March 15, 2012

Between the new coaches, position swithces and the eligible transfers, there’s a lot to re-learn.

Spring practice is already finished for the morningBobby Engram in Pitt gear has happened.

Yesterday, Coach Paul Chryst did the pre-Spring Practice press conference. He sort of said every position was open — and not really.

 On if any jobs are wide open:

“Eleven on offense and 11 of defense. The great thing about sports and in football is that in every game you have to prove yourself and every year you have to prove yourself. We can all make a pretty good bet on some spots and who should start. The great thing is they still have to go out and do it. There is nothing more important than this team and Pitt football and I talked to the group about that. If you’re true to that then your best 11 players shouldn’t sit out. Your best linemen will play, your best skill guys will play and your best defensive backs will play so I think they really are all open.”

Read into or don’t read anything into that.

I really have no sense of what to expect from this spring or even the upcoming season. So much upheaval and turmoil over the last three years has me less sure of anything. Apparently, I’m not the only one.

Players may be unsure what to expect after experiencing distinctively different styles under former coaches Dave Wannstedt and Todd Graham, and Chryst is equally eager to answer some questions of his own.

“There is that feeling-out period,” he said. “We need to know what this group can do and what its strengths and weaknesses are.”

My goal this spring is not to take the easy Tino Sunseri cheapshot until after the first scrimmage. Please don’t tempt me like this.

Coach Chryst is upfront, but still a coach and he is not going to say anything too out there or much beyond basic coachspeak.

On getting to know the players and the team as a whole:

“What I have learned about this group is that they are a lot like the other guys I have been around. Their names are different, their backgrounds are a little bit different, and their stories are a little bit different but what they want are very similar things and that is energizing for me. We are not coming in here and saying we are going to do it our way, but I can’t wait to bring in our guys. I asked to come here and I am fortunate enough to be here. I knew the guys that were on the roster and I’m excited to be with them, and for the senior group there is some urgency in this because we need to make this year the best year it can be. There’s a great group and the numbers and the quality of players and the start of football on the field has already begun. This is the start of maximizing this season and I’m looking forward to being with this group of seniors.”

On current players stepping into a leadership role for this season:

“There are guys who have stepped up. As a coach you help players get there and we will and we will have leaders. I think there are some natural leaders in this group and even in some of the underclassmen. It’s a work in progress but that doesn’t mean that it’s not going to be a positive thing.”

On the players learning a new system:

“I think getting to know the system, us getting to know them, and them improving as players more than anything is important now. We don’t have a game fortunately for a while and it’s about improving individually. Certainly the quarterback is no different than anyone else in learning the system. The players get to go out and play ball again and it’s a great time of year.”

So… yeah… football.

Even before the start of today’s practice, several players are switching positions. All, stressed Coach Chryst, asked the coaches for the moves.

A number of players will switch positions but Chryst said all of them were at the player’s request, not the coaching staff’s.

He said he doesn’t know the personnel well enough, so he wants to give every player the opportunity to prove himself before adjusting the lineup.

“There were guys who came to me and said they wanted to change positions and my approach on that was, I didn’t know enough to tell them they should stay [in their old position],” Chryst said. “My personal opinion, if a guy wants to be somewhere else, he is not going to do as well at the spot he is playing, so to give themselves a chance they have to be all-in.

“Some will prove this was the right move and others will say ‘at least I can say I tried it’ and then they go back and go from there.”

Here are the players and their new (at least for spring) positions.

Anthony Gonzalez ——- Quarterback
E.J. Banks —————- Quarterback
Justin Virbitsky ———- Offensive line
Brandon Ifill ————– Wide receiver
Adam Lazenga ———— Fullback
Devin Cook ————— Defensive line
LaQuentin Smith ——– Defensive line
Jason Frimpong ——— Linebacker
Steve Williams ———– Defensive back

Gonzalez was essentially open knowledge. Banks had been rumored, but I’m not sure about that one. Some make more sense. Virbitsky played tight end, and the odds are he may never get on the field at this rate. Pitt has a crying need for O-linemen. Steve Williams could definitely be a help in the secondary more than he could being buried on the running back depth chart. The rest, I am taking a wait and see what happens view.

DL also lacks depth, thus, the switch to DL by LBs D Cook and L Smith.

The following is from last season’s roster so add a year to the class except redhshirts

