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April 24, 2012

We have had some great long discussions about the QB situation at PITT and no matter how hard we wish, or how long we hold our breath, things will shake out as they may.  Given that the chances are that Sunseri starts on September 1st against Youngstown State,  or that whoever starts our passing game isn’t going to be all that awesome, let’s look at what Paul Chryst and Joe Rudolph might do to accommodate those shortcomings.

I’ve read a lot of posters saying “Thank God for our running game!!” and we all know that could be our strongest offensive approach.  Some fans have said they think Chryst will do nothing but run the ball and throw only when absolutely necessary.  Some feel the percentage of running plays would be as high as 70%, which I thought was crazy so I did a bit of research.

Honestly, 70% may not be so ridiculous…

Depending on his personnel Paul Chryst, as OC at Wisconsin, tailored his play calling to work to his player’s strengths.  That is a good thing and something that was drastically missing for the Panthers last year.

For instance, in 2011 with Heisman trophy candidate Russell Wilson at QB, you would think that Chryst relied heavily on Wilson’s good passing abilities.  That really didn’t happen. Chryst had about 65/35% run heavy split last season.  It didn’t hurt that he had Monte’ Ball (1923 yds; 6.3 ypc) and James White (713 yds; 5.1 ypc) running the ball either though.

In 2010 with Scott Tolzien at QB, who had a statistically similar year to Sunseri’s 2010, Chryst ran a 68/32% run first split.  That year he had White (1052 yds; 6.7 ypc); Ball (996 yds; 6.1 ypc and John Clay (1012 yds, 5.4 ypc).  Those are some serious horses in the backfield and that is a big ground presence.

In Tolzien’s first year starting, 2009, Chryst ran the ball 59% of the time.  His RBs weren’t crazy productive as the next year but they still had Clay go for 1517 yds for 5.3 ypc average.

That is also a lot different than we saw in 2011 at PITT when we had a 55/45% split with Graham in the backfield and back in 2010 (Lewis & Graham) when under DW we ran a 57/43% split.  With Stull having his good SR year in 2009 (Lewis) we went 59/41%.  In 2008 with McCoy having his big year we went 56/44% to the run.

Looking back at DW’s offense I was surprised that they were so much more balanced.

Now, with Graham coming back, Bennett coming into his own and a decent chance that Shell will be able to contribute right away, we’ll probably see Chryst lean heavily on the running game.  Maybe not a full 70% but that wouldn’t be too much of a reach given his track record at Wisconsin.


You have answered the question….and hopefully dropped the discussion about TINO….God luv the kid…Chryst knew what he had last year in Wilson, but still used the RUN,RUN,RUN,RUN, and more RUN approach. It had to have kept teams on their heels, thinking that sometime sooner or later he has to pass, but doesn’t. I think we are not gonna like this guy at all….We, are gonna love him!!!! LET”S GO PITT!!! you will see me and my boy 9/1/12 in section 119, right in front of the dance team….;)

Comment by blaise 04.24.12 @ 8:22 pm

A run heavy offense with strong special teams and a strong defense is THE precise combination to a successful season.

If the defense has fewer possessions to defend and defends a longer field, then Pitt will have the luxury of being patient on offense.

Should this combination come to pass, you should also expect lower scoring games.

Comment by SFPitt 04.24.12 @ 10:22 pm


Comment by Frankcan 04.24.12 @ 10:43 pm

This is very simple. If Sir Tino is the starting QB, you run the ball 100%. haha
And if you run the ball 100% you should be playing Gonzalez at QB, cause that kid can run too.

Seriously, Sunseri can’t stretch the field vertically, which is needed to keep 8 & 9 from stacking the box and stopping the run. After seeing the stats from the Blue-Gold game/scrimmage, Myers outplayed him going like 11 for 16 and 1 long TD pass of 58 yds. Myers CAN stretch the field vertically. We know Sunseri CAN’T and he played liked a redshirt sophomore in the Blue Gold, not a 10th year 25 year old Senior.

