masthead.jpg

April 2, 2011

SPRING PRACTICE REPORT #9

Filed under: Uncategorized — Reed @ 8:31 pm

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was offered a chance to sit in on a few practices and the Spring Game by the PITT SID department, so I took advantage of that today.  It was pretty eye opening, especially compared to what we had seen from the PITT team in the last few years.

The practice started at 9:30 am and we were allowed to watch just about the whole practice (1st half of the session) and the scrimmage (2nd half).  We were asked to move out of the facility at around 11:15 or so.  They did things a little differently as the kickers and punters were out before the actual practice session started, which is normal, and then the rest of the players came out and ran through units drills for about 10 minutes… at half speed, which looked damn fast to me anyway.  Then they went into their stretching exercises and then onto full speed units drills.  I concentrated on watching the offense run through some ‘special plays’, mostly double reverses, and was pretty impressed.  They had some miscues but, with no doubt, Cam Saddler is a rocket when he gets the ball in his hands.

After that they ran kickoff coverage and kickoff returns for about 15 minutes and that was very informative.  One thing I’ll say – if Buddy Jackson wins the return job we may see good things.  He took a kick on the bounce, made one move and out ran the coverage for a 90 yard TD return.  He is extremely quick and very fluid when he’s sprinting.  Harper’s kicks were done well, high and deep.

After some situational drills, short yardage and red zone plays, which the O executed well the team went into a full scrimmage. Basically the offense scored a lot of points and ‘won’ the day again.   I’ll be honest here, when you are on the sideline it’s hard to see the details of the plays if they aren’t run right in front of you so I won’t give a play-by-play on the scrimmage.

Now; my impressions on the day:

After watching all three QBs play I have no doubt that at this point in time, Tino Sunseri is in the lead at QB and should be.  He executes the new offense better than the other two QBs and he can pass and run better as a package than Myers or Gonzalez can.  However, Myers has a better pure arm, that also stands out, and while he can put one foot in front of the other he is by no means a ‘running QB’ or even, IMO, a QB who will be able to rush well on called plays. Gonzalez, although he completed most of his scrimmage passes, doesn’t reach their level of passing as yet IMO and we didn’t get to see him run much today.  He threw one looping sideline pass to Ed Tinker that everyone held their breath on because you just knew he was going to get wracked by the defender.  Both Myers and Gonzalez split 2nd team reps this morning.

Sunseri ran with confidence today and he did very well on a busted play scramble where he picked up 15 yards.  As stated above, Sunseri has a firm grasp of this offense, which was another concern of mine, and it shows when he’s out there with the 1st team.  He was very proactive in getting the rest of the offense back to the ball’s spot and ready to go also.  For me, unless Graham wants to drastically modify the offense for one of the other two QBs, then Sunseri will be the QB running it.

So, one thing I was very concerned about was how the offensive players would adapt to the No-Huddle Offense and from what I saw today I don’t think that will be a problem.  They were consistent in getting the ball snapped at between 15-18 seconds (by my count) from the Ref’s placement and there didn’t seem to be much confusion out on the field (BTW the target is 15 seconds, not five as I said in an earlier post).  There were some mishaps from the sideline in signaling in the plays though – they use a colored metal ‘flip board’ (like a down marker) in addition to hand signals and the guy working the board was lagging a bit on some plays, but if the HC says they are at “60 mph” now then I think they will be fine in September.

I paid close attention to how the coaches coached and how the players responded.  This staff is very active, all the time, and they are constantly teaching the details of what they want to implement.  On the scrimmage KOs Todd Graham ran down the field with the coverage team, every time, and once turned to the coverage team right before the kick and said “I better not beat your asses down the field”.  I watched one player turn his head after he was about 20 yards downfield to make sure he was in front of Graham… it was fun to watch.  But that type of interaction was replicated by every position coach the whole practice.

After the 1st part of the scrimmage, Graham had all of the offense over on the sidelines and was giving it to them and not holding back, pointing out that even though they were scoring TDs there were problems with zone blocking and snaps.  As he turned to walk away he took a step then spun around and asked them “Are you having fun now… scoring points is fun isn’t it, and winning is going to be fun, too” with a smile on his face.  The kids ate it up.

