August 27, 2012

Handcuff Sunseri?

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Players — Reed @ 7:06 am

Folks – I put this bit of information below in a comment back on the “2012 Predictions” post but was interested enough in it to bring it forward for your conversation.

Back in April we posted an article about Paul Chryst’s run:pass ratio in his playcalling as the Offensive Coordinator at Wisconsin.  In it we showed that there were some years where he called almost 70% running plays.  That was in 2010 when he had three 1000> yard rushers in his offense.  In his other seasons he was consistently run heavy.

Fast forward to Pittsburgh in 2012 where we see Tino Sunseri play well enough in summer training camp to keep his starting job but not setting the world on fire, nor lessening PITT fan’s expectations of his mediocrity.  Because of that and his last year’s play there are thoughts, echo’d on other blogs and message boards, that Sunseri would be handcuffed by Chryst to lessen the chances of Sunseri making a bonehead play to blow our opportunities of winning games.  Some fans were saying they thought that Sunseri would throw as few as 15 passes per game.

With that background, here is another comparision between the past UW and PITT offenses that I worked up yesterday.

In 2011, Sunseri passed 30 time per game and had 2616 yards.  That large number of passes per game was due to more offensive plays per game and the shorter, more numerous, passing game of Todd Graham’s hurry-up, spread offense.

In 2010, with DW and Cignetti’s pro-style system, we passed 26 times per game and Sunseri had 2572 yards.

Wisconsin passed the ball pretty often also:

In 2011; 24 passes per game for 3175 yards with Russell Wilson at QB.

In 2010; 21 per game for 2459 yards with Scott Tolzien.  This was the year of three 1000 yard rushers so naturally the ratio was skewed toward the very successful ground game.  (Note: Tolzien’s stats are pretty similar to Sunseri’s over his career so it wasn’t that Tolzien sucked as a QB).

In 2009; 25 per game for 2705 yards with Tolzien.

In 2008; 26 per game for 2445 yards with a two QB platoon system.

In similar offenses the Wisky QBs were passing at the same rate Sunseri was in ’10 and that is what I think he’ll be asked to do in ’12.

I know the fans really do want to see less Sunseri passes but Chryst and Rudolph may not feel the same way.  Again, it wasn’t Sunseri’s actual passing that was his problem last year, it was his poor decision making toward the end of the season late in the games… something we did not see from him in 2010.

So, if we think Paul Chryst is going to severely limit the passing game we are mistaken. We don’t have the horses in the backfield to do what Chryst did in 2010 and even then he called 21 passes per game. Ray Graham is injured, Bennett is good but with not much experience and Crockett and Shell have no playing time at all.

In addition,  We have a relatively new OL and while I think they will be fine with their run blocking I do not see multiple 1000 yard rushers on this team which would allow Chryst the luxury of lessening the passing game as much as fans want.


Shell, while obviously inexperienced, seems like the perfect type of complimentary back to Bennett. If those two manage to establish a reliable running game while Graham continues to heal and return to game-shape, I think we’ll see Tino’s passing numbers decrease from the article’s estimates as a 2-3 running back system emerges.

On a personal note, I’d rather run the ball 9 plays out of 10 before Tino *tries* to hurl one down field. He’s very gifted at throwing slant routes, but at a certain point last year there were only so many times I could watch him check down to Graham in the flats on 3rd and 10+. You can win games running the ball well. Let’s hope PC can light a fire under our linemen. And, lastly, as a P-B reader/poster for the better part of 3 years, I truly hope there is no sensationalism if we blow out Youngstown State. Let’s save it for Cincinnati; I’m still grieving from that loss in the ‘Big East Championship’ in ’08.

Comment by MikePITT 08.27.12 @ 7:28 am

Mike – agree that YSU is a real benchmark of success, assuming we win that game, but I don’t see a blowout. PITT rarely does that in any game.

Cincy and VT will be the litmus tests for how well prepared and capable this 2012 team is.

Comment by Reed 08.27.12 @ 7:49 am

The Oline is still questionable for a successful ground and pound running game..
However, perhaps a poll…
1. How many plays will there be a 3 WR set?
2. How many plays will there be 2 TE’s?

Comment by Joe D 08.27.12 @ 8:10 am

Off topic but …. new picture emails seen around Ohio these days:

I’d rather shower at Penn State than root for the Wolverines

Comment by wbb 08.27.12 @ 8:51 am

I’m curious if their ‘we have no wildcat’ stance means that we’ll be seeing wildcat every once and a while.

As for Tino, he’ll probably throw more often than anyone would like, but he’ll also outperform 2011 Tino.

Comment by Benzene 08.27.12 @ 8:52 am

Im in favor of anything that limits the chances of Tino negatively impacting Pitts chances of winning. He’s a fifth year senior with two years of starting experience with no competition at his position and still can’t impress anyone.

