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August 19, 2009

Not much to go on right now. The stats on offense (PDF) such as they are say that Tino Sunseri was the better passer. Going 6-7 for 60 yards and a TD. Bostick was adequate at 9-14 but with an interception. Sunseri, though, took two sacks for -15 yards while Stull was unscathed.

To the shock of no one, Coach Wannstedt sees no controversy.

On the quarterbacks:

“Bill Stull went with the first group. Then Pat Bostick was next. Then we gave Tino Sunseri a shot with the first team, and he responded. We brought Bill Stull back, and then Pat Bostick with the third group. We’re really at this point in camp trying to work all three of them. I thought that all three did fairly well. I don’t think that any of them jumped off the charts in a great way, or in a bad way. We had some checks at the line, they all handled that well. We signaled things in, they all handled that well. I think that those little things that go without notice sometimes, they all handled that well.”

On the starting quarterback position:

“Bill Stull is the starting quarterback. Obviously we’re in training camp and every day we go on the field to prove ourselves and we have to continue to improve. I don’t think it’s as much as we’ve got to prove something, as much as it is to improve. The decision making, and the throws, that’s what training camp is for.”

I take that back, someone was surprised.

The declaration was surprising, considering that Stull has struggled during camp and appeared to be losing ground in recent days to Sunseri, who has begun to get first-team reps in every practice. Bostick, however, again worked only with the second team, which seems to indicate that he is headed for a role as backup or, perhaps, even a redshirt.

During yesterday’s scrimmage, Stull’s first pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by defensive back Jared Holley. Stull completed 9 of 14 passes for 57 yards, but all the completions were short, safe passes, and he led one touchdown drive.

Sunseri was 6 for 7 for 60 yards and threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to reserve tight end Jon Tisak. Sunseri appeared to throw a second touchdown pass, a fade to receiver Jonathan Baldwin, but Baldwin dropped it in the corner of the end zone.

Really? Surprised? After everything Wannstedt has said and his history? You can’t be surprised. Even if it isn’t believed, Wannstedt saying it should not be surprising.

What is interesting is that despite Wannstedt’s protestations, everyone else seems to see this as a QB competition.

If Stull is the unquestioned starter, it isn’t being discussed in position meetings with Frank Cignetti Jr., Pitt’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. The Panthers are treating each practice as if it’s an audition, and Stull’s first pass was intercepted by cornerback Jarred Holley.

“I feel if I don’t play well that I’m not going to play,” said Stull, who also led an eight-play scoring drive. “Obviously, it is a competition. I know how camp is around here. I definitely think it’s a competition. I’m always going to compete and do my best, and I know the guys behind me are going to do the same.”

Stull is being pushed by Sunseri, who’s splitting first-team reps with Stull and appears to have moved ahead of junior Pat Bostick (5-of-10 passing for 18 yards). Sunseri has impressed with his arm strength and mobility, but he admits he’s still learning the nuances of the offense and huddle command.

Nonetheless, he led two scoring drives, settling for a field goal on the first after Jonathan Baldwin dropped a corner fade in the end zone and rolling right to throw a 22-yard touchdown to walk-on tight end Jon Tisak on the second.

“With the way coach Cignetti has done it, it’s open competition,” said Sunseri, son of former Pitt All-America linebacker and assistant coach Sal Sunseri. “In that same aspect, we’re trying to help each other every day. … Whatever we can do to help the team is what we’re going to do, and whoever can do it the best is going to play.”

As for Ray Graham, while it appears he impressed Kevin Gorman with his performance, any Wannstedt watchers know that Graham probably hurt his chances by fumbling the ball on his first two touches (recovering one of them).

I’m guessing Dion Lewis is still the leader for the top of the depth chart at tailback at this point. Graham will be a factor in time, but he has been fumbling too much in practice and now the scrimmage for Coach Wannstedt to trust him right now.