I was impressed with Desmond Brown and Aaron Donald today also.  Both are very quick and made effective plays.  Our 3rd string TE Brendan Carozzoni played a lot today as Hubie Graham and DeCicco were held out.  I couldn’t really see how well he blocked but he made a beautiful catch and run on a short crossing pattern from Sunseri where Carozzoni got to the sideline, turned and just flat outran our DBs.  At first I thought it had to be a WR he was moving so quickly.  I’ll say this now, that was a hell of a play and if this kid doesn’t get some playing time that means our others two guys must be doing very well.

As to the new guys in the kicking game and the punting; Harper was accurate and made all his kicks today.  The punter Yolic can boom them, but I couldn’t tell if he was placing well or not from ground level view. Our 2nd string punter shagged a bad one and the long snapping was fine.  We have speed on the KO coverage team with Brandon Ifill, Kevin Adams, Tristan Roberts, Tags and Kolby Gray to name a few.  They were getting downfield very quickly.

As to the “fundamental changes” that are being asked of the kids.  It looks to me that there is buy-in with them, at least as far as energy on the field and on the sidelines.  There was a lot of woofing, joking around between coaches and the kids, high-fives between players and bitching about what either the offense or defense thought were bad calls by the practice refs.  You can tell these two units take a lot of pride in what they do.  One note:  Sunseri was constantly talking with the OL between series and was very engaged.  My impression is that his year of experience has given him a new level of confidence.  But that’s just my opinion based on what I saw and heard 10 feet away from me.

Odds and Ends:

One thing I noticed was that the staff ran only one deep pass play, at least while I was watching.  During the early passing drills they were running 15-25 yard routes and Both Sunseri and Myers were hitting those passes pretty consistently.  Street and Shanahan don’t miss balls anywhere near them much.

Pat Bostick, JR is with the SID department now and we spent a good amount of time talking on the sideline about the team and the new offense… he’s very confident the offense will perform well this year.  After I asked, he explained the difference in communicating the plays into the offense as it’s a completely different system than before.  One salient point is that the whole team can turn to the sideline and see what play is being called instead of just having the QB receive the play from the sideline, consult the wristband and then relay it to the guys in the huddle as before.  Same on defense also, the middleman of having the MLB callout the defenses has been eliminated.

Here is a good interview that Bostick had with Sunseri after the practice – pretty informative.

The SID mentioned to me that even with all the actual changes on the football side of things Todd Graham is instituting, he also is having the hallways of the second floor offices/training rooms re-done to highlight the history of PITT football, decade by decade.  Attention to detail in all things from Graham I guess.  It is a beautiful facility though and that indoor practice facility doesn’t even feel like you are inside it’s so big.

It was a great chance to see the team and new staff up close and I appreciate it – as you can tell I went in with some real questions and left feeling pretty good about what is happening. I had a chance to attend a couple of practices two years ago and it seemed to me to have a different feel out there today.   I’m looking forward to the Spring Game.

Next practice: Tuesday, April 5th.





Reed, thanks for another informative column; looking forward to the spring game. And now for your reading pleasure derived from a best selling 20th century author:

Snap, snap the ball again,
We like to snap it as much as we can.
When we get their defense nice and tired,
It’s good to see our fans all pumped and fired.
Far away, across Heinz Field,
The ending of 3rd Quarter’s time
Brings the faithful to their feet
To the refrains of ‘Sweet Caroline’

Comment by wbb 04.02.11 @ 8:56 pm

Football’s taking a back seat here lately. I have to have time to think on your example. It’s a good one.

Comment by Reed 04.02.11 @ 9:44 pm

Great stuff Reed. Glad to hear Sunseri is doing well. Seems like some of the excitement over Myers has been outpacing reality. Myers definitely has the arm to be great but if Tino outplays him, he should be our guy. Long way to go- it will be fun to watch

Comment by Dan35 04.02.11 @ 9:57 pm

WOW. Tino?? Let’s hope he recreates a “Bill Stull” year in his second year as a starter. I’m not getting my expectations too high this year. Pitt has fooled me too many times with “big talk” and I’m done getting fooled.

