October 17, 2012

Injuries and Improvement

Filed under: Football,Players — Chas @ 12:58 pm

Power through and clear some links time.

It has seemed like a long time coming but it’s good to have Todd Thomas back on the field. He made his presence known with the blocked punt against Louisville. Unfortunately, the linebacking corps is not getting any deeper. Thomas saw more action in the Louisville game in no small part because Shane Gordon and Manny Williams both were hurt. That has also led to more Dan Mason on the field.

As inspiring as it is to see Mason out there, it is really depressing that he needs to be played so much. The injury situation at linebacker has them shuffling guys around.

We only got to watch the first half-hour of practice today, but in the brief team session we saw, it looked like Todd Thomas was working at weakside linebacker. Up until now, he had been playing on the strong side behind Eric Williams. In the lineup we saw, it was Thomas, Dan Mason and Eric Williams. It’ll be interesting to ask defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable about that later this week, because that may be a way they see to get their three best linebackers on the field, regardless of position. Responsibility-wise, the weakside spot requires a little more in pass coverage, which I think Thomas should be able to handle with his athleticism.

Freshman Nicolas Grigsby has been seeing more action. He’s probably the first guy to come in when they rotate.

I know he is still a lightning rod of anxiety, anger, and arguments but the improvement shown by Tino Sunseri this season can’t be ignored. Yes, he still holds the ball too long. He hasn’t made great decisions every time. But the difference in the way he has played this year versus the previous two has been really impressive.

Senior quarterback Tino Sunseri ranks seventh in completion percentage and eighth in passing efficiency in Division I FBS, but coach Paul Chryst still believes there’s room for improvement.

“I really think we can get better at the position,” Chryst said. “I think he is making progress. I still think there are some very good plays he’s making, and when we are struggling, there are things that are correctable.”

Sunseri has matched his touchdown total (10) from last season while throwing only two interceptions in 189 attempts. Over the 2010 and ’11 seasons, he threw 20 interceptions.

“The more we get to know him and the more he gets comfortable with the offense, we will continue to make progress,” Chryst said. “It gives myself, (quarterbacks coach) Brooks (Bollinger) and (offensive coordinator) Joe Rudolph hope that we can continue to work and continue to get better and appreciate the way (Sunseri) goes about it.”

Sunseri’s passing efficiency stands at 163.5, and he’s completed 70.4 percent of his passes.

Obviously Chryst has had a reputation of being able to improve QBs, but I also have to give credit to QB Coach Brooks Bollinger. I did not like that hire. And I have some questions regarding his value with regards to recruiting. That said, it is clear that he has worked well with Sunseri and helped make a huge difference. That bodes well for the QB spot in the future with Tom Savage sitting out with transfer restrictions this season Chad Voytik redshirting, Tra’von Chapman coming next year, and presumably Chandler Kincade in 2014.

[Wow. Just reread that list. Next season, Pitt will have three 4-star QBs on the roster. The potential depth and talent — notwithstanding transfers and injuries — at the QB spot in the immediate future almost seems unnatural.]

Back to the passing game. A big reason Sunseri’s numbers are so much better has to do with the wide receivers playing so well. Especially Devin Street.

Street said he notices a difference watching film this year compared to past seasons.

“I think there’s an improvement with every year I’ve played,” he said. “This year, a big thing for me is playing as a complete player. I think my blocking’s better, being strong with the catch, [getting] yards after the catch. I think I’m just completing myself as a complete wide receiver.”

After playing last season around 185 pounds, Street bulked up to 203at training camp this year.

“Just catching the ball, getting hit, I feel like I’m definitely stronger with the ball,” he said.

The two biggest improvements I’ve seen with Street have been fighting for the ball when a defender is on him, and yards after the catch. In the past couple of seasons, Street was simply too passive when he was making a catch. If a defender got physical with him when the ball came his way, he couldn’t handle it. He’d let the ball be knocked out of his hands or he simply wouldn’t make the catch when there was contact. Now, he’s making catches in traffic. He’s not letting the ball be knocked free.

The yards after the catch is the other part. Street has always had the look of a wide receiver, but before he was just a strider. Needing time to get up to speed. Now he is turning up field and showing more explosiveness. Before he would stop after the catch and try to make moves. Now he just goes. Obviously being stronger has made a difference in both aspects. But it also seems that he finally has understood more of what he needs to do as a receiver.

“It’s just experience,” Street said. “Experience out there seeing different things and carrying it over from practice to the game and I just think I’m progressing.”

Or that.

Rushel Shell continues to develop. Both physically and mentally with the team.