On Ray Graham fumbling and recovering:

“Ray Graham has talent. With those early turnovers, you easily go down 14-0. It was a fumble last year in the Bowling Green game early that turned the game around. So, that’s all part of it. It’s just not a matter of how hard someone is throwing the ball, or how many moves a player has or athletic ability, but are they able to play the whole game and do the little things that are necessary. That’s what we’re working through with the younger guys. There’s no question that Ray Graham has talent, he’s going to be a heck of a player. There’s no question that Tino Sunseri’s got talent, he’s going to be a heck of a player, but it’s just a matter of when and how fast these guys come along.”

Back to QBing, and Gene Collier apparently attended the scrimmage. He sees Sunseri as the best option, and not just because of the unwashed masses.

Bostick went next and launched one of the very few deep balls attempted, overthrowing sophomore wideout Aaron Smith quite comfortably. Sunseri followed, but it wasn’t possible to determine if he was drawing any momentum from Panther-centric portions of the blogosphere and the related message boards, where it is widely advanced that in the current history of Pitt football, it is “Tino Time.”

Let the record show that I have not, nor do I intend to use that phrase. Otherwise, good to know another reader.

The redshirt freshman out of Central Catholic might not be any better than the others at checking down at the line or in any of his required recognitions, but again yesterday the best balls thrown came out of his right hand. Sunseri was anything but error-free, but his 16-yard slant to Oderick Turner was maybe the crispest completion of the scrimmage, and his fade pass to Jonathan Baldwin was just the prettiest thing, even if it was disallowed by a boundary call. When Sunseri rolled right later in practice and found freshman tight end John Tisak behind Todd Gilchrist, nothing Bostick or Stull could arrange between then and the end of hostilities could alter the impression that Sunseri looks like Wannstedt’s best pitcher.

There is no escaping the undercurrent that to most observers Sunseri looks best and Stull is just not looking like he has earned the starting gig.

On the defensive side, the stats here (PDF) show the safeties led in tackling. Looks like most of the defense got work and collected tackles. No shock since the defense has been and continues to be dominate.

On the kicking matters:

Both Pitt kickers converted field goals yesterday — Dan Hutchins a 30-yarder, and Kevin Harper a 36-yarder, as well as an extra point. Hutchins also punted twice for an average of 39 yards, and walk-on Matt Yoklic punted once for 51 yards.

I’m going to guess that as long as Harper shows accuracy he will be the kicker and Hutchins will land the punting duties. I just don’t see the coaches going with Hutchins to handle both. Kickoff duties is anyone’s guess.

Looking over the list of players who did not play, I’m mildly concerned that Nate Byham has missed several practices with a “headache” after taking a hit. Aren’t they called concussions these days?

Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said redshirt junior defensive tackle Ty Tkach had surgery on his left foot this week and is expected to miss about three weeks. Fourteen other Panthers didn’t participate in the scrimmage: safeties Irv Brown (calf) and Elijah Fields (foot), tight ends Nate Byham (headache), Andrew Devlin (knee) and Dorin Dickerson (hamstring), linebacker Carl Fleming (headache), quarterback Kolby Gray (shoulder), tailback Shariff Harris (hamstring), cornerback Buddy Jackson (jaw), center Wayne Jones (knee), wide receivers Cedric McGee (hamstring) and Mike Shanahan (hand), right tackle Lucas Nix (infection) and safety Marco Pecora (ankle).

The running back battle also may have thinned out for a while as Jason Douglas was hurt in practice. Status unknown.

Mike Shanahan has to be very frustrated to have missed the scrimmage. He was looking great.

Q: You mentioned that Jonathan Baldwin and Aundre Wright are having great camps at wide receiver. How are the rest of the wide receivers doing? How do the third and fourth receiver spots look?

ZEISE: I think the receivers as a whole have played extremely well this camp. I really do. I think Mike Shanahan, before he got hurt, was making a push to really get into that top four group. He was having a great camp and he might have the best hands at camp as I don’t recall one ball he dropped. But right now the top three are Baldwin, Cedric McGee and Oderick Turner. Aundre Wright has probably the edge over the other players because he’s been the most consistent and he has some experience. There have been flashes from players like Greg Cross, Cameron Saddler and Ed Tinker but I don’t think any has made enough of a push to get into the top four yet.