Comment by Professor77 04.03.11 @ 2:01 am

Professor, I hope you don’t think my post wasn’t ‘big talk” for what Sunseri might actually do on the playing field this season. I took pains to let everyone know this was my impression of what was going on with the QBs on yesterday morning – it was an opinioniated snapshot of the 9th spring practice.

I went there wanting to see how well the QBs were handling implementing the new offense and how comfortable they looked in it… not to project how well they would actually play in September, especially when there is still about half of spring practice and all of summer training camp left to go through.

As to Sunseri’s second year… that may well happen. I’ve always believed that Stull’s success was more on his own shoulders than other fan’s beliefs that Cignetti made a big difference in him. I did a Blather article back on 3/23 detailing my thoughts about how QBs progress from Year 1 to Year 2.

link to pittblather.com

And again, a lot of what will happen at the QB spot in 2011 will be determined by how the coaching staff adapts their High Octane offense for whoever is named the starter. That will have to happen in some form and I think we are already seeing it being put into action somewhat.

Dan35, Myers did look good out there though and I don’t think any of us fans were pumping up his running ability previously, just that we were saying he wasn’t a water buffalo back there, which he certainly isn’t. It appeared to me that he will be fine with rollouts and avoiding the rush, etc., It just didn’t look to me like he was the type of QB where you’d incorporate many called carries out of that position. But if Myers was named starter or had to play due to injury I’d be fine with it. At the very least I think he would stretch the field passing better than Sunseri would.

But my impression of where the QBs stand as of April 2nd was formed with a preconceived notion (which may be off base I suppose) that Graham will want to go with a QB who has the best mixture of throwing and running ability. Based on that it looked to me like Sunseri was in the lead for QB1.

Comment by Reed 04.03.11 @ 5:10 am

Would any of us wanted Marino to run the ball?

I don’t think so.

Comment by steve 04.03.11 @ 7:16 am

Nice job Reed! Quality!

Comment by Pitt fan in Atlanta 04.03.11 @ 7:24 am

Steve, that’s true – but then again Graham may feel differently given that he has an offense, where QB mobility may preclude a drop-back only QB, he wants to install.

Wannstedt would have loved Marino though.

Comment by Reed 04.03.11 @ 8:00 am

I believe Tulsa’s leading rusher last year was their QB, however, they also throw the ball a higher percentage than most others.

It should be known that the spread is named as such since it utilizes the entire width of the field (sideline to sideline) but not so much vertically. (But of course, according to Graham’s hiring press conference, his offense is not the spread … it is the no-huddle.)

Comment by wbb 04.03.11 @ 8:14 am

wbb – after careful consideration with my wife, who is a lot smarter than I am, here goes…

T.S. Eliot. Where do I collect my prize?

Comment by Reed 04.03.11 @ 9:38 am

Wbb – re: spread. I wish Graham would talk a little bit about his envisioned offense, more along the lines of what you have mentioned above. Such as – exactly what is he looking for in a QB. Rushing ability, throwing sideline to sideline, vertically, all of the above?

He’s discussed the no-huddle aspect of it, being strong on the Inside Zone rushing plays and where the TEs fit in… but that’s about it.

Comment by Reed 04.03.11 @ 9:41 am

I recommend that everyone interested in Pitt athletics watch the HBO Inside Sports piece on collegiate athletics. If the portrayals are accurate, (and none of the members of the panel refuted them) and those are the things that it takes to compete for National titles in FB and MBB, we should all hope that Pitt will be happy with less.

Based upon what I have read, Jamie Dixon refuses to recruit players who come to him with the baggage of street agents, etc. If that is true (and I have no first hand knowledge), we should pat him on the back for his work and not criticize him for failing to make the Final 4.

The system is broken and needs to be changed. The silence of the NCAA was amazing – they would not even defend their own system. They know it is broken too.

Comment by Roger Heller 04.03.11 @ 10:13 am

Predictions: To what school will Myers transfer? I say he will go to a Mid-American Conference school since he is from Ohio.