Offensive Line
58 Kevin Barthelemy LS So. RS 6-3/240 Moon Township, PA (Moon Area)
77 Zenel Demhasaj OG Jr. 6-7/330 Brooklyn, NY (New Utrecht H.S.)
56 Arthur Doakes OT Fr. RS 6-6/360 Lebanon, PA (Lebanon)
70 Juantez Hollins OG So. RS 6-5/305 Aliquippa, PA (Aliquippa)
54 Chris Jacobson OG Sr. RS 6-3/295 Pittsburgh, PA (Keystone Oaks )
64 Shane Johnson OG Fr. RS 6-5/325 Fort Washington, MD (DeMatha Catholic)
78 Cory King OG So. RS 6-6/325 Stoneboro, PA (Lakeview)
52 Lucas Nix OT Sr. 6-6/310 Jefferson Hills, PA (Thomas Jefferson)
55 Tom Ricketts OT Fr. RS 6-6/285 Pittsburgh, PA (North Allegheny)
74 Matt Rotheram OG Fr. RS 6-6/350 North Olmsted, OH (North Olmsted)
57 Artie Rowell C Fr. 6-2/275 Harrisburg, PA (Central Dauphin)
76 Ryan Schlieper OG So. RS 6-5/305 Wexford, PA (North Allegheny)
75 Ryan Turnley C Jr. RS 6-6/320 Hopewell, PA (Hopewell)
66 Justin Virbitsky OT Jr. RS 6-4/280 Jermyn, PA (Lakeland)

Defensive Line
90 T.J. Clemmings DE So. 6-6/295 Teaneck, NJ (Patterson Catholic)
97 Aaron Donald DT So. 6-0/270 Pittsburgh, PA (Penn Hills)
91 Tyrone Ezell DT So. RS 6-4/295 Munhall, PA (Steel Valley)
45 Shayne Hale DE Jr. RS 6-4/255 Monroeville, PA (Gateway)
72 Jack Lippert DT So. RS 6-4/265 Harrisburg, PA (Central Dauphin)
95 Khaynin Mosley-Smith DT Fr. 6-0/290 Pittsburgh, PA (Woodland Hills)

92 Devin Cook OLB Fr. 6-4/230 Beaver Falls, PA (Blackhawk)
93 Bryan Murphy OLB So. 6-3/250 Washingtonville, NY (Don Bosco Prep )
10 LaQuentin Smith LB Fr. 6-2/225 Orlando, FL (Dr. Phillips)

Comment by wbb 03.15.12 @ 12:08 pm

Ifill played a lot last year at DB as a natural freshman, As I recall, he was a heck of player (both offense defense) at Penn Hills.

Speaking of Penn Hills, Neil Gordon seems to have become the WPIAL’s version of Wanny .. produces good players for the next level (Mason, Donald, Ifill) but no championships (at least lately)

Comment by wbb 03.15.12 @ 12:23 pm

I read Adam Lazenga’s bio. This kid must have been recruited by some I-A schools. Any one know why he was just (or chose to be just) a walk-on at Pitt?
link to

Comment by BigGuy 03.15.12 @ 1:15 pm

As bad as Sunseri was last year I actually think he would play better under Chryst. However, I am still of the opinion that his abilities are limited and he would not necessarily be the best option at qb despite his experience.

Comment by Coach Ditka 03.15.12 @ 2:04 pm

Zeise just gave brief call-in report about morning practice on The Fan. (he actually is doig double doing since he called from the 1st round of NCAA at Consol Center)

He said that all the QBs seemed to be throwing wildly today. He also commented that he had a conversation with Myers who appears to be really energized with the return of a pro set and seems to be taking a much more serious approach this year.

Comment by wbb 03.15.12 @ 2:29 pm

I’ll be energized when I see a QB other than Sunseri start a game.

Comment by TX Panther 03.15.12 @ 3:06 pm

“I’ll be energized when I see a QB other than Sunseri start a game.”

Sunseri??? Is he related to the Sunseri who came within a Ray Graham fumble of taking Pitt to a BCS bowl in 2010?

Comment by BigGuy 03.15.12 @ 4:09 pm

I like the coach’s gut.

Comment by steve1 03.15.12 @ 4:47 pm

Please, dear God, I’m begging you. Anybody but Tino. ANYBODY!!

Comment by Imma Man! Im 40! 03.15.12 @ 6:41 pm

Reply to BigGuy’s “Sunseri??? Is he related to the Sunseri who came within a Ray Graham fumble of taking Pitt to a BCS bowl in 2010?”

No, not even close.

The Sunseri we’re talking about is Tino, the Pitt QB in 2010 who laid an egg late (per usual) in the Utah & Notre Dame games, REALLY laid an egg in the UConn — sheesh that was awful — and Miami games.

But saved his best — the Tino Trifecta — for the WVU game: lost fumble, threw a pick-6, and was sacked by (per usual) holding onto the ball forever. And all three before most fans had gotten thru security check and found their seats.

You must be talking about another Sunseri. He has a brother playing LB for ‘Bama, maybe you meant him….

Comment by Imma Man! Im 40! 03.15.12 @ 6:46 pm

Go Home …. Mountaineers!

Comment by wbb 03.15.12 @ 6:52 pm

I am just glad that Chryst did not make any bold predictions like Todd Graham.

Comment by PittCheMBA 03.15.12 @ 9:05 pm

I am willing to give Chryst the benefit of the doubt here.

He will make the RIGHT decisions that he thinks can get him wins. If he feels that under the pro system Sunseri is the best, then I believe him. If he feels that someone else is the best, I believe him.

Right now, I am looking forward to the 2012 season, our (hopefully) last in the Big Least.

