Pitt quarterbacks Trey Anderson (10) and Tino Sunseri (12) watch as Mark Myers works a passing drill Thursday on the first day of spring practice.
By Paul Zeise Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
There is a time in almost every college football player's career when he realizes that he must mature or his potential could be unfulfilled.
For some, it happens almost immediately after they step on campus; for others, it may take a few years of sitting on the bench.
Pitt backup quarterback Mark Myers may have reached that point, and that could mean a legitimate quarterback competition this spring and summer between Myers and incumbent Tino Sunseri.
"I definitely feel like I've matured a lot," Myers said. "I've spent a lot more time in the film room and studying and working on the field a lot."
Coaches often say competition brings out the best in players, pushing them to work harder and perform better.
The Panthers were in need of better play at the position than they got last year with Sunseri at the helm.
That's not to say that all of the team's offensive problems were Sunseri's fault. He started all 13 games and played well in spurts, completing 247 of 385 passes for 2,616 yards, 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Sunseri was asked to play a system that was a bad fit for his talents, the receivers had a bad year and the inconsistent offensive line was patched together because of injuries.
Sunseri, by his own admission, did not play well for much of the season, but the coaching staff had little alternative to him last year.
Around the team, Myers was not known for being the hardest worker.
Coaches tried to motivate Myers early in training camp last summer by moving an undersized walk-on, Trey Anderson, ahead of him on the depth chart, but it didn't seem to move him much and that added to the staff's frustration.
Myers, from St. Ignatius High in Cleveland, is 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, has a strong arm and is a prototypical pocket passer.
The spread offense of former Pitt coach Todd Graham did not fit his talents, and Myers didn't feel as if he would have a real chance to compete.
Myers said he was energized when Paul Chryst was hired to replace Graham because Chryst uses a pro-style offense.
"I was definitely relieved