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True Versatility: Ryan Baer is Preparing for Basically Every Spot on the Offensive Line

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Pitt football offensive lineman Ryan Baer

It would be easier on Ryan Baer mentally — and probably physically — if he would just focus on one position on the offensive line this offseason. But where’s the fun in that?

Baer is primarily working on the left side of the line, at both guard and tackle, but he’s fully capable of sliding around Jake Kradel to work on the right side, too. Everything but center at this point.

But with one high school scrimmage at center under his belt, if Kradel, Terrence Moore and BJ Williams are unable to go, Baer is able to go there, too.

He likes having the chance to play all across the offensive line — considering the versatility it adds to his game and the opportunity it provides to give him the chance to see the field as soon as possible.

And it’s going to be very difficult for Dave Borbely to keep him off the field this season.

“I’m working both guard and tackle right now, just hopping back and forth,” Baer said after Tuesday’s practice. “I did two years of tackle and two years of guard (in high school). When I first got here, it was all tackle, so I’m a little more comfortable at tackle, but if I can get a whole camp under my belt at guard, I think I can be pretty comfortable there.”

Borbely, who has tutored Baer on and off the field over the last year and a half, ever since he arrived in January of 2022, just wants to see what Baer is able to do at different spots across the offensive line.

“I feel pretty good about (Baer) being able to play tackle,” Borbely said last week. “But if he’s one of my best five, I don’t want him to be the backup left tackle. If he’s really, truly one of my best five linemen. And I always tell the kids, regardless of position, I want to get the best five guys on the field. And that’s the objective right now. I know you’re a good left tackle, let’s see if you can be one of the best five and play at guard.”

As Baer is taking first-team reps this summer, knocking off the rust after a brief pause from work over the spring, he’s focused on increasing his speed. Faster footwork when it comes to his play on the field but also a faster mental clock when it comes to processing what he sees before him on any individual play.

Baer stands at 6-foot-7, 330 pounds, a rather lean 330 pounds at that (which was helped immensely by his brother Kyle), but in the pursuit of his on-field goals, he still wants to get a bit learner — which isn’t always easy at the facility.

“I’d like to lose a little weight,” Baer said. “In camp, you’re around the facility and you can just grab a snack whenever you want, and they all look so good. I just try to hold myself back. Trying to lose a little weight.”

He already moves well for a massive human being, flashing during a brief live, 11-on-11 period, and he’s only getting more comfortable in the offensive scheme as he’s entering his second season. “I kinda have an understanding more for ideas and calls, so I can play a little less mental,” Baer said. “Just kinda go out there and my body knows what’s going on. I’m not thinking as much.” The defensive linemen have seen it, too.

“It’s the same thing as me,” Sean FitzSimmons said after Tuesday’s practice. “When you get here early, you really don’t know the playbook all that well. But now we’re both locked in, and he’s doing tremendous.”

FitzSimmons enjoys their battles in the trenches, saying it’s about 50/50 when it comes to their individual meetings one-on-one, and that’s something to note. The pair are the future on the offensive and defensive lines.

And Baer is being mentored by a couple of offensive linemen who have gone up against the likes of Rashad Weaver, Patrick Jones, Calijah Kancey, Haba Baldonado and many, many more.

“Kradel’s been huge with everything,” Baer said. “Just being patient with me because he’s been in my position, he’s been a starter for a very long time, so he’s just really helping me out and staying patient. I might mess up a couple of times, and it’ll make him look bad, but he’s staying patient.”

Kradel is the pivot inside, the leader of the offensive line this season, but he’s an interior lineman. Baer has learned an awful lot from Matt Goncalves on the outside, who also happens to be his roommate, along with Blake Zubovic, Branson Taylor and Tyler Bentley, and Goncalves was someone who immediately took Baer under his wing upon arriving at Pitt.

Baer played just five snaps last season, three against Virginia and two against Miami, but there’s a chance he could find himself lining up on the opposite end of the line of Goncalves, listening to calls from Kradel in the middle. You know, a collision of the present and future of Pitt’s offensive line.

That doesn’t even account for Baer and Taylor’s progression either, which will likely only be strengthened by the pair living together this season. The pair could be the present and future of Pitt’s tackles — working alongside Goncalves this season. Regardless, I wouldn’t expect to wait too long when it comes to seeing Baer line up on the field.

He’s competing with Taylor and Ryan Jacoby on the left side of the offensive line at this point in camp, but I think on Sept. 2 against Wofford, Baer will find himself playing a serious role on the line.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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Pittband
Pittband
10 months ago

First five OL don’t play 100% of the time so there will be opportunities.

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