It’s mid-week between our win over the might Maine Black Bears and our upcoming scrum against the corn fed Iowa boys. Last game has generated more discussions than any since the Cincy loss in 2009 I think. First and foremost the debates and bitches have been on the QB play so far, setting aside the defense which I can’t bear to talk about.
Todd Graham took some time to go into (surprising) detail on the subject of where we stand at QB right now, how the starting QB has performed and what is expected from the QB in his offense:
“We are a timing passing team — 1-2 and out on our quick passing game; 1-2-3 and out on our drop-back passing game,” Graham said. “The play has no chance because we are not reading what we are supposed to be reading, and we are not getting the ball off on time. “There are about 10 or 12 plays a game like that. Then, the play breaks down, and it becomes a mess. Fans get frustrated. We get frustrated.”
Basically you need to be able to count to three and throw the ball. Here’s one example of this problem: “Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri threw two interceptions against Maine, but Graham said an even bigger issue is Sunseri “freelancing” on some plays rather than trusting the offense and executing it. He said one of Sunseri’s interceptions Saturday was a ball thrown to a receiver “who wasn’t even in our progression.” That had to be the sideline INT where Sunseri forgot which color uniform we were wearing.
Now I’m projecting a bit, but add to that the 11 plays that Graham said failed in the same way in the Buffalo game and that’s 22 plays over two games. 22 out of 65 attempts folks… a 34% failure rate because the QB didn’t execute the play as designed properly. Given he has 37 incompletions in total, let’s assume that means that he missed on 15 properly executed passing plays in two games; that isn’t shabby at all.
Boy, imagine how well he’d be doing if he was actually running the plays as taught and practiced, even knowing not every pass would be complete it might be a whole different story for Sunseri and the offense. This has got to be giving Graham and Dodge heart palpitations. If Sunseri can turn that around and he quite possibly could, then things will look a lot brighter going ahead.
On the flip side of this issue imagine what we could have if we played Anderson who has three years, albeit HS ball, experience in this offense. I dare say that he’d at least run the play as conceived and that 34% failure rate would drop dramatically. This is why Graham calls Anderson “the Little Operator”, because he executes the plays as expected. It would give the other players on offense a fighting chance to finish the plays as called. Again, I’m projecting with this because Anderson will miss his share of passes also.
To switch subjects. You just know that as the season moves on we are going to hear a lot of discussion on the staff’s personnel decisions and redshirting players. That seems to happen every year regardless of the HC. Graham’s stance is this:
“I think more of them need to play. I think we’ve got to get some young guys in the receiving corps and get some more speed on the field.
You like to redshirt them. There’s some guys we’d like to try to redshirt but the bottom line is if we have to play them to win, that’s what we’re going to do. Nicholas Grigsby is coming back this week, he’ll be back. I doubt that he will redshirt. LaQuentin Smith played last week, he’s not going to redshirt. Ejuan Price definitely is not. Lafayette Pitts is our backup bandit (safety) and backup on most special teams and we’d like not to play him but if he progresses and he can help us win then we’ve got to play him.
OK, that’s three true FR who have played right there. Add Cory Davis, Ronald Jones, Trey Anderson, K.K. Smith, and Darius Patton to that list and you have eight true FR who have already seen action, and burnt redshirts, so far this season. I may be mistaken but I did a quick look back over DW’s 1st and 2nd games of his seasons and didn’t see those kinds of numbers for true freshman playing time. It shows a different approach IMO.
Regarding Anthony Gonzalez’s attitude and return this Saturday, Graham says this;
“…outstanding. A lot of people would probably tell you that was a pretty harsh punishment and it probably was because it wasn’t just the two games. He had to do a lot of other stuff, community service, things like that. Anthony’s a great young man. He made a mistake. I’ve got tremendous belief in him. He’s a winner. …He’s a very selfless guy in that he’s going to play another position for us this year.” (emphasis mine).
I think that settles the Gonzalez as QB issue once and for all. As I have said previously Gonzalez will play QB only if there is a string of injuries or completely disastrous play from the other three QBs.
So, looking forward to Saturday’s game Graham has said that there could be a little bit of a “package” installed for backup Trey Anderson. We’ll see Anderson for sure against Iowa and I think that package will involve getting the most speed in the receiver corps as possible on the field at the same time. When this system is executed as planned it revolves around the short to intermediate quick passes (1, 2 and out with the ball!) and letting the receivers get as much yardage after the catch as possible. Anderson can do that.
It also looks like “freshman EJuan Price was elevated to the starter at “panther” linebacker. Graham said Price is just too good of a player not to play the maximum number of snaps available. In order to make that happen, senior Brandon Lindsey moved to defensive end and is the starter, and Aaron Donald moved from end to backup nose tackle.”
Obviously this is a “Big Test”, (gut check, where the rubber meets the road, separate the men from the boys, see what we are made of, men to move mountains – thanks Stew – etc.) for our team and we need to see things click, both offensively and defensively, as much possible. Even if we lose we just have to show progress. If not… it will be a long, long season.