It’s nice to think Shell’s maturity finally is catching up to that talent. He missed the opening game against Youngstown State by doing something stupid to get suspended. Pitt was so dominated that night in a 31-17 loss that it wouldn’t have won even with Shell, but it would have beaten Syracuse Oct. 5 if Shell had been able to get more than one carry for 2 yards. The reason given for his little playing time was back spasms, which forced him to miss a couple of days of practice early in the week of the game.

“I lost a lot of mental reps,” Shell said. “I was slacking mentally. I don’t think I should have played in that game. I could have gotten someone hurt.”

The 14-13 loss in Syracuse should have convinced Shell he has to work harder at his craft, not just on the field but in the film room. He said Saturday that the mental part of his game is coming, especially in terms of pass-blocking and picking up blitzes. “I feel like it was really clicking today.”

Shell has said all the right things about his playing time. He hasn’t sulked or groused about it. He’s learning that natural talent is not going to take you the same place as it did in high school. A common lesson for lots of freshmen, whether they play athletics or not.

Shell said he had minor back pain in high school, but it got worse after arriving at Pitt. He said he doesn’t know if weightlifting aggravates it, but that’s been the other big change in his career.

“I never lifted weights in high school,” he said. “I guess it wasn’t something I enjoyed. Now, it’s like a big difference. My body is going through a lot of changes that it never went through in high school.”

Shell said weightlifting has helped his strength, speed and burst. “I see I am a lot better player than I was in high school.”

I am well aware of the rumors and speculations regarding his back spasms. I’m not going to question it or assume things. I have my own issues with back pain and the very unpredictable nature of it.

Now, for all the good of individual players getting better, there is still the fact that this team is 2-4. They have lost two straight, and Pitt is 0-3 in the Big East. Coach Chryst to his credit, admits that excuses and talk of correctable mistakes is wearing thin.

“It is the midway point of the season,” he said, “but I also think it’s a time where, you know what, they’re getting tired of me standing up — the same as you (reporters are) — and saying, ‘We’re doing some good things; we have to put it together.’

“You can’t have the same storyline all the time. That means you are really not getting better. The time is now where we have to get things going.”

That’s as close to an ultimatum that Chryst ever will present to his team, and it speaks toward his intolerance for mistakes so many weeks beyond training camp.

Quarterback Tino Sunseri has played the past three games and thrown 98 consecutive passes without an interception, but he’s the exception to the rule.

During the loss to Louisville, mistakes from previous weeks — shaky defense, poor pass protection — reappeared, but the list expanded to include special teams, with a partially blocked punt and a poor snap on another try.

Also, Pitt had converted 5 of 6 attempts on fourth down but was 0 for 3 against Louisville, including the bad snap.

“There’s enough there to keep us busy at work this week,” Chryst said.

I don’t think the coaches are prepared to rip the redshirt off of some players. Not at this point. So the question becomes, what can he do if they keep having the problems?

We’ve heard enough times already that this is the O-line that the team has, and that there really isn’t anyone behind them that can be any better. The linebackers were low in numbers when the season started, and there are more injuries. The D-line has already been shuffled once. Other than trying to coach them up some more, what are the options?

Was Steve Pederson a big factor in Todd Graham’s departure? link to I know we all think he’s a traitor but there are two sides to every story. He certainly did a better job than Chryst is doing.

Pederson is Nordenberg’s stool and a dick.

Comment by TonyinHouston 10.17.12 @ 3:37 pm

Stevie is a douche bag of the highest order.

Comment by TX Panther 10.17.12 @ 3:40 pm

Thanks for the link to the 2 1/2 month old article that was commented about ad nauseam and has nothing to do with the blog post. Push your own agenda much?

Comment by CNorwoodAZ 10.17.12 @ 5:16 pm

If shell wants to go pro some day he needs
to stop playing the back spasm card.
they wont want damaged goods not as a high draft
pick .

so if it is real take a shot for pain and play and if it isent real stop doging it.
or no pros for the boy so wise up.

Comment by FRANKCAN 10.17.12 @ 6:02 pm

When Shell was in HS,
He would always skip out on football practices with some sort of ailment…
Hopewell’s football coach let him do what he wanted.
When Shell pulled that stunt in basketball, track, or baseball…. he got kicked off the team for missing/skipping out on practices for one reason or another. 2 times in basketball with 2 different coaches… once in track… once in baseball.

Comment by Joe D 10.17.12 @ 6:41 pm

I dont know how things will turn out none of us do
untill loi day and untill pitt takes the football field next year.

