Tino needs to step up his game for Pitt to have a winning record in 2012. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Today, we begin previewing the 2012 Pitt football team with position-by-position reviews. Camp, after all, begins in just under three weeks. We'll look at each player in the position, potential starters, and things that the unit has to do in order for Pitt football to have a successful season.
First up is the key position for any successful football team - the quarterback. While it is the key position, the QB doesn't have to be a Tim Tebow or a Sam Bradford - someone who is far and away the best player on the field and takes over the game. A successful QB simply has to manage the game effectively and, following the word of Dave Wannstedt, not lose it. This last sentence is especially true for Pitt in 2012.
We all know that Tino Sunseri is the returning starter.has often drawn the ire of Pitt fans through his play over the past two seasons, deserved or not. Though you can't hold his play last year against him - he was in no way, shape, or form the ideal player for a Fraud-run offense. And very few QBs could succeed behind the atrocity that was the 2011 Pitt offensive line. Going back to his final year under Dave Wannstedt, he was actually a pretty solid performer and had the coach been around for another year, it's possible that we would have seen a far better quarterback last season. Playing in a pro-style system will help, but we shouldn't be expecting Tino to all of a sudden lead Pitt to an unbeaten season (though anything is possible, I suppose).
More player breakdown after the jump:
Who are the possible players to unseat Tino? Most fans are obviously looking at touted freshman QB Chad Voytik to come in and run the show from the get go, which is unlikely. Not that it isn't possible, but if Pitt can get a redshirt season out of Voytik, I'm sure Paul Chryst would prefer that option to have him around as long as possible. As of right now, Voytik hasn't even secured the backup position, so let's take one step at a time before we place him atop the depth chart. Still, there is much to like about Voytik. An Elite 11 quarterback last season, he is often praised for his quick release and accuracy.
Though it might be hard to believe, Mark Myers also remains an option. Myers was once ranked the top quarterback prospect out of Ohio in the Class of 2010. He's hardly seen the field over the past two seasons, though, after redshirting in 2010 and making only token appearances in 2011. In the offseason, it appeared that he was ready to compete for the starting position, but it's unlikely that he is able to do that in 2012. Scouts liked Myers' ability to sell play action and his arm strength, which could prove valuable to Pitt should Tino go down. Still, it's unlikely that he passes Sunseri on the depth chart.
The final option is the incumbent Trey Anderson. After walking on last season, he not only secured a scholarship, but then managed to crack the two-deep before the first game. Anderson was a star in Texas while in high school, yet didn't manage any real scholarship offers. Todd Graham brought him to Pittsburgh and probably hoped that his play would allow him to pass Tino on the depth chart. After the Utah game, though, it became pretty evident he wasn't the answer, either. Tino was the starter for the remainder of the season whether Graham liked it or not. Anderson has a history of success in high school, but like Myers, he didn't do anything to separate himself in spring.
You could literally pick any of the three when it comes to the backup job, though it appears Myers and Anderson have a slight advantage. The backup quarterback spot is definitely one battle to watch going into fall camp. It not only means being the first one off the bench in 2012, but maybe an edge for the starting spot in 2013.
Here are some key goals for the group in 2012:
Be an effective game manager: The 2009 season proved Pitt doesn't need a superstar QB to have a successful season. Pitt won ten games with Bill Stull, who was by no definition a star QB. But he managed the game wisely and limited mistakes.
What does being an effective game manager mean? It means making the smart plays, completing the safe passes, testing the defenses deep occasionally to keep them honest, and above all else, limiting costly turnovers and sacks. That didn't happen last season and we saw the results.
Long passes: The long ball has been a lost art at Heinz Field for the past few seasons. It has been a running joke for the past few seasons that Tino is essentially limited to only one completion of 20+ yards a game and the deep pass has been his achilles heel. But Pitt has great options at receiver this season, starting with three veteran wideouts in Devin Street, Mike Shanahan, and Cam Saddler. They also are all running the style of offense they were recruited to run and they have experience playing with Sunseri. I'm not saying that we should expect 50-yard bombs with any regularity this season, but there should be at least some improvement in this area.
Limit the number of sacks: Obviously, this doesn't rest completely on Tino's shoulders. The offensive line last season was, well, offensive and hopefully can improve in 2012. But there were a number of occasions where Tino had plenty of time in the backfield to throw the ball away, only to get sacked instead. We can all pick out any number of bad sacks that didn't need to happen and that simply has to stop this season.
Season statistics: Here are some general stats that Pitt should be aiming for in 2012 out of their QBs.
- 2500+ yards
- At least 60% completion
- 25+ TDs, fewer than 10 interceptions
- Fewer than 10 sacks not due to the offensive line
- 500 rushing yards
If Pitt can reach at least three of these five targets, they should go bowling in 2012.