TE Mike Cruz did return to practice after missing a few days for the nebulous “personal reasons.”

Comment by Jimbo Covert's my Dad 08.19.09 @ 1:17 am

PLEASE, let us figure the qb situation out before YSU. I sincerely admire Stull for his dedication, but even the speculation of there being a competition is bad news all around. It’s bad energy for the upcoming season and it makes Pitt look like a third tier program. Stull not having a strong camp makes Pitt’s program look incredibly weak.

Comment by Cool Hand Nuke 08.19.09 @ 3:57 am

Does DW like to give people reasons to despise him? Stull is obviously playing terribly, why reward hiw with an early pat on the back and “atta boy”??? Unbelievable. I am hoping this is just a public comment to quiet everyone in the media about a qb controversy and the reality is that Sunseri will get some playing time against ysu and as soon as Stull strugles he will get the hook.

Comment by Rich 08.19.09 @ 6:52 am

I’d like to say I’m surprised, but I’m not. Typical Wanny. What happened to playing the best guy at the position? I swear to God, I just had a flash of being down 10 in Buffalo at half…and he still brings Stull out for the 2nd half.

Comment by Pauly P 08.19.09 @ 6:56 am

I have been one of Stull’s biggest apologists on this site over the past month because of:

1) the further we ago away from last season, the more negative there was of Stull — (A) Stull never any good (Wrong), and (B) he was the SOLE blame for the Sun Bowl debacle (Wrong again.)
2) I have a big issue with a college player who is tring his best to beat totally torn apart (these guys are full time athletes like NFL) … especially by ‘anonymous’ bloggers like we are.

However, Wanny is fair game .. and even I am having problem with the fact that if Stull is struggling as everyone is saying, and Tino is doing so much better, that he would not roll the dice …. especially because Tino has so much upside, being more mobile and possessing a stronger arm than the other two QBs.

If indeed he stays with the senior, and the team loses a few close games due to poor offense, Wanny will fall into the same category as his predecessor …. not being able to take the team to the next level. It would be a real shame if it’s due to his own stubborness.

There is still 2 1/2 weeks before the openener so perhaps things will change — Stull will get better, or Wanny may change his mind so I’m not totally frustrated yet … just very concerned at this point.

Comment by w Bill 08.19.09 @ 7:17 am

correction to (2 in above post

I take issue with a college player (who AREN’t fulltime players like NFL) being toally torn apart to shreds in print by ‘anonymous’ bloggers as oursleves.

Comment by w Bill 08.19.09 @ 7:21 am

There is something terribly wrong with coach. Did the heat get to him?

I’m serious: Pederson and Nordy have to intercede.

Comment by steve 08.19.09 @ 7:34 am

Wanny is nuts!!! Does he even speak to Frank? This should be an open competition. How can he name Stull the starter? By all accounts, he’s not been performing well in practices. Wanny can’t say he’s the starter because he was great last year , so what gives. This ultimately hurts recruiting if you know that it doesn’t matter how much better you perform in practice; Wanny will still hand the job to upperclassmen. The best players need to be on the field. Forget about hurting kids feelings!!!!! If they have a team first attitude, they will understand.

Comment by Pittastic 08.19.09 @ 7:50 am

Well at least for the next few weeks we will have something to discuss on a daily basis, this team has a defense and some pretty good skill players but this team needs a QB and Stull will not be the answer.

The coach will be judged on W’s and L’s, and this year could be a potential disaster if we do not have good QB play.

I am very disappointed in the way Wanny is handling this entire situation, the QB situation should be open because Stull has not elevated his game at all and has looked horrible in practice.

Comment by Is Stuart MIA? 08.19.09 @ 8:34 am

Why does Wannstedt hate Pitt football?
What the fuk is going on with Wanny and his QB choice? When it comes to QBs, there is a long history of Wannstedt screwing everything up by his bonehead choices. Keep in mind the piss-poor play in the Sun Bowl is primarily the reason there are no ranked Big East teams in the preseason poll. Stull is not the guy – Wannstedt and Stull are apparently doomed to lose together.

