Tino Sunseri, like most hotshot high school quarterbacks, believed that he would walk on to Pitt's campus two years ago, become the starter and hold onto the job for four years.
Then he actually did get to campus in training camp of his freshman season and the reality hit that he was nowhere near ready to be the starting quarterback of a major college program. He ended up being a redshirt for a season, then spent last season as the backup to Bill Stull.
"When you are young, you don't have any idea how fast this game is and everything that is involved," said Sunseri, a Central Catholic High School graduate who will be a redshirt sophomore in the fall. "So like every quarterback I've ever met, I really thought I was ready back then. But you look back and you realize how much I had to learn.
"Just being able to be on the sidelines and watching Billy [Stull] play, I've said it many times, that is very helpful for a young guy learning because when he comes off the field, he can talk to me about what he sees and I talk to him about what I saw. So you really get a good feel for the way things play out on the field."
Sunseri has matured the past two seasons, which is a good thing because the Panthers are his team to run. He started this spring in a competition with redshirt junior Pat Bostick, but as the spring unfolded it became clear that there really wasn't much of a competition. Sunseri took all of the reps with the first-team offense in every practice and played in both scrimmages exclusively with the first team, as well.
Part of that is due to the fact that coaches wanted to get Sunseri as much work as possible with the first team, given his lack of experience, but it is mostly because he is their starter for this season and beyond.
Simply put, he has more upside and is more physically gifted than Bostick, and Bostick has proved to be a much more valuable commodity as the backup because of his knowledge of the system and his ability to step in and be ready to play at a moment's notice.
And unlike two years ago, Sunseri, who has not thrown an interception in two scrimmages, not only believes he is ready to be the starter, he knows it and he's ready to take the opportunity and make the most of it.
"I've been prepared for this opportunity right now," he said. "I think, the way spring ball has been going, it has been a learning experience for me every day. Whenever you are the No. 2, like I was last year, you aren't really getting the reps and you don't see things like a Greg Romeus rushing from the outside and different coverages.
"I feel like I've come a long way just even in this spring."
Coaches haven't officially installed Sunseri as the starter yet and aren't likely to until closer to training camp, but they have referred to him as their current No. 1 and they have made it clear by the way Sunseri and Bostick have been used.
Although Sunseri can throw all the passes, has a strong arm, quick release and all the intangibles to be an excellent quarterback, the one question that seems to follow him is his height.
He is listed at 6 feet 2, but that seems to be a little bit of a stretch as he looks smaller when he is in the pocket.
Still, he has had very few passes deflected at the line of scrimmage and has been very good at finding or even creating passing lanes to throw the ball.
"I think that's funny [when people question his height] because I am actually a little bit taller than Drew Brees [of the New Orleans Saints, who is listed at 6-0]. I've looked that stat up plenty of times," Sunseri said, then he laughed. "If you look across our offensive line, they are all tall, and with those guys being so big I've been able to find the lanes in between them and also I've been able to throw over them because we've been taught high elbow and things of that nature.
"The bottom line is, that it isn't an issue because I've shown this spring I can make the throws and we won't see a taller offensive or defensive line than ours."
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1720