Comment by Coach Ditka 08.27.12 @ 9:13 am

If Tino can grasp the system… we will be in for a good year. He is a hard working kid.. and knows whats on the line. He needs and will step up.

Comment by Snala The Panther 08.27.12 @ 9:13 am

disagree reed. “Again, it wasn’t Sunseri’s actual passing that was his problem last year, it was his poor decision making toward the end of the season late in the games… something we did not see from him in 2010.” per the comments above, sunseri is NOT an accurate passer(at least not consistently). i typically is more accurate throwing inside the #s, i will give him that. your 2nd point: SEE Utah game r.e. poor decision making at end of game.

Comment by scott 08.27.12 @ 9:19 am

actually, Sunseri led a 4th quarter comeback in his first starts at Utah .. and drove Pitt down to the 8 until Pitt setlled for tying FG. He did throw the interception at the edge of the endzone in OT.

The point is that 2010 was in contrast 2011. While never a really good QB (except for the 419 yd game), Tino got better as the game progressed in 2010. In 2011, he got worse … my belieef that much of it was due to the constant pressure that he was under last year.

Comment by wbb 08.27.12 @ 9:44 am

The Pitt offense last year followed the chaotic instructions to hurry up and get a play off in less than 18 seconds……and don’t worry about passing routes..”just get open”.

I am NOT a Tino fan, however, stupid is as stupid does….Graham & Co. could never succeed with that crazy scheme with a Pitt team that was prostyle oriented.

2012 will be better and an 8-4 and possibly a 9-3 record is within the realm of my dreams after a few good shots of Maker’s Mark.

Comment by isnore 08.27.12 @ 10:21 am

“Again, it wasn’t Sunseri’s actual passing that was his problem last year, it was his poor decision making toward the end of the season late in the games…”

Disagree. I thought both were an issue. The guy couldn’t do anything well last year.

Comment by Jeff 08.27.12 @ 10:31 am

Sunseri passed for 2616 yards with a 65% completion rate and a 10.5 ypc average. He can complete passes. he did it over the last two years and he’ll do it this year. The problem will be that he won’t do it enough to satisfy PITT fans.

His passing was way overshadowed by his glaring mind freezes and poor decision making under pressure that we saw all too often.

Scott – Re: the Utah game – that INT was a huge mistake obviously but that was his first game as a starter and as stated he actually played pretty well for the first time out. I’ll go back to Palko’s first season two pick-6 game against Ohio as an example of poor judgement also – it happens. QBs are up and down players and Sunseri has been both.

I’ll reiterate that we are not going to see Chryst drastically cut the passing game, especially before he has a chance to see if our running game can at least produce out there this year which means after the VT game at least.

Comment by Reed 08.27.12 @ 10:49 am

While most in church yesterday were blessing the kids backpacks in honor of upcoming school, I brought my huge bottle of Pitt Football Chivas to be blessed in honor of Tino starting the season …again.
Pretty sure it will be gone by VA Tech!

That said, I am thrilled that Pitt Football returns with someone can actually coach.


Comment by Dan 72 08.27.12 @ 11:13 am

MikePitt, You’re not alone, in still grieving over the 08 Pitt-Cincinatti game. Remember the last Pitt drive, was one of the most impressive drives all year. We just needed to milk the clock a little more. As they say, “If ands and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.” Hopefully this year, there will no regrets.

Comment by Justinian 08.27.12 @ 11:26 am

Damn, I missed the blessing of the booze.

Comment by DC33 08.27.12 @ 11:59 am

Running out of bounds for a six yard loss and a sack at a crucial part of a game instead of throwing the ball out of bounds and avoiding a loss and a sack is ridiculous for an average D1 QB. That should have been learned in 11th grade and is not the result of a new system or an old system. That is basics!

That said, this is a new year and a fresh start. An opportunity to begin anew with a clean slate. Pitt cannot afford to be cocky, regardless of this first game. PC will keep that in check. No highs or lows, just consistent play and attitude. I expect to be 1-0 when we go to Cincy. Is Dejuan Blairs brother the middle linebacker for UC? Never heard of him until today.

Comment by dhuffdaddy 08.27.12 @ 12:08 pm

Tino is a lightning rod.
I am interested in seeing him react to adversity, because he will have no mercy shown him by the masses.

Comment by SFPitt 08.27.12 @ 12:29 pm

dhuff – that action you mentioned wasn’t stupidity, it was pressure panic which is a problem for Sunseri. I think we saw it writ large with him due to the circumstances surrounding him and Todd graham.

That isn’t to say we won’t see it some this year also but it wasn’t like that for him in 2010 so I’m hoping 2012 will be better.

But the sad thing is that every time Sunseri will drop back there will be that feeling of dread that something bad is going to happen rather than the feeling of excitement that a good QB gives you.