If Sunseri is annointed again and the team struggles to beat the first lightweight, he’s got to be sat, preferably at halftime of the first game. We have seen that horror show enough !

Comment by Emel 04.24.12 @ 10:49 pm

Hey Frankie, no mention of me in ur post. 🙁

How ya doing guy ? Good I hope. Cheers !

Comment by Emel 04.24.12 @ 10:50 pm

Remember, Chyst also had some great talent on the OL to work with. If the running game works, I expect he’ll ride it out the entire season. I just would not expect the running game to be an instant success (or to be 70% of our offense), since no one if confident the talent is there. We’re still going to have to throw the ball a bit to keep the opposing D’s from stacking the box.

Comment by AlexVP 04.24.12 @ 11:34 pm

Runnin’… is a Pittsburgh thing! Use the strength of our offense, limit turnovers, rest a solid D…that will get you some W’s! and then hopefully W’s get you recruits and so on and so forth. Positive attitude, especially when things are truly feeling good, is always the most successful path. We are what we got, let’s bring it out strong for camp!

Comment by Gordo 04.25.12 @ 1:15 am

I concur, Tino starts, run heavy offense makes sense. Biggest problem with that MO however is that we become predictable and strong defenses against the run will stack the box, which leaves us with Tino problems again. Balance has to be obtained but a run heavy O makes sense when possible.

Pitt can’t let games get away from them early however, since that will take them out of their game plan if they have to play catch up in a run tilted offense, and we know from experience how well Sunseri can carry the team on his back for come from behind victories already.

It will be interesting to see how things pan out. I really hope that Tino blossums under this new coaching staff. He is a good guy, hard working and a true “Pitt” legacy so it would be great to see him go out on a high note in his last season. The schedule is weak enough to allow it to happen too, guess we’ll see.

Comment by Dr. Tom 04.25.12 @ 7:35 am

Running only works if you’re not playing from behind. Hopefully, Pitt’s D and special teams step up and allow a ball control offense to function. God forbid if Pitt has to rely on Tino to bring them back with a long drive down the field. Get a big lead and then run the ball and control the clock. Can Pitt do it?

Comment by TX Panther 04.25.12 @ 8:02 am

OK then, just to play Devil’s Advocate with the theory that if we have a poor passing game teams will stack the box and stop the run.

Over the first six games of 2011 Sunseri had passed for 1166 yards (194 ypg) with 5 TDs and 7 INTs. Below average passing game correct? Yet Ray Graham still ran for 893 yards (149 ypg) with a 6.0 ypc average.

In 2010 with an average year from Sunseri we had Lewis go for 1061 yards and 13 TDs and Graham go for 922 yards (6.1 ypc!) and 8 TDs.

In 2008 with Stull as a JR and not passing that well McCoy went for 1488 yards and 21 TDs.

In 2007 with Bostick as a FR and our passing game in shambles McCoy went for 1328 yards and 14 TDs.

I’ll venture that stacking the box to kill the run only truly works if the offense has below par RBs – which isn’t the case for PITT in 2012. We did see that happen a bit in the second half of last season when we had Brown and a true FR Bennett carrying the ball.

Those two combined for 4.1 ypc which still isn’t terrible even with without Graham and with Sunseri’s better (statistically) last six games (1267 yards; 211 ypg, 5 TDs 3 INTs).

That said – the overall rushing totals per yer as compared to the quality of that season’s passing games do fall in line with the theory, but does the fact that a team has a star RB produce different actual results?

I think we’ll see some pretty good production out of our offense no matter how the defenses deploy their personnel.

Comment by Reed 04.25.12 @ 8:32 am

Good stuff Reed.

70 percent is not out of the question.

Another example… another team… that illustrates this to the extreme is the 2002 Ohio State Buckeyes.

Krenzel was the quarterback, a playmaker/runner more than passer (87 rating, 8.47 YPA, 9 TDs).

Clarett was the freshman sensation with 1200 yards and 14 TDa.

They ran it 69 percent of the time.