But right now chryst is coaching like wanny
and he is not doeing any better at recruiting OL men then wanny did.
and doeing worse at recruting DL men.
just saying that is the way it is at this point
it may all change.
but at least the QB will be able to throw long next year should be no more 8 men in the box next year.
time will tell on chryst but so far ?

Comment by FRANKCAN 10.17.12 @ 8:21 pm

I love how our favorite PG writer(lol), the Ron Cook anointed Shell the feature back at PITT.
Especially since we have one now, named Ray Graham.

Who is still much more explosive than Shell and can still break a long one. Don’t think Shell has that explosiveness that Ray Ray has. Nor the shake & bake moves once he’s in space like Ray Ray. And Ray Ray is a much better pass receiver out of the backfield as well. Too bad he got hurt, last year he would have ran for over 2000 yards. Hopefully he’ll still end up #2 on the all-time PITT rushing list. I believe he’s ended up just short of 1000 yards, 2 years in a row now. Let’s get Ray Ray above 1000 this year. Plus we don’t want Shell getting too cocky do we now.

Also that would mean this team would have had the all-time #2 rushing leader on it AND THE all-time #2 passing leaders on it. Hard to believe they stink as a team. Slightly below average last year. Or in some cases it would further the argument, stats are what they are…..stats.

And the beat goes on !

Comment by Emel 10.17.12 @ 8:28 pm


Based on the last 30 years of PITT football, we should know exactly how this all is going to turn out. Shouldn’t we !

It’s amazing we still give a damn.

Comment by Emel 10.17.12 @ 8:31 pm

EMel i know i lost faith a litte bit after the last two games.
but wait till next year have you ever hard that before.
but at least no tino next year can you just see it a QB who can throw the long ball.

and what was the big ting abought wanny i think they said he couldent recruit OL men and was a bad game day coach sounds like chryst and wanny have the same problem no adjustments after kick off and no OL men at least not yet we have 2 low rated ones so far sounds like the same man so far.

Comment by FRANKCAN 10.17.12 @ 8:55 pm

While it’s great to see Sir Tino in the Top 10 of some passing stats (mostly irrelevant ones) . I’d sure like to see us better than ..what is it 63rd nationally in scoring. Would be #100 of 124 without the glorified scrimmage game. And that is downright dreadful. Worse than anything Wanny/Cavenaugh/Cignetti put out.

Comment by Emel 10.17.12 @ 9:00 pm


I agree with you, lol..wait until next year ! 🙂
And the OL recruits are worrisome.

And I have this funny feeling being that we haven’t had a QB drafted by the NFL for 20 years, that being Alex Van Pelt in the 8th round by our very own Steelers. I have this feeling we are going to end our 20 year QB drought and Sir Tino will get drafted. Yep you heard it here first. lol

Comment by Emel 10.17.12 @ 9:10 pm

EMel so how is chryst better than wanny they seam abought the same to me neather can recruit OL men
neather make game day adjustments what did we gain i think the AD has screwed us but you just wait till next year EMel every thing will be ok you havent hard that before have you.

Comment by FRANKCAN 10.17.12 @ 9:12 pm

EMel i saw a plate on a car the outher day it was EMEL # # # WAS THAT YOUR PLATE OUT SIDE THE FRANKLIN CLUB i had just left after luch and it rode bye me.

Comment by FRANKCAN 10.17.12 @ 9:19 pm

Nope, twas not me. Frankie. I live down in mid-dixie, the Carolinas. Hey at least I will get to see my beloved Panthers without having to come up to the Steel City. Now that we are in the ACC. The trip up to Wake Forest is less than 2 hours and add an hour to Duke, UNC & NC State. Should be fun, if we can become somewhat competitive and/or relevant.

3 of the 4 colleges I mentioned have very nice campuses with ON CAMPUS football stadiums. Yes even Wake Forest and Duke have on campus stadiums !

Wanny did recruit Nix & Jacobson, both were highly thought of coming out of HS. DW also brought in Jeff Otah who became very good and going as a 1rst Round NFL pick. The 2009 team had a very good offensive line as well, as Wanny moved John Mielicki to O-Line and the others played very well as PITT averaged the most PPG since the Marino years (or 2nd most?). That was Dion’s freshmen year when he went for over 1700 yards.

As of yet PC hasn’t recruited a 3 or 4 star O-lineman. So…..

Comment by Emel 10.17.12 @ 10:18 pm

Emel, Whatever you are smoking, please overnight it to me. NO way Tino is drafted.