Comment by Reed 08.27.12 @ 3:20 pm

SFPitt – that is an apt description of what Sunseri is for PITT fans. He gets all the blame for last season even though we had poor play in other areas of the game also.

The offensive line was horrendous and the receivers dropped a lot of balls on offense. On defense our pass defense couldn’t stop anyone either and we ended up giving up more points than at any time since 2007. We allowed four more ppg last year then in 2010 – that’s a big difference especially when we lost so many close games last season.

There is more than enough blame to go around.

Well, Sunseri does deserves a large part of that blame but his screw ups were so dramatic and at the worst possible moments it bends how people view him.

Comment by Reed 08.27.12 @ 3:32 pm

The biggest prob with Sir Tino, he’s never (as far as I can remember) led PITT to a comeback victory in the 4rth Q. In what…26 games. Plenty of opportunities for sure.

The thing is, in those spread offenses even average or below average QB’s put up huge passing numbers (stats). (See every Texas Tech QB in the last 10 years, none of whom were mostly even drafted by the NFL.) Same thing at Tulsa with Fraud. And Hawaii under June Jones. Plenty of other places as well !

It should have been much easier for large passing stats last year, yet it wasn’t. So…..

Comment by Emel 08.27.12 @ 4:05 pm

One thing I will say about Paul Chryst (and that I like very much) is that he is not afraid to take a team out behind the woodshed. Wisconsin won by more than 30 points 9 times last year and scored 70+ (won by 50+) three times in 2010. Wisconsin beat Indiana 83-20 and Northwestern 70-23. If he is not willing to ease up on conference foes, he’s not going to to do it to FCS teams. Just ask Austin Peay who lost 70-3, while watching Wisconsin’s starters score with 4 minutes left in the 4th quarter.

Of course part of that could have been Bielema, but I’m guessing a lot of it had to be Chryst.

Comment by cnorwoodaz 08.27.12 @ 4:20 pm

The comments about the Cincinnati game brought back painful memories. I’m mostly in the give Tino a chance under HCPC camp but there is no excuse for his performance in that game or for fg’s lousy game/clock management. That said Tino gets better coaching and a coach who I’m guessing will pull him if need be. Things are worse here in Maryland. Edsel and the Terps are down to 2 freshmen qbs. The veteran number 1 transferred and the next #1 sustained an injury and is out for the season. Pitt’s coaching staff and qbs will find a way to get it done. HTP.

Comment by opfim 08.27.12 @ 4:31 pm

hey we were forced to go with freshmen QBs 5 years ago. won 5 games, was robbed of a win at Rutgers with bugus offensive pass interference at the end of the game, and Shady fumbled on the 1 yrd line at end of the game at Lville…. and oh yea … 13 to9!!!

Comment by wbb 08.27.12 @ 7:04 pm

Ya know, if someone had just tackled Mardy Gilyard on that kickoff late in the first half…dang.

I’m expecting a balanced run/pass mix because we don’t have the horses to be one dimensional. It would not surprise me if opponents load the box and force Tino to beat them with his arm – which they won’t believe he will be able to do.

Comment by Joe Lawrence 08.27.12 @ 10:53 pm

I see many more sacks in Sunseri’s future along with fumbles and picks. You can’t fix slow feet, a weak and inaccurate arm and sluggish reaction time. I predict 5 wins in 2012 with Sunseri as QB. Time will tell.

Comment by move_on 08.28.12 @ 1:38 am

wbb – I’m not sure what the point of your referencing 2007 is. The facts are that we had a poor season because our starter was out. Had Stull been able to go I think we win at least three more games that season.

I do not want a repeat of ’07 with Voytik in Bostick’s place. If possible, let’s get Voytik a firm foundation under him so that his future is bright.

You never know what can happen if he gets in there before he’s ready and stumbles because of his inexperience. Then the staff thinks one way about him and he gets buried on the depth chart behind Savage and Chapman.

This is what happened with Bostick in a sense. After that forced and mediocre play in 2007 DW relegated him to 2nd string at best and never gave him a real shot to compete for the QB1 spot against Sunseri. I’d much prefer that Voytik get that redshirt year and go into any other future competition with a blank slate.

Comment by Reed 08.28.12 @ 9:41 am

Having played at Pitt from 1995 – 1999 I can tell you that a coaching change can make all the difference in the world. Look at Pete Gonzalez, he went from nearly hanging up the cleats forever to having a great quarterbacks coach that turned his career around…

Comment by Corey M. Plis 08.28.12 @ 11:31 am

[…] threw the ball 30 times on Saturday.  For all the PITT fans who thought Chryst was going to handcuff him and rely strictly on our running game, think again.  Lest we believe that the passes were called […]

[…] rely heavily on the running game to minimize chances that Sunseri would screw up.  We discussed that in a post back on Aug 27th; stated that it wouldn’t happen and apparently we now see that Chryst is […]

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