So the point is that 70 percent is a worthy goal and obviously good things can come as a result.

Chryst will certainly have the guys to carry the rock.

One of them Shell has a lot of the same as Clarett in terms of size and good but not true breakaway speed.

Again, who could be Pitt’s Craig Krenzel?

Don’t know that they have one but it’s going to be fun to watch.

Comment by PittofDreams 04.25.12 @ 8:37 am

What I’d love to see ALL SEASON is Pitt going up against stacked defenses to control their running game, only to see that attempt go up in flames.

It’s great fun having a powerful enough O line and running back corps to just line up and say, “we’re going to run it down your throat, try and stop us”! And then actually be successful in controling the game anyhow. I sure wouldn’t mind seeing that all year if it produces 9 or 10 wins this season. I’m just not sure that we have the big bodies required up front on the line to pull it off all season, especially if the injury bug makes an appearance again this season on the line.

Comment by Dr. Tom 04.25.12 @ 8:50 am

Watching everyone clamoring for a run heavy offense this year at Pitt, you just know that somewhere right now Dave Wannstedt is laughing his ass off.

Comment by OliviaPitt 04.25.12 @ 8:55 am

While it’s true that passing is needed when you’re behind, especially late in games, the chances of being behind dimibish greatly when you have a solid time-posessing ground game.

I thought Stull benefitted in 09 because of the running of Shady and LSH behind a solid OL that was healthy for most of the season.

Comment by wbb 04.25.12 @ 9:00 am

correction — Stull benefitted in 09 because of the running of Dion and Ray behind the solid OL

Comment by wbb 04.25.12 @ 9:02 am

Those running backs need a very good line which I think Pitt will have in the starting five. Just hope there are no injuries to that group.
Still, you have to have an average passing game to have any success. Sunseri just looked awful in the spring game. He has the slowest release and worse, is terribly inaccurate. No improvement at all. Good lord, Myers needs to step up.

Comment by notrocketscience 04.25.12 @ 9:21 am

I totally agree with you Rocket The O-line will do great run blocking like they always have done the last 10 years. What worries me this year is in that type of offense you have to connect on the few passes you do throw. Play action passing is what breaks a D’s back when you strike with big plays and quick hitters. That hasn’t happened the last two years with dropped balls, wrong reads or overthrows. GO Chad GO!!!

Comment by Tackle made by Hugh 04.25.12 @ 10:17 am

Naw Olivia, Dave has nothing to laugh at, after leaving Pitt with a %57 W percentage, no conference championship in the weakest league, and no BCS bowl game.

As for some clamoring for a running game, I think they’re clamoring for a running game, that comes along with becoming a winning football program again, that gets 10 wins consistently and occasionally goes to a BCS bowl game and competes for conference championships.

Really, apples and oranges.

And, with his defense at Buffalo giving up around 40 a game the last part of the season, he probably doesn’t have time to think of Pitt.

Comment by Dan 04.25.12 @ 10:23 am

I would think that Shell gets red-shirted and stays there barring injury to Graham and Bennett. If they run like they have and reach potential, the O line opens running lanes, this could be the most talented backfield in the country.

Comment by Pitt it IS 04.25.12 @ 10:50 am

Which of our “star” QBs hands the ball off the cleanest? Which of our “star” QBs makes the least mental mistakes? Which of our “star” QBs consistently can hit the intermediary pass? Which of our “star” QBs can occasionally stretch the field and hit a WR (in stride) on a deep pass play? Thats the order a QB should be selected. If it’s Tiny, so be it. If not, lets move on. A 70% run offense should dictate the QB selection.

Comment by Pitt it IS 04.25.12 @ 10:56 am

The stache did win a share of a conference title !

Comment by Snala The Panther 04.25.12 @ 11:01 am

Reed, I think you might be overstating Cryst’s reluctance to pass with stats (I will agree he loves to run the ball). First, Wisconsin was in a lot of blow outs last year. So of course you are going run heavy even with an awesome QB. Second, if you look at just number of rushes per game you are also going to end up with sacks being counted as rushing attempts. For example, against MSU last year Wisconsin had 25 passing attempts and 37 rushing attempts. But about 5 of those attempts were actually actually sacks which changes an apparent high rushing day to an actually evenly split day.

