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Ready for Moore: Pitt Appears to Have Found Next Starting Center

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Pitt offensive lineman Terrence Moore.

It seemed like Terrence Moore might get a chance last season when Owen Drexel went down in Week 2 against Tennessee.

Moore — then just a second-year freshman out of Massillon, Ohio — finished the game at center against the Volunteers, but when Pitt traveled to Western Michigan the next week, it was Jake Kradel who slid into the vacancy at center.

Kradel had started the first two games of the season at right guard, but he got the first crack at filling in for Drexel. And Moore, who had been listed as the backup center, received just 19 snaps as Kradel held onto the role.

Whether it was Drexel in 2021 or Kradel in 2022, Moore waited his turn. And it’s been nothing but a learning experience for the 6-foot-5, 305-pound pivot.

“I wouldn’t say frustrating,” Moore said Tuesday after practice. “I’d say coach Borbs is always gonna put the best five guys out there, we’ve had a lot of good guys at center from Owen Drexel to Jake Kradel, so I’ve just been learning from them to make sure that when my time was to come, I was ready to get in there like last Saturday.”

Moore made his first career start Saturday against No. 15 North Carolina, filling in for Kradel at center, and it was an encouraging debut. He played all 61 offensive snaps. And PFF didn’t credit him with allowing a single pressure, hurry or quarterback hit.

It was a new look on the interior for Pitt. Moore was the new face at center, with Blake Zubovic and Jason Collier Jr. regaining their spots at the two guard spots, and it was the best interior performance of the season — at least, according to Dave Borbely.

“I thought we played better than we had the pervious couple of weeks … Terrence Moore, it was his first start, and as I told Terrence, I was excited to see him play,” Borbely said Tuesday. “I’ve been dying to get him on the field because he’s such a hard worker and such a conscientious kid, and I thought he played extremely well.”

Moore himself wouldn’t say he played extremely well. It was solid. He felt like the offensive line as a whole improved. But there’s always work to be done.

Pitt center Terrence Moore.

Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Christian Veilleux (11) and Pittsburgh Panthers offensive lineman Terrence Moore (58) September 2, 2023 David Hague/PSN

He made all the calls against UNC, making sure to identify the defensive front, whether it was a three or four down front, identifying the Mike linebacker and actually snapping the football. It felt good, he felt good in control of the Pitt offensive line, and it helped to have a couple of veterans to steady his nerves early.

“I think after everybody’s first snap, you’re ready to go,” Moore said. “After that first snap, I felt pretty good, I knew that we could do it. But the thing that helped me not be as nervous was the leadership I have around me with Blake Zubovic on my left and Jason Collier on the right, a sixth year and a fifth year, just having that experience around me kept me really levelheaded.”

Zubovic, who has now made over 30 collegiate starts in his Pitt career, helped calm his nerves. Don’t get too high, he told Moore on the field, and don’t get too low. Zubovic and Kradel have been mentors since Moore first arrived in January of 2021.

And with Kradel forced to miss the matchup against UNC last weekend, he was able to take what he’s learned from watching — and listening to — Kradel and Zubovic and Drexel over the last two years and step into the lineup. And it went well. Moore established himself as Pitt’s center of the future.

“It was exciting, next man up mentality, and it was exciting to get in there with the guys and lead the team and start to get something going with the offense,” Moore said. “We just gotta keep doing it consistently and start winning some games.”

He felt like Pitt showcased what the offense is capable of over the first drives against UNC, scoring touchdowns on both drives, but it comes down to doing it consistently now. And that hasn’t been easy this season.

The offensive line hasn’t always helped the offensive struggles this season, reaching a low point in Week 2 against Cincinnati, but the line play has improved each week since — especially in pass protection, cutting down pressures allowed each week. And Borbely felt like Moore was a big part of that against UNC.

“(Borbely) said he thought I did a good job, but like I said, we just gotta keep improving,” Moore said. “Obviously, making sure the communication is always there, and I feel like every lineman is always working on his footwork, so footwork, awareness and just making sure I’m finishing every play.”

Borbely believes that the closer you play to the football as a young lineman, the harder it is. It comes down to mental and physical maturity on the inside, and he feels like it’s just harder the closer a lineman is to the football. And there’s something to be said about BJ Williams — a true freshman slotting into the lineup against Cincy — struggling as the starting right guard.

As Borbely said, no one grows up with a blocking sled in their backyard. But Moore feels like Borbely does a good job preparing Pitt’s linemen mentally and physically for the task at hand — as early as possible.

“I think we do a good job of making sure that all 12 guys that travel to eery game are ready to go,” Moore said. “So, it doesn’t matter if you’re the first guy on the field or you’re the 12 guy off the bench, everybody’s ready to go.”

It will need to be an all-hands-on-deck approach for the Pitt offensive line going forward with Matt Goncalves and Ryan Jacoby sidelined for the season and Kradel’s health uncertain at this point. But it seems like Moore is ready to hold it down at center this week against Virginia Tech — and well into the future.

Moore feels like he’s been able to build a great rapport with both Phil Jurkovec and Christian Veilleux over the offseason, and there isn’t any concern when it comes to who’s under center going forward.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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Dixon
Dixon
9 months ago

Would love to see Moore earn the starting job at center, allowing Kradel to slide back to the guard position when healthy. Should be an immediate improvement over previous lineups where Borbely was forced to play backups Collier and Williams at guard.

On Campus Stadium Please
On Campus Stadium Please
9 months ago

this is the depth issue pitt has to struggle with. When a starter goes down a low three star with mostly MAC offers replaces him. Some of those kids can be coached up, but most are what they are…should be in the MAC

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