Comment by Lou Gagliardi 03.15.12 @ 9:23 pm

Meyers is going to be the Rick Tricano of this team. You watch!

Comment by Panther Fan in Hoopieland 03.15.12 @ 9:24 pm

#8. hell of a football player!!

Comment by Dan 03.15.12 @ 9:56 pm

Nice photo of Trocano, and a nice web page on the 1980 Gator Bowl. 32 years ago??? Enjoy.
link to

Comment by Dan 03.15.12 @ 10:01 pm

Banks played QB on the scout team all of last season and really impressed the old staff with his abilities. He would have been right in the mix for 2012 had Graham not bolted. Banks had an excellent HS career at QB also…

link to

Another ‘newcomer’ to keep an eye on is Brendon Felder. He’s got speed to burn at the WR position and caught a 70 yd TD at the end of practice yesterday where outran the defense.

This year we will see some real contributions from Graham’s transfers into the program who had to sit out last year and some others who missed the season.

The key guys getting back to playing will be Murphy at DE, Cullen Christian at DB and Sacco & Ricketts on the OL as backups. Add Brandon Ifill to that mix at WR also, he’s got good size at 6’1″ and 200 lbs…

link to

Look for Salath Williams (limited yesterday with a shoulder injury) to compete there also.

I think that the established WRs in Street, Shanahan and Saddler should be well aware that there is good talent waiting behind them to get playing time. Dropping passes in practice won’t keep a guaranteed spot as a starter for them.

Now, who will throw the ball to them?

Comment by Reed 03.16.12 @ 5:48 am

Great link Dan. Thanks for posting that. Great pics. BTW…I think we need to bring back the helmet stickers…and no I’m not talking about the “Dino Tooth” we tried one year with Wlat.

Comment by ECH 03.16.12 @ 6:24 am

The dino tooth!!! I’m rollin’!!! I can remember my nieces asking me “Uncle Dan, why does Pitt have a monster on the sides of their helmets???”

Smug Smilin’ Steve at his best!!!!!! LOL

Comment by Dan 03.16.12 @ 7:41 am

I open the papers this morning and all I see is pictures of Tino and how he a good rapport with the new qb coach and I start to get that sinking feeling.

Comment by JP 03.16.12 @ 8:23 am

jp, maybe this story will make you feel a bit better
link to

But if no one beats out Tino this year … remember it is definitely Tino’s fault .. just like he was definitely the blame for the basketball team’s downfall this season.

Comment by wbb 03.16.12 @ 8:55 am

ESPN site reporting that Dan Mason is fully healthy. Any confirmation on that? That would be huge.

Comment by longsufferingpittfan 03.16.12 @ 11:40 am


I knew Tino was pure evil!

Comment by Lou Gagliardi 03.16.12 @ 11:40 am

@longsuggeringpittfan….nice name by the way…all the article I have read for spring have listed the out and limited players and Mason is not one of them. I think I read something on the PG the other day that specifically mentioned Mason as actively participating in spring this year, but it will remain to be seen if he can still be that impact player he showed flashes of.

Comment by BCPITT 03.16.12 @ 3:57 pm

I have no interest in Pitt football until Tino is benched or gone.

Comment by jtime 03.16.12 @ 6:01 pm

Anyone notice Chryst dressed in damn near all white like the Wisky boys do in Madison? I did.

I sense that Chryst has the blood pressure of a successful jewel thief.

Comment by SFPitt 03.16.12 @ 11:12 pm

As they say hope springs eternal. As often as I have sworn that I’m done with the Pitt FB program I want to see this program rise again. Been waiting forever. I’m trying to be patient and giving PC a chance to build a program (3-5 yrs??). But I still think this year is critical in regard to turning the program around and recruiting in the near future. So it seems, as with every year at Pitt FB, its make or break. I just hope one of the QB’s rises to the occasion and takes the starting QB job based on drive, skill and performance. I can’t take another year of Tino.

Comment by IH8PITT 03.17.12 @ 8:19 am

Wow, laquebtin smith must be packin on the lbs if hes moving to dl. Hes 6’2″ and last year he was at 235lbs. Odd, it seemed like he was a shoe in for the starting mlb spot.

As for steve williams being a help in the secondary. Theres great depth and a lot of talent back there too.

Devin cook moving to de is smart. Hes 6’4″ 230 so if he adds 15 lbs hed have great size to be a speed rushing end.

Im not too sure about jason frimpong moving to lb. his listed size on pitts sight is 5’10” 180, so unless he added at least 35 lbs im not sure what kind of impact he can make there.

Comment by Pk 03.17.12 @ 8:32 am

Haven’t we sort of earned a Script helmet, as fans, after this year in sports?

Comment by Cool Hand Nuke 03.19.12 @ 1:12 am

TE Scott Orndoff committed yesterday.

Big & fast receiver with very good early offers. He had committed to Wisky last summer, decommited when Chryst & crew came to PITT and made his choice on a five hour drive back from an official visit to Michigan.

Comment by Reed 03.19.12 @ 7:30 am

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