Comment by BigGuy 04.03.11 @ 11:58 am

Reed, I must apologize for throwing you a curveball when referring to a best selling 20th century author, but the fact is that Pink Floyd visionary and lyricist, Roger Waters, conceived and wrote the lyrics for two of the biggest sellig albums of the century, “Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall.”

In fact, the passage I wrote above was a direct ripoff of “Breathe”, a coda from “Dark Side ..” which happens to be the alltime record-breaker for being on the Top 200 Billboard Album charts for an unbelievable 751 weeks … almost 15 years!! It was released i 1972 while I was an undergraduate.

Comment by wbb 04.03.11 @ 12:03 pm

correction .. it was released in ’73

Comment by wbb 04.03.11 @ 12:04 pm

I can’t help but to get excited when I watch Coach Graham’s post practice interviews. The one thing that jumps out at me across the board with these coaches is that it genuinly appears that everybody is having fun! That has to rub off on the players if the coaches are into it and everybody is having a good time while practicing. Football is a “game” in the first place and we all started playing sandlot football with the rest of the neigborhood guys back in the day in initially BECAUSE it was fun. No reason to lose that aspect of the game just because the format is organized college atheletics and the stakes are much higher at this level. I think that we got ourselves a coaching staff that is going to produce a brand of Pitt Football that will also be fun to watch as well, lets hope so. Hail to Pitt!!

Comment by Dr. Tom 04.03.11 @ 12:06 pm

BigGuy howaya? Coach Keeler is salivating and now at the airport with an offer as we speak.

Comment by steve 04.03.11 @ 12:20 pm

Hi Steve. Delaware would be a good choice for Myers. The Mid-American schools would be closer to Myers home. That’s why I think that he will choose one of those schools. I think that he definitely will play in the NFL. I think that he would be making a personal mistake if he indeed decides to stay at Pitt.

Comment by BigGuy 04.03.11 @ 12:59 pm

Can a blog be nominated for a Pulitzer?

Comment by OhHowIHateOhioState 04.03.11 @ 2:12 pm

Wbb – my wife thinks you shouldn’t be allowed to play any longer. We spent a good 15 minutes this morning thinking about which poet that could be.

That’s like doing this:

Driving that train, high on cocaine,
Todd Graham is ready, watch your speed.
Trouble ahead, trouble behind,
And you know that offense just crossed my mind

Grateful Dead; Casey Jones; © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., EMI Music Publishing

Comment by Reed 04.03.11 @ 2:49 pm

Reed, again I apologize to you and to your Mrs. While I can never replace the 15 minutes of your life that I stole, I can offer the following, also from “Dark Side ..” called ‘Time’ which coincidentally leads into the “Breathe’ coda:

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way
Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then the one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun
And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking
And racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in the relative way, but you’re older

And shorter of breath and one day closer to death
Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desparation is the English way
The time is gone the song is over, thought I’d something more to say

(Breathe)
Home, home again
I like to be here when I can
When I come home cold and tired
It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire
Far away, across the field, tolling on the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
And hear the softly spoken magic spell

Comment by wbb 04.03.11 @ 3:05 pm

Reed,

Based on what you saw during your visit, do you think reason we have two defensive and two offensive coordinators is to implement the new system quicker? With twice as many coaches there can be a lot more one on one training. Also who will be the coach that calls the plays on offense and on defense?

Comment by John in South Carolina 04.03.11 @ 3:08 pm

Wbb, let’s be brutally honest here. One needs to have smoked a decent part of a Nepalese Temple Ball before attempting to wade into that.

Although this stanza applies to my writing this blog:

And shorter of breath and one day closer to death
Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desparation is the English way
The time is gone the song is over, thought I’d something more to say

Comment by Reed 04.03.11 @ 3:20 pm

Back to football.

John – I think you are right about the co-coordinators, although I can’t tell you why they do it other than it’s a lot of changes to digest. Maybe they break down the units somehow also.

