This was an all-quiet-before-the-storm type week. Not much in terms of real news crossed the Pitt desk, but things should start ramping up quickly with training camp set to begin on August 6. As tomorrow is August 1 - WOW - the season is well within reach at this point; crunch time is near for players to start proving themselves. Chief among those with something to prove is quarterback Tino Sunseri. While Sunseri was unfairly blamed for a lot of the high-octane sputtering last year, he still made a lot of bad decisions and poor throws which were nobody's fault but his own. How he'll play this year is a looming question for nearly every Pitt fan. Will he be a bull or a bear? We'll look at both possibilities after the jump.Bull (upward trending): Tino Sunseri
Reasonable logic says that Sunseri could be a decent quarterback for the Panthers in 2012. With two years of starting experience under his belt and the team returning to a pro-style offense, Sunseri should play better than last year. ESPN's Andrea Adelson seems to think so.
Believe it or not, Sunseri is going into his third season as the starting quarterback despite being roundly criticized for all three seasons. I think going away from the spread hurry-up will help him. He never really got the timing down, and was sacked many times because he just wouldn't get rid of the football. Getting more of a run-heavy, play-action attack is certainly going to help him. He just has to manage the game and limit all his mistakes, something he failed to do a season ago when he had more interceptions (11) than touchdown passes (10).
I agree that all Tino really has to do this year is "manage" the game. With the backfield that Pitt will likely have (assuming Ray Graham is healthy), he should be able to hand the ball off a lot. Running the ball 70% of the time wouldn't surprise me, maybe even 75%. But, even with stud running backs lined up behind him, Sunseri still needs to be poised and confident enough to make a few long throws to keep opposing defenses on their toes. In two years, we still haven't seen that ability from him. What will change for him this year, I'm not sure. This is where the pessimism starts to creep in.
Bear (downward trending): Tino Sunseri
As easily as Tino could pull a Bill Stull and turn it on big-time during his final year, he could just as easily get overwhelmed by the new offensive system and struggle once again. The consensus across most seems to be a cautious wait-and-see. That's how CBSSports.com feels. As does Rant Sports.
Tino Sunseri hasn’t exactly established himself as an elite quarterback in the Big East. That being said, Sunseri isn’t chopped liver either. The Senior passer has compiled a 130.7 QB rating in 30 games. The question for 2012 is how much of his turnover struggles were due to Graham’s spread attack.
That is the question, indeed. I think the most telling indicator of Sunseri's expected performance this year might be something Paul Chryst said to the Trib's Jerry DiPaola over the weekend.
"You ask him to do something, he is going to try to do it," the coach said.
He likes the way Sunseri has calmly embraced the recent chaos within the program.
"That’s good news," said Chryst, pleased that Sunseri believes annual change eventually will make him a complete player.
But Chryst warns: "That ‘eventually’ is here."
Now, I know Chryst isn't going to feed us shiny propaganda like Todd Graham did, but man, that doesn't sound too positive to me. He is going to try to do it? I don't know if that statement was parsed carefully like that on purpose, but I think the reservation is pretty representative of what Chryst has seen of Sunseri so far.
Guessing how Tino will play this year is like guessing stocks on the market. You can do it all you want, but the only way to know is with time. We'll get our first glimpse on August 6.