PITTSBURGH — Connor Dintino is familiar with playing center. He was actually recruited to Pitt as a center when he redshirted in 2014 out of Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut.
Since then, the redshirt senior has played a lot for the Panthers — at a whole bunch of other places.
In 2015, Dintino was moved to defensive tackle, but midway through the season, started moonlighting as an extra fullback in jumbo packages.
The following season, Dintino was back on the offensive line, while also playing some as a fullback and an extra tackle.
In 2017, he lost a training camp battle with Jimmy Morrissey at center, before sliding to left guard this spring to take over for the graduated Alex Officer.
Needless to say, Dintino has been around the block, which is why the senior isn’t at all phased by being pushed back to center due to the season-ending ankle injury suffered by Morrissey on Pitt’s final offensive possession of Saturday’s 34-13 win over Wake Forest.
“I’m moving over to center now, but it’s still the same plays,” Dintino said after his first full practice at center this season on Tuesday. “I’m speaking a little more, I’m making a little more calls, but I’ve been in this position before.”
In fact, it’s a possibility he’s been preparing for.
“I’ve always practiced it, just a ‘what if?’ for if the worst case happened,” Dintino said. “I’ve always taken QB-center [exchanges], I’ve always done stuff for practice. I’ve always been ready for anything.”
Dintino said Morrissey, who is the youngest of Pitt’s starting linemen, but also an outspoken leader, is in good spirits despite his setback.
“He’s one of the toughest guys on this team,” Dintino said. “It’s unfortunate things happened to him, but he’s going to take that winning mentality that he had and he’s going to overcome this adversity.”
For Dintino, along with left tackle Stefano Millin, right guard Mike Herndon and right tackle Alex Bookser, these last three games represent the last stand with Pitt. Morrissey, a redshirt sophomore, will have two years of eligibility when he returns from his injury in 2019.
The first of the next wave of Pitt offensive linemen that will join him will be slotting in next to Dintino for these next three games. Redshirt sophomore Bryce Hargrove will start at left guard.
Much like the path Dintino wore several years ago, Hargrove has gotten piecemeal experience over the course of this season. He’s played on the field goal teams, worked as a fullback, an extra tackle and filled in at guard.
“I think he’s really developed,” Dintino said. “I think he’s a good player. He’s been able to get out there on some fullback stuff, being in the backfield. He’s played a lot. He’s come in for me and Herndon before in some games. He has experience, now he just needs to step up and play a little more reps.”
So while he’ll be making his first collegiate start, Dintino is confident that experience will allow Hargrove to make a successful transition to the starting lineup.
“It’s good to feel the game speed,” Dintino said. “He has that experience. I think he’s going to go out there really cool and collected.”
And if he’s not? Dintino won’t be far away.
“I’ll be in his ear,” Dintino said. “Jimmy is always in my ear. Whether I liked it or not.”