Anthony Gonzalez is likely to suit up Saturday when Pitt plays at Iowa, but don't expect to see him as a backup quarterback.
Coach Todd Graham said Gonzalez, who has just finished serving a two-game disciplinary suspension, likely will play as a "three-back" (H-back), and he will move to that position full-time, at least for this season.
Graham said Gonzalez is too good of an athlete to leave on the sidelines, buried behind the other quarterbacks. Gonzalez's development while he was suspended has been better than expected, Graham said.
Gonzalez will share time with Hubie Graham and Drew Carswell. The coach said that all three have such different skills that there could be some plays when all of them are on the field.
"I've got a lot of confidence in [Gonzalez]," Todd Graham said. "I'll be real honest with you, we watch his development and I'm excited. We need to get him going. I think he can really help us. He's going to play, I don't know if he's ready to play every play. Hubie's done a good job, there's definitely things that Hubie's going to do, but Anthony is going to play at three-back."
Gonzalez was suspended for two games because of an offseason incident in his hometown of Bethlehem, when he was arrested with some of his friends for possession of marijuana. Gonzalez was accepted into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program Aug. 31 in Northampton County Court.
Graham said that Gonzalez has been a model citizen since his arrest. Gonzalez had to pay a high price beyond missing the Panthers' first two games.
"A lot of people would probably tell you that was a pretty harsh punishment, and it probably was because it wasn't just the two games." Graham said. "He had to do a lot of other stuff: community service, things like that. Anthony's a great young man, made a mistake, I've got tremendous belief in him, he's a winner."
Gonzalez will not be available to speak to the reporters until he plays his first game.
Graham said one thing is clear to him: The Panthers have some talented freshmen who must get on the field. One of them, outside linebacker Ejuan Price, has cracked the lineup and been promoted to a starting job.
Graham's philosophy is simple -- put the best 11 players on both sides of the ball on the field, regardless of age or experience. The coach said he expects at least eight freshmen to play this season.
So far, seven have played: Price, linebacker LaQuentin Smith, tailback Corey Davis, wide receiver Ronald Jones, quarterback Trey Anderson, defensive end Khaynin Mosley-Smith and wide receiver Darius Patton.
Graham said the next freshman to play in a game most likely will be linebacker Nicholas Grigsby, who has been slowed by injuries, and safety Lafayette Pitts could be the ninth.
Backup quarterback Mark Myers has added a new duty -- backup punter. Graham said he is very good.
"He is really punting the ball good," Graham said. "I'm excited by that because it gives us little bit different dimension, having a quarterback back there, so we have some competition there.
Graham said his team has been a little bit tight on game day, and the players need to loosen up to enjoy the game.
He said his biggest fear is that they play scared and tentatively. He wants them to play hard, play disciplined, play without fear and -- most of all -- have a little bit of fun.
"I've been trying to get across to these guys that I want them to play disciplined, but I don't want them to play guarded," Graham said. "Sometimes, during the game I'm going 'Guys, I want you to have fun,' because sometimes I think we are taking too much of the fun out of this game.
"We don't want to taunt other people, but go out and play, just play."
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1720.