Comment by TonyinHouston 08.19.09 @ 9:02 am

stull will be out of his job by game 3…i see tino getting reps during youngstown and buffalo.

Comment by Snala the Panther 08.19.09 @ 9:08 am

Comment by wilk 08.19.09 @ 9:11 am

Agree with Snala…if Stull and Pitt start badly on O, the pressure will be volcanic to put Sunseri in there. My concern is Pitt will so outclass their comp in the first few games that they still win even with poor performances by Stull, keeping him around longer into the season. I hope the kid plays well, but he looked like a guy who lost it in the Sun Bowl…just turrible. Hopefully Cignetti has more sway than it appears so far.

Comment by Matt 08.19.09 @ 9:57 am

It should be the other way around- based upon how well sunseri has played, and his prior lack of experience, he should be given the lions share of snaps in camp and should start against the cupcakes.

Stull is gonna be Stull no matter how much work he gets these next couple weeks. If Tino doesn’t continue to impress, then go back to Stull and meander through a mediocre season

Comment by Dan35 08.19.09 @ 10:10 am

I agree, put him in NOW. By the second half of NC State, we will have our man!

Comment by Pauly P 08.19.09 @ 12:18 pm

Venomous. That is the word which comes to my mind when I reflect upon the comments of certain “Bloggers” when I read their less than articulate observations of the three players trying to be the #1 signal caller. If Pitt’s head coach has declared that the incumbent is first team as of this day, that’s fine with me. That particular Q.B. ,may or may not be starting on 9/5 or 11/14. But, the abuse being perpetrated on paper against both Stull and Wannstedt is uncalled for. Frankly, I am not surprised, but very disappointed in the alleged Panther fans. Should we not be encouaging rather than ridiculing our gridiron warriors. At least, fellow Panthers let’s ease up on that venom. George in Columbus where writers and fans praise their athletes.

Comment by rev. george mehaffey 08.19.09 @ 12:29 pm

George, please. Take off the glasses. This is pure frustration. If Stul is the man, so be it. My bet is that he wont even make it out of camp as the starter. Bill, enjoy it while it lasts. One can only hope that perhaps Wanny is trying to take some pressure off of Stull to see if he responds and cuts down on mistakes – let’s hope that this happens if it is in fact the case. IF HE CONTINUES making mistakes, I would hope Wanny would go to the best option that will provide Panther wins.

Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Pitt_it_is 08.19.09 @ 9:37 pm

To “Pitt”, Your point is well taken. My point was apparently not articulated. I have no problem with spectators having opinions or favorites. I do,however, lament the lack of civility or even charity in expressing one’s biases. At midpoint in this training camp let the participants exhibit their talents and may the BETTER MAN START. But, in the name of sportsmanship, let may we critics be respectful of those who ARE IN THE FRAY. Columbus George

Comment by rev. george mehaffey 08.20.09 @ 11:47 am

Are you freaking kidding me, George??? Columbus? Respectful fans and media? Get a grip, man. That’s the biggest bunch of dillusional cry babies I have ever seen when it comes to all that is THE Ohio State University.

Our comments are meant to be rants from fans… if you want rose-colored sunshine blown up your butt, go somewhere else.

Comment by Pauly P 08.20.09 @ 12:22 pm

[…] Wannstedt confirms what I already thought, that he has Dion Lewis as the leading candidate to be the starting tailback to date. “As far […]

Dilusional??? A good choice of words, Pauly, especially when used in reference to Buckeye nation. May I also add “fanatical”. The reason Ohio State fans are so extreme in their demeanor is that they have no NFL franchise upon which to lavish their money. P.S. aside to Pauly—Is it true you were an English Composition major at WVU? George from Columbus, but who’s heart is with the Panthers.

Comment by rev. george mehaffey 08.21.09 @ 5:14 pm

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