Where the position stands now:
In my opinion this is the most fascinating unit in the Pitt program because it's been bad for so long, yet no unit has the potential for a complete turnaround like this one does in the near future.
For next year, it's safe to ink in 6'6" 340 pound guard Matt Rotheram into the starting lineup. He's a probable all-star. At one of the tackles, another big returning senior, 6'6" 305 pound T.J. Clemmings, will start. He moved from defensive end prior to last season and started at right tackle. He performed well and with another year he should improve even more. I also wouldn't be surprised that if he did improve a lot that he could move to the left side.
After that, things get more competitive. If he returns from chronic back injuries, 6'6" 300 pound redshirt sophomore Adam Bisnowaty could start somewhere on the line. He was up and down (mostly down) as a redshirt freshman starter, but has good potential once he gets more experience. But he may be a step slow at right tackle, so he could be better off switching from the left side to the right, or even inside to guard. His situation will be interesting.
If those three start, stay healthy, and improve, then the line may actually be average or better than average for the first time in years. Especially if 6'6" 290 pound (estimated for next season) sophomore Dorian Johnson rebounds from a less than stellar true freshman season. In Johnson's defense he should have redshirted last season instead of being forced into action, so hopefully it hasn't done irreparable damage to his confidence. He has the great feet to eventually move to left tackle, but he will probably end up at guard. If he can start at that position, and excel, next season, then the line will get better in a hurry. After Johnson there is 6'5" 330 pound redshirt senior Shane Johnson, who has seen limited reserve snaps in his career, and may not be back to the team.
Redshirt freshmen about to join in the mix at guard are 6'5" 300 pound Carson Baker and 6'5" 310 pound Aaron Reese, and at tackle with 6'7" 320 pound Jaryd Jones-Smith. At least one of Baker or Reese will have to provide some reserve snaps and it looks like Jones-Smith may be the top reserve at tackle so he better be ready. He does have a great frame and moves well.
As for center, there were no quality centers in the program prior to the start of last season, but suddenly there will be three next year and four the year after that. However, it still looks to be a possible weak link next season. Returning starter, Artie Rowell, a 6'2" 305 pound redshirt junior, was below average last season and could easily lose his job if any of the players behind him improve. Gabe Roberts, a 6'5" 305 pound redshirt sophomore, was pencilled as the starter last season but he couldn't handle the snap. Probably not the best weakness to have as a center. If he improves, but still can't handle center, he could also factor into the mix at guard. Then there's redshirt freshman Alex Officer, who at 6'4" and 300 pounds has brute strength and a lot of promise.
As for the incoming freshmen, 6'6" 300 pound tackle Alex Bookser and 6'5" 280 pound Conner Hayes will likely redshirt. But both have a lot of potential. Bookser is very athletic and could be an ideal left tackle down the line. Hayes is a tough and tenacious mauler.
The wildcard freshman is 6'6" 330 pound Michael Grimm. Normally I wouldn't think twice about redshirting an offensive lineman, but that's mostly because freshman aren't strong enough. That's not the case with Grimm who is already stronger than most linemen in the country. I would not be shocked if he lettered next season.
Even though the WPIAL has been a little down for awhile, Paul Chryst can be thankful that the region has been putting out some excellent offensive line talent recently. Chryst tapped into that well for the third straight year by getting an early commitment from 6'4" 290 pound Alex Paulina of Canon McMillan HS. He won't get a huge amount of offers because centers usually don't, but I wouldn't be surprised if Paulina is an all-star center more than once for the Panthers.
Two big local tackles are also being targeted by the Panthers, and both have offers. The big name is 6'8" 300 pound Sterling Jenkins of Baldwin HS. He has great size and quickness, and he's mostly just potential right now, but he's one of the most coveted lineman in the country. Pitt will battle against Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan for his services. I think eventually he will choose someone other than the Panthers.
The other is somebody that I like a lot, and that's 6'7" 290 pound Tony Pilato of Hempfield HS. Pitt is his only offer thus far, but that should change. A talented basketball player, he has the feet to eventually play left tackle. He's a very good developmental prospect that has a lot to work with.
As for the elite line prospects that the Panthers have already offered, I don't see any of them signing with the Panthers. Those prospects are 6'5" 300 pound Richie Petitbone of Gonzaga College HS (Washington, DC), 6'5 285 pound Ryan Bates of Archbishop Wood Catholic HS (Warminster, PA), 6'7" 330 pound Sam Madden of Barnegat (NJ) HS, 6'7" 290 pound Grant Newsome of Lawrence (NJ) Prep, and 6'5" 280 pound Rob Dowdy of Westerville (OH) South HS. A step below that group is 6'4" 300 pound Kwan Stallworth of Martin Luther King HS (Lithonia, GA). I don't see him venturing north since he has some SEC offers. Another is 6'5" 280 pound Drayton Carlberg of De Le Salle HS (Minneapolis, MN), but the hometown Golden Gophers recently offered and they may be hard to beat.
One local prospect that the Panthers haven't offered yet is 6'4" 270 pound Tyler Hudanick of Seneca Valley HS. He may be a little undersized now for the Panthers, but I really hope he gets bigger because he could be very good. He flat out pancakes people, and moves very well.
If the Panthers simply landed the local center, guard, tackle trio of Paulina, Hudanick, and Pilato, then Pitt fans should be ecstatic. No, it won't cause the national websites to give them high grades, but I really like all three. It's especially nice that now with more depth, they have time to develop.
Other in-state possibilities that haven't been offered yet include 6'5" 275 pound Gabe Spurlock of Mars HS, 6'5" 275 pound Hayden Mahoney of Malvern Prep HS, and 6'5" 280 pound Ryan Bischoff of Plymouth-Whitemarsh HS.
There will be many other linemen to add to this list after the staff holds their camp. Plus, many kids grow into prospects from one year to the next, so it's always a fluid situation.
If I were forced to bet on what the starting lineup next season would be, I would go with Bisnowaty and Clemmings at tackle, and Rotheram and Dorian Johnson at guard. That's unless there's injuries, of course. Center should be a three player battle between Rowell, Roberts, and Officer. If, as expected, Shane Johnson doesn't come back, the rest of those who should letter will be redshirt freshmen, especially Jones-Smith at tackle, and either Reese or Baker at guard. And of course there's that wildcard, Grimm.
On paper, unless players like Dorian Johnson and Adam Bisnowaty become very good suddenly, it looks like the line may still not be much better than average. But average is better than it has been, and the future looks even better. Players like Dorian Johnson, Bookser, Grimm, Jones-Smith, Bisnowaty, and Paulina all at least have a lot of natural skills. And the rest of the underclassmen are maulers who are good fits. The future is bright, even if the present is merely less dark.