Yesterday Mike Novell was calling the offensive plays. Nice guy too, came up at the beginning of and introduced himself to me even though he didn’t know me from Jack. I’ve no idea who was calling the defense as they were on the other side of the field.

Comment by Reed 04.03.11 @ 3:25 pm

Reed, FWIW. the following meant much more to me in the mid 80s than when it came out much earlier
since it turne out to be true.

You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then the one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

also, since you brought up the G Dead, did you know Bob Weir and Phil Lesh just played at the Peterson Events Center on Tuesday night?

Anyway, as you said, back to football …
Since Mark Myers already redshirted, it would behoove him to transfer to Delaware or even Villanova so he wouldn’t have to sit another year like he would if he went to the MAC

Comment by wbb 04.03.11 @ 3:36 pm

Yeah – the Further Concert where the kid went out the window. That’s why it’s always better to hear the Dead on level ground.

I think it’s too early to advise transfers yet. There is still a lot that can happen between now and September.

However, there very may be some transfers as we discussed two weeks ago, it will be interesting to see how the months between April and August shake out.

Comment by Reed 04.03.11 @ 3:42 pm

The only reason I brought up the transfer is that it was discussed in previous posts above .. including a guess that he may transfer to a MAC school.

I cetainly have no information that he (Myers) will transfer or hope he does

Comment by wbb 04.03.11 @ 4:05 pm

If Myers transfers delaware would be a good place but if he wants to sit out a year it might be penn state they need a QB.

Comment by FRANKCAN 04.03.11 @ 4:10 pm

BTW – I’m back at work for my final week this week… they can’t live without me apparently… so articles might be every other day or so. After that I’m free until July 1st so will be back at it.

Comment by Reed 04.03.11 @ 4:57 pm

Reed you are a good read enjoyed your posts i wont put Sunseri down any more i will take your word that he is our best bet to win at least untill i see hin in a real game ijust hope he throws the ball better this year. from here on no bad thoughts abought him till after the first game.

Comment by FRANKCAN 04.03.11 @ 5:15 pm

Frank, not to nitpick but I didn’t actually say that. I said “at this point in time”.

Although it wouldn’t kill me to say that either.

Part of me is pulling for Myers and I really want to see him get some time with the first string before the season starts. But I also think Sunseri did OK last season, had faults like all do, and if he is the clear choice so be it.

One thing I noticed in the practice was that he seemed to hit his receivers in stride a bit better… but again that is in practice. I felt that was a weak point for him last year and we left a lot of ‘yards after the catch’ on the field because of it.

Comment by Reed 04.03.11 @ 5:30 pm

This certainly won’t be the first time I post this but … While I kind of hope that Myers would win the QB job because he has better upside, I am confident that whoever wins the job has earned it and provides the team the best chance for success

Comment by wbb 04.03.11 @ 5:35 pm

Dayton hires Archie Miller as head BBall coach.

Comment by alcofan 04.03.11 @ 5:51 pm

Reed, did Tino throw deep balls during practice? If so, how well?

Thanks

Comment by steve 04.04.11 @ 6:44 am

Reed-
1- How is the center position looking?
2- Who looks good at Tight End?
3- whats going on Jult 1? Congrats on the new job!

Comment by EllicottCitySean 04.04.11 @ 7:19 am

I’ll write a followup article today and address those questions.

Comment by Reed 04.04.11 @ 9:03 am

Thanks for the post, Reed. The hard work is much appreciated.

Comment by JAM 05 Pitt 04.04.11 @ 9:18 am

I always call Tino Sunseri “Tinko Sunseri” I hope we can find someone better than him!!!!

Comment by RandyRandyTime 04.04.11 @ 10:56 am

Thanks for addressing my questions about attitude and player/coach engagement, Reed. Sounds like good things ARE happening there. Love the part about Graham and the kickoff teams. Classic coach showing it instead of just saying it.

Comment by TampaT 04.04.11 @ 11:40 am

Maybe Graham will bring back the SCRIPT PITT. Dare I dream?

Hail to Pitt.

Comment by Pitt it IS 04.04.11 @ 2:46 pm

Powered by WordPress © PittBlather.com