Comment by Wardapalooza 04.25.12 @ 11:02 am

I am not sure we can afford to red-shirt Shell especially if he is as good as advertised. No matter if he plays or not he can go Pro like Dion and Shady did 3 years after his HS class graduates and then we only have him playing for 2 years. I am hoping for the 3 headed monster in the backfield and we always a fresh set of legs.

Comment by giveitarest 04.25.12 @ 11:13 am

You’re right Snala!! What was that one, mathematically tied with WVU and UCONN, but lost to both of them on the field!! LOL

Comment by Dan 04.25.12 @ 11:17 am

Honestly, if we did do a 70/30 split run-to-pass I think we have a pretty solid chance of going 8-4. After everything that’s happened, to be 4 games over .500 a year after that is pretty incredible. We have the personnel to do it too. Tino won’t be as much of a sore thumb in this offense and we know he can manage games, which is all that is required for a prolific run offense. Plus 8-4 is good season to build on with returning personnel and recruiting. Kids will come to Pitt, we’ve seen it before with the big name recruits. All we have to do is be that 11-2 team and we will be well on our way.

Comment by Timmeh 04.25.12 @ 11:55 am

Pitt it IS,
Maybe we should ask which QB has at least a little pocket awareness, which QB knows how to throw a ball away, which QB shows just a tad year to year improvement and which QB is just a little accurate….in other words, which QB is NOT named Tino. I was willing to give him another chance until I watched the spring game. Painfully familiar to most of the games he has started. I really wish he would get better.

Comment by notrocketscience 04.25.12 @ 12:48 pm

Not sure why folks are picking on Olivia and Wannstedt.

Many on this blog dinged The Stache because his run-first offense was “boring” (although I personally saw nothing boring about watching LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis or Ray Graham shred) and praised the “exciting” spread style of Fraud Sham (whose record was .500 with no conference championship, in a weak conference, and no BCS game–plus he quit the team after less than 1 year)

Wannstedt’s team actually played for the conference championship in 2009 and happened to lose in part because the placekick holder failed to field a perfect snap on PAT. That and two huge Mardy Gilyard returns.

Comment by Barvo 04.25.12 @ 1:01 pm

Well here is another thing: If Chryst does do a 70/30 split for the offense, why not just start Chad Voytik. They won’t demand that much from him except just accurate efficient passing, nothing special. This way we have experience at the position going into the ACC.

Comment by Timmeh 04.25.12 @ 1:13 pm

If you run the ball effectively teams will stack the box to stop the run. When defences commit too many people to stop the run, they have to play man on man in secondary. That makes it infinately easier to pass. If any of you saw the Steelers vs the Broncos in the AFC Playoffs,you can attest to that. You play to the strengths of your personell. It appears that the Panthers have good running backs, so I’m ok with running the ball.

Comment by Justinian 04.25.12 @ 1:26 pm

The BE wasn’t the weakest league thru much of Wanny’s stay … in fact, in 2006, it had 3 teams finish in the Top 12, more than any other conference.

WVU, Louisville, Cincy, Rutgers and USF all had the best years in their FB history during Wanny’s reign although, in fairness, none of the above have glorius FB histories.

Comment by wbb 04.25.12 @ 1:27 pm

Too funny, but this offense sounds like Wanny ball to me. Although in 2009 PITT scored the most points of any PITT teams since the 1981 team, so that WASN’T boring at all, quite the contrary.

Ok let’s say we beat Cincy that game in ’09, and we go down to the Sugar Bowl and get crushed by Florida.
Would that have made some of you feel better?

Don’t know about you but I felt lousy after the Utah fiasco at the Fiesta Bowl in our 1rst BCS game. Especially in how that creep Musberger reveled in PITT getting beat.

