PITTSBURGH — After seeing limited playing time during the 2018 season, Gabe Houy is ready to step up and fill in one of Pitt’s two empty offensive tackle positions in 2019 after the Panthers lost two key players to graduation.
Houy, a redshirt sophomore from Upper St. Clair High School in Pittsburgh, is looking to make a big impact after the Panthers lost former offensive tackles Alex Bookser and Stefano Millin to graduation.
Houy played in six games during the 2018 season and made one start against Albany. He acknowledged that last year’s experience has helped him progress as a collegiate athlete that is now battling for a starting job.
“It was a great experience for me just to learn what it is like and what it takes to play at this level,” Houy said after practice on Tuesday. “It was a great stepping stone to help me improve and to get better for this year.”
Currently, Houy has been practicing at left tackle, which shows how confident the coaches are in him as a player as this is quarterback, Kenny Pickett’s blind side.
“We have known it since we have recruited him, that he was athletic enough to play left tackle,” head coach Pat Narduzzi said. “He can be there or [Carson] Van Lynn can be there, we have a lot of athletic guys. But Gabe is physical, he’s smart and we will see where it ends up. It’s great to start there, you want to finish there after 15 [practices].”
Protecting Pickett’s blind side will be one of the key’s to Pitt’s success in the upcoming season as new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple looks to incorporate more of a passing game, rather than last year’s run-heavy offense under Shawn Watson.
With more passes expected in each game under the direction of Mark Whipple, second-year offensive line coach Dave Borbely will have his work cut out with a very young and inexperienced offensive line group. During the 2018 season, Borbely was able to take a somewhat inexperienced offensive line and turn them into one of the best run blocking units in the country. Pitt produced two 1,000 yard rushers last year in Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall. Houy certainly is thankful for what Borbely has done for the team and for him as a player and a person.
“Everything he does as a coach, it has been tremendous to have him here,” Houy said. “He has done so much for me as a player and just as a person to improve everyday.”
Pitt will be adding offensive tackle Nolan Ulizio, a graduate transfer from Michigan, to the roster this fall. This experience is much needed for such an inexperienced group. It is still undetermined if Ulizio will play right or left tackle. For now, Pitt is using Gabe Houy at left tackle and redshirt sophomore Jerry Drake Jr. at right tackle.
That means that one of the two players will likely be displaced by Ulizio, a redshirt senior, come August, so while there’s two new tackles in the lineup during spring practice, they’re fighting for one spot. That’s a fact the coaching staff hasn’t shied away from.
“They know,” Narduzzi said. “That’s called competition”