Comment by rayhpgh 10.18.12 @ 8:08 am

I think we have a good handle on how you feel about R Shell, Joe D. I think your post today is cut and pasted from previous posts.
I am going to Buffalo for the game and I obviously am not travling because this team is setting the world on fire.
I want to see a team respond under adversity;both players anc coaches. Unlike others, I don’t think you are a finished product at ages 18-22. Nor do I think a coach is as good or as bad as they are going to be in their 7th game as a head coach (PChryst) or their 300th (Mack Brown); so there is more to watch than just the X’s and O’s.
I am going to get as close to the Pitt sidelines as I can…

Comment by sfpitt 10.18.12 @ 8:35 am

Emel, come on, they ended the draft in the mid 70’s! It’s been a volunteer army ever since. Anyhow, why would Tino want to join the armed forces? He’s college educated and all?

What? OOOOOHH, you’re referring to the NFL Draft. That’s a good one!! Yep Sunseri goes in the first round for sure! Thanks Emel, that puts me in a good mood right to start my morning. You’re a funny guy.

Comment by Dr. Tom 10.18.12 @ 9:14 am

emel – Malecki may be dressing for the Steelers this week with the injuries they incurred on their O-line last week.

Comment by pghFred 10.18.12 @ 9:40 am


In my book, taking five sacks does not necessarily add up to mistake-free football.

That was five drives that ended up with ZERO points scored.

Sacks are killing this offense. Tino and the O-Line share the blame. No question.

But did you happen to see Teddy Bridgewater escape pressure a couple of times and calmly throw the ball out of bounds?

That was a thing of beauty.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.18.12 @ 10:16 am

By the way, sorry to bust the bubble on Aaron Donald.

Contrary to rumor, he’s not getting double-teamed as much as people think.

He’s showing himself to be pretty average this year.

Maybe it’s due to injury? Maybe he’s just not that good with average guys around him?

Comment by PittofDreams 10.18.12 @ 10:21 am

Thats for sure PittofDreams. A mobile QB is definitely an asset, especially when the pocket protection breaks down. Tino has been much improved on getting the ball out of his hand quicker this season but he is still a statue in the pocket and has little to no pocket awareness. That’s a bad combination when paired with an average O line at best.

The up side to this is, Tino will have had plenty of practice by then, when he is finally asked, at the completion of his football career. to poise for his statue sculpturing.

Comment by Dr. Tom 10.18.12 @ 10:43 am

@Dr. Tom.

Just wanted to see if you guys were still out there. lol

As the losses mount, us blather bloggers are dwindling. Just taking a head count.

He will be in someone’s NFL camp. Yes I know it sounds absurd. Such is life. 🙂

Comment by Emel 10.18.12 @ 12:09 pm

Isn’t Aaron Donald playing on the inside this year.
Perhaps if he’s not having much of an impact, the prudent thing to do, would be……..

Move him the back to the Outside, DE.

See, not Rocket Science.

Comment by Emel 10.18.12 @ 12:13 pm

lol, we had one returning starter of the front 4.
The guy was 1rst team All-BigEast. So what do they do……they move him to a different position.

Yes, these coaches do get paid for their brilliance.
And quite handsomely.

Comment by Emel 10.18.12 @ 12:20 pm


lol not smoking anything, other than the occasional cigar.

However, now that you mention it, when watching this team play, hallucinogenics, smoked or otherwise might be advisable. 🙂

Comment by Emel 10.18.12 @ 12:29 pm

Chryst is nothing like Wanny. Most of the criticism against Chryst has been his aggressive play calling. Going for 4th and whatevers. Wannstedt never was accused of being too aggressive.
Aaron Donald could have stayed outside…he still would be less productive because of double teams. You have to have more than one good DL.
I do agree about recruiting. The OL recruiting is key.

Comment by notrocketscience 10.18.12 @ 1:21 pm

Actually, things could even be much worse, than they currently are, really. We’ve been fortunate with the lack of any season ending injuries since the start of the season for our starters. Now if we had this O line decimated by injuries like last year’s squad was, then things get really, really ugly. Lets hope we can remain healthy and continue to get guys back in the line up like Todd Thomas that can be game changers for us.
There is still hope that the Panthers can turn this season around IMO if that good fortune prevails.

Comment by Dr. Tom 10.18.12 @ 2:29 pm

LMAO, Joe Starkey, 93.7 just about stole my post from a couple days ago.

“I mean, ya, of course, Coach Chryst gets a couple years. But, as far as Steve Pedersen is concerned. What, he’s been the AD for a full 11 years. No conference championships, in the by far worst BCS conference. 1/2 empty stadium staring at everyone.”

“is this what he envisioned??”

Joe, you been readin’ my stuff???

Comment by Dan 10.18.12 @ 3:59 pm

Or, maybe just giving his opinion on something that is so very obvious.

