Pitt's Chris Jacobson snapping into shape
April, 12, 2011
By Brian Bennett | ESPN.com
PITTSBURGH -- Chris Jacobson knows he is way behind.
The Pitt senior was moved from guard to center less than two weeks ago and is trying to figure out the position as he plays it for the first time in his life. That's why he takes a ball home each night and simulates snapping it against his leg.
"Coach [Todd] Graham told me I have to get a year's worth of snaps in before August, and he's right," Jacobson said. "I want to be the best at it, and I know what I have to do. I'm all in on this move."
Jacobson started all last season at left guard and was a reliable player there. But the Panthers haven't had much depth at center and were forced to start former walk-on Alex Karabin there last season. They tried a couple of different guys there this spring, like Brandon Sacco and Greg Gaskins, before deciding to move Jacobson over one spot.
"We think he's got a chance to be special there," Graham said.
First, he has to get comfortable. Jacobson said he had performed a few exchanges when the quarterback was under center over the years. But he had never practiced snapping in the shotgun, which is what Pitt will use about 85 percent of the time in Graham's new offense. In a fast-paced offense, the snap has to be delivered with precision so the quarterback can simply grab the ball and make the play. If he's grabbing or reaching for the ball, it can throw the entire rhythm off.
Jacobson is still getting used to that. In a practice last week, he made a couple of errant snaps to Tino Sunseri. Those are going to happen now. They can't happen in the fall.
"When I do have bad snaps in practice, I have to forget about them," he said. "It has to become like second nature."
AP Photo/Keith SrakocicPittsburgh offensive linesman Chris Jacobson, a guard last season, will play center in the fall.
Sunseri said that after Jacobson's first couple of days at center, he stayed after practice to work on about 300 extra snaps.
"He's a guy who doesn't like not doing it right the first time," Sunseri said. "He'll make sure he gets it down."
Offensive coordinator Calvin Magee has seen players in the past get spooked by some bad snaps early on in their career, coming down with the football version of Steve Blass Disease. But he doesn't think Jacobson is a candidate for such treatment.
"If anybody has the work ethic it takes to do this, he has it," Magee said. "So I'm not real concerned with that."
Learning how to snap the ball isn't all that's facing Jacobson. He's also in command of an offensive line that will be sprinting to line up after each play. He won't have much time to gain his bearings.
"People don't realize how hard it is," he says. "Because with this fast offense, you have to come up to the line, identify the defense, point out the linebackers, make the call for the whole offensive line and see and hear what's going on. And then if there's a guy like Myles Caragein or Aaron Donald lined up right off the ball, sometimes you're like 'Oh, man.' You have to get all of that down in 15 seconds, and sometimes your head is spinning."
Jacobson continues to work to have it all make sense. Come August, he hopes no one notices that there's a new guy snapping the ball.