I'm in competition with everyone right now. There's no set spots on the depth chart.
"So, I've got to go out every day, do my job and know my assignments. (And) I'll play wherever they need me to play. Left or right tackle, fullback, wherever I can help the team. (But) I'm looking forward to seeing what this O-line can do. We're not experienced, yet, but we have a lot of talent and athletic ability.''
Pinkston noted that he did play fullback one play as a freshman against Syracuse (2006) when the Panthers lined up in a so-called "Jumbo'' set on the goal line. However, Pinkston missed his block on the play, and "they scrapped that play after that. I'll probably never do it again.''
One thing is certain for Pinkston. His surgically repaired left shoulder is healed, and he's ready to go after a grueling offseason working with Buddy Morris. Pinkston also has spoken with former teammate Jeff Otah about playing left tackle, and this year's first-round NFL pick by the Carolina Panthers had some good advice for him.
"Jeff told me not to panic, especially against a speed rusher,'' Pinkston said. "That's what I'm worried about, my feel, so I'm just opening up. He said just to relax, that I'll get it after I keep doing reps.
"And Coach Wise helped me out a lot, too. He was in the NFL for so many years, he really knows a lot. (And) playing beside C.J., he the most experienced guy out there, so he's a big help, too.''
While Pinkston works on his footwork and increasing his quickness coming off the ball, Pitt right defensive end Greg Romeus gives him a lot to think about. Pinkston and Romeus will battle daily during camp practices.
"Those right D-ends are a lot faster,'' Pinkston noted. "So, they can rush the quarterback, and ... working against one of the best defensive ends in Romeus can only help. Everything I can take from him will help me get better.''
Whenever one runs into Pinkston off the field, there's no way to know if he's having a bad day or not, because he's always smiling or joking around. It's not the same treatment if you run into him on the football field.
"Coach Wise always gets on me about that, because I'm always playing around,'' Pinkston said, "but when I get on the field it's different. I'm way different on those inside run drills.''
And that's one reason why Wannstedt and Wise believe Pinkston at left tackle will make Pitt's offensive line solid.