The Stache’s winning % of 57% is right where PITT’s all-time winning % is. 58% And the Stache led us to our first 10 win season since 1981 in 2009 which was almost 30 years since that had been done at PITT. Finally the 3 year stretch of 2008-2010 was the best 3 year stretch at PITT since the Marino years. Again 30 years.

And it also seems very strange how PITT has been knee deep in bad karma since booting Wanny aside like an old shoe. In fact it’s been downright
Twilight Zone-ish !!

Comment by Emel 04.25.12 @ 2:24 pm

If Pitt plans to run the ball anywhere close to 70% of the plays, then that reinforces my opinion even more that ABT makes sense for 2012. Rationale:

1. Playing anti-Tebow Sunseri gets you nothing but another trip to Birmingham.

Instead of further alienating Pitt’s weary fan base with another dose of close 4th Qtr losses engineered by Sackseri, use this year’s weenie schedule get someone ready for 2013 where there are a LOT fewer cupcakes.

2. Teams will soon figure out that it’s safe to put 9-10 guys in the box because Gameday Tino lacks both the arm strength and the football IQ to make teams pay. His long passes have so much hang time that they resemble pooch punts.

If we instead play a guy with a better arm (Myers?), even if he misses more than he hits, just that fear will force teams to play honest defense, thus open up the running game.

ABT! ABT! Chant it with me, ABT! ABT!…


Comment by Imma Man! Im 40! 04.25.12 @ 2:26 pm

Although I believe 2010 to be very disappointing, I had serious reservations about Wanny being fired which were enhanced with the Haywood’s hiring … even before he got himself in mistress issues. Not that Wanny would ever be confused with Bud Wilkinson, he at least fielded a competitive team and brought in pretty decent players.

I am actually OK with Chryst playing “Wanny-ball” only with more of a college mentality

Comment by wbb 04.25.12 @ 2:48 pm

More runs, less passes, quicker games,sooner into the parking lots, more time to complain about the QB play. Win-win situation.

Comment by Pitt70 04.25.12 @ 3:06 pm

3 star og dan samuelson from plymouth indiana committed to pitt. From what i can tell, chrysts “just offer” approach that so many people bitched about is working. 4 commits-2 three star and 2 unrated (if you go by rivals… 247 has soto at 3 stars)

Comment by Pk 04.25.12 @ 3:10 pm

Few points

1. The reason why OliviaPitt is getting snickered at is because it’s a dumb comment.
Most Pitt fans who want to see a lot of running are doing so because of the QB issue. Tino is lot less likely to hurt Pitt if he’s only throwing the ball 15 times instead of 30.

2. If you want to get into the pro-power running v. spread debate, that Pitt-Cincy game isn’t a good example, being that the spread team won.
Though, that game was an indictment of how Wannstedt and his teams freeze up anytime there is pressure and/or success moreso than anything else.

3. Yes, it would have been better to beat Cincy (at home), win the Big East Championship, and play in the Sugar Bowl, even if it meant losing to Florida.

Which is worse, losing to Florida, or losing at home to the team that Florida stomped?

4. Any offense, including Wannyball, is exciting when it works. Problem with Wannyball is that it usually didn’t work.

5. Running the ball doesn’t necessary mean boring. Oregon has a run-heavy offense. I believe Todd Graham’s offense was designed to run the ball 65% of the time. Neither, when working, are considered boring.

6. What we are hoping for out of Chryst is an offense (and defense) designed for college.

7. The Big East has been pretty bad the past 3 years. It was decent before that. Worth noting that in 2006 (the Big East’s best year), Pitt went a hideous 2-5 in the conference. Someone’s win total may have gone up partly because the competition got worse.

Comment by originalether 04.25.12 @ 4:39 pm

Nothing against the style of Wannyball, but we wouldn’t be having this perpetual discussion if he knew how to spot and recruit QB talent.