Comment by Dan 10.18.12 @ 4:03 pm

@dan. Then you might have heard me…100% Pederson. Don’t throw players under the bus. No team has ever had to go thru this.
Pederson should give back his pay.

Comment by SFPitt 10.18.12 @ 4:29 pm

@SFPitt, oh ya, it was actually a rant in response to you, agreeing with you.

Think it was on the Chas’ post right before this one.

I gave you kudo’s!! LOL

Comment by Dan 10.18.12 @ 5:02 pm

Pederson isn’t going anywhere until Nordenberg leaves. He is Nordenberg’s boi. Ironically, Nordenberg is viewed as being pro Pitt athletics, but he erred in giving Pederson so much control.

Comment by TonyinHouston 10.18.12 @ 5:57 pm

I have a feeling old Todd Graham beats Oregon tonight. You heard it here first. Smug Steve Peterson, anywhere else in America you would have been fired years ago for your performance on the job. That is except at Pitt.

Comment by upittbaseball 10.18.12 @ 6:07 pm

Come on brothers every thing will be ok we have are 2 low rated OL men abought as good as wanny could do.
you just wait till next year you will see hell we will win at least 5 games next year.

and bye year 3 we should be up to 7 wins.
and bye the end of year 4 we get a new coaxh and get to wait till he gets his own players and do it all over agein.
hell we should be pros at this it is the same every year wait till next year wait till he gets his players wait wait wait now i sound like EMel
or he sounds like me or i have just after 30 years just become nuts crazy bonkers lony tunes
da da thats all folks.

Comment by FRANKCAN 10.18.12 @ 6:22 pm

If we lose either of the next two games (against MAC teams), that being Buffalo, currently in the MAC and Temple who just left the MAC. Do we then pull the plug on Tino time ? That would put us at 3-5.

Prudence would suggest you start planning for the future. Seems to me, resting your whole season next year on a QB, who will not have stepped on the football field for a meaningful snap for 3 full seasons is risky to say the least and downright wreckless on the other end. If you as the Coach, truly think that after Savage, Chapman is going to be your guy, cause you recruited him.
Then why in the world are they worried about breaking Voytik’s redshirt. Let’s see what he can do NOW(at 3-5), because he might not ever have a chance as as good as this to become PITT’s QB.

Also I’ve brought this up before, what if Savage isn’t up to the task next year OR gets hurt as he has done previously. Then you have to throw a totally un-experienced QB into the fire. On the road, in our very first year in a New Conference.

Again this is predicated on us losing one of the next two games. Cause I know they would NOT EVEN consider, at 4-4 a QB change. And yes I know some of Tino’s stats are impressive, but throwing TD passes and scoring in the RedZone is not anywhere close to the Top 30. Actually scoring period.

GRP (for those that don’t know that represents
Get Rid of Pederson)

Comment by Emel 10.18.12 @ 7:25 pm

@dan. I’ve got a face made for Radio!
Last call. Am I the only one making the shuffle to Buffalo?

Comment by SFPitt 10.18.12 @ 9:25 pm

A pound of flesh is being exacted!!

That’s what you get for those crap black uniforms!! You’re supposed to be maroon and gold!!

My uncle called, he said, “well, at least the fans all wore black, it has a funeral feeling to it”

Comment by Dan 10.18.12 @ 10:17 pm

p.s. Just for kicks and thoughts.

Oregon, top 5 team. Has a rs freshman quarterback, and a true freshman starting at wide out. Not just fill ins either. QB and WR are playing lights out fantastic.

Comment by Dan 10.18.12 @ 10:18 pm

OK, will all the loyal Pitt Alum who thought Todd Graham was an elite Head Coach step forward?

Comment by PittofDreams 10.18.12 @ 11:25 pm

Ohio State has an opening on the 2013 schedule as Vanderbilt just opted out of that game in Columbus. OSU pays 1.2 million.
Hey Steve….we need the friggen money as your empty yellow seats don’t ring cash registers.
What are you going to do? OSU needs a foe:we need cash. Since the ACC dropped a fame we too have an opening.
Or isn’t making money in your job description?

Comment by SFPitt 10.19.12 @ 3:29 am

Pitt o dreams – I didn’t think he was elite but I thought he’d be productive at PITT, and still do.

If he had stayed four years I think we’d have winning football.

That said, I’m OK with Chryst as I’m holding off on rating him until after next year.

Comment by Reed 10.19.12 @ 7:59 am

I thought ASU would upset them. I was wrong but losing to the #3 program in the country isn’t anything to be ashamed of.

Comment by Upittbaseball 10.19.12 @ 10:15 am

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