Greg Gaskins has the athleticism to get outside.
Now that he's in his third year with the Pitt football program, redshirt sophomore offensive tackle Greg Gaskins finally is playing the Panthers knew he could when they signed him from William Penn High School in York, Pa. in 2007.
But it's understandable that he needed a while to get his footing. Greg Gaskins had just turned 17 years old a month before he signed with Pittsburgh, and he was expected to be a center-tight end prospect. But his athleticism and size, now a solid 285 pounds on a 6-foot-4 frame, made him a better tackle.
And as he prepares for his first game action with the Panthers since his arrival, the sky's the limit for the soft-spoken Gaskins.
"I feel like, coming in here, I think they wanted me to play center,'' Gaskins said. "But then I switched to tackle, and that was a big transition for me. But I've reached a comfort zone out there. I think that's the best way to put it. I already know the plays, but I just had to sharpen up my technique.
"That's what I wanted to do during camp, and I think I have it down now. So, that's what I worked on the most, watching film and on the practice field, and that aspect of the game has really improve for me. I learned how to watch film, and I've watched a lot of it to help my game. I had a big offseason that way.''
Gaskins, who did not play at all the past two seasons, benefitted from additional repetitions in the spring and summer camp due to various injuries and attrition at Pitt's tackle spots. He worked hard and steadily moved up the depth chart to a backup role on either side of the line.
"I've played both sides, both tackle spots on the offensive line, but I'm basically the backup to Jason Pinkston on the left side,'' Gaskins said. "It really helped me to get more reps when Lucas (Nix) was out a few days on the right side. That really helped, and going against our D-ends was tough.
"But you can't improve unless you go against good competition. So, the better people that you play, the better you can be. And our D-line, it has to be among the best in the country. We know that, and going up against them every day really prepares us for each game.''
Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt had nothing but praise for Gaskins.
"I think right now, we’ve got six guys that I feel good about,'' Wannstedt said. "(With) Chris Jacobson being the sixth (after the five starters). And Greg Gaskins would be our first guy to come off the bench (after that). He's really come along in the past year or so.
"(And) he had a very good camp. ... We've got some good young kids (on the offensive line). It's not where our defensive line is from an experience standpoint. We're probably a little better than we were a year ago, (but) we aren't where we need to be in my mind.''
Gaskins was flip-flopped from the right to left tackle spots throughout training camp, but that only made him more versatile. Even though senior Joe Thomas likely would move to tackle and Chris Jacobson to guard if something happened to Pinkston or Nix, Gaskins is ready now.
"I think things went pretty well for me in camp, and I think I progressed a little bit every day,'' Gaskins said. "That's what I wanted to do, make a jump this year in my progress, and I'm sure I've done that throughout camp.
"It was a tough camp, but I think everybody battled through it. What makes great teams great is how they respond to adversity. So, that's what it's all about, though, just fighting through it, getting through practice every day. And I'd like to think it's something I've been very good at doing.''
While Gaskins deserves praise for all his hard work to get to this point, he preferred to give kudos to Pitt offensive line coach Tony Wise.
"I love Coach Wise,'' Gaskins said. "He knows his stuff. I'll tell you that. Being in the NFL and all the years he had in college, you have to listen to a guy who knows as much as he has. He really helped our line progress the past couple years and me in particular. I owe Coach Wise a lot right now.
"You know, I might be young, but I'm going into my third year here. So, I've been here a while, and the coaches expected more from me this year. I expected more from myself, too, so I feel like it's time for me to step it up.
"I've been in this system for a while, and I'm ready to make a move,'' Gaskins added. "Whenever my name's called, I'll be ready to get in there and make an impact. You never know when you'll be needed, so you have to be ready. And I want to get the job done. It's definitely time for me to do that.''
With the way that he's progressed, that opportunity certainly is there for Gaskins this season.