Comment by San Diego Panther 69 04.25.12 @ 4:49 pm

If you want to run, run, run you need a solid OL.
Our new commit from Indiana, Dan Samuelson is 6ft 5″ 290lbs. He is being followed by a large number of schools and has offers from Wake, Illinois and Minnesota…other offers will follow.
….and yes, he is a solid student with a 3.5 GPA.
Welcome to Pitt!

Comment by isnore 04.25.12 @ 5:42 pm

emel–Your argument for Myers has to be tempered with the fact that his spring game performance was vs the 2nd team defense and walk on defensive backs. That proves little.

Comment by pitt1972 04.25.12 @ 6:54 pm

pro style is fine when you have the appropriate personnel; same for tne spread … but when you don’t, you have the 2011 Pitt season

Comment by wbb 04.25.12 @ 8:41 pm

I think it’s fairly evident that Chryst and his staff know what type of player (not just ratings) they want for their team.Dokish has been critical of the recruiting – I hope he’s proven wrong. The players love the staff and while this year is a transition year (due to Tino) the next 2-3 years afterwards will shape the program.

Comment by markp 04.25.12 @ 8:51 pm

to pitt197two, your response to emel about going against the 2’s was probably not accurate because he may have been playing with the 2’s….too.

The QB situation will work itself out. PC will do what’s best for the long term success, not just this season. I enjoy looking at a bunch of 6’5″‘s out there on the verbal list. Beats the 5’7″‘s and 5’8″‘s that Fraud was looking for. Would really like 2 or 3 more O-linemen, led by the big Dorian’s to commit in the next few weeks. Would be huge and pave the way for the playmaker’s to join shortly thereafter.

Pitt is trending up in size gentlemen. Gotta like it…..alot!I am drinking the mustard and blue juice and will apologize to all if I am wrong in my support, but feel real confident that Nordy made the right call in trumping Smiley on this hire.

Comment by dhuffdaddy 04.25.12 @ 9:54 pm

central pa fans may 3 york outdoor cc best tailgate golf outing in state chryst junko engram lasalis bollinger bergnato pederesen 99 with golf 35 otherwise pitt shop will be there beer food all day

Comment by paul shannon 04.25.12 @ 10:21 pm

Wish I could make that Paul Shannon. Sounds like a great day.

And reasonable, our little company outing was 120 last year, and all we had were people I work with everyday!!! LOL

Comment by Dan 04.25.12 @ 10:46 pm

Dan – you speak Shannon?

Comment by Reed 04.25.12 @ 10:51 pm

Run, pass… for Pitt to be successful on the football field they must have a balanced offense attack combined with a good defense and special teams. There is no magic to winning football games just effort and desire. Pitt can do it! HTP!

Comment by MariettaMike 04.25.12 @ 11:04 pm

LMAO Reed, I took it as an elective in 10th grade. Did pay much attention, but, picked up a little!!!!

Comment by Dan 04.25.12 @ 11:39 pm


Comment by Dan 04.25.12 @ 11:40 pm

it is the language of long runs like our backs will have this season

Comment by paul shannon 04.26.12 @ 9:09 am

I’d like to point out…if nobody has already, ’cause I haven’t read all the posts…that 8-9 in the box leads to a lot more big plays. Once the back gets past the linebackers / safety there aren’t a whole lot of people left to stop him. You even saw this a little bit in the spring. Huxtable likes to bring up a safety for run support. Result: Bennet broke three or four long TD runs. You’ll see a lot more of that this session I bet. HTP!

Comment by Atlanta Panther 04.26.12 @ 1:12 pm

@Atlanta Panther, you’re absolutely correct. Hopefully, we have a game day coach too, that, if they bring up 8 or 9 in the box, will have some plays ready, that our qb, even if it’s Tino, can execute to take some pressure back off.

For every action, there is a reaction. If he’s a good coach, he’ll deal with that when and if the time comes.

Comment by Dan 04.26.12 @ 3:11 pm

[…] every snap will be an adventure again this season.  Perhaps that 70%/30%  run/pass split doesn’t sound to bad right about now, huh? Comments (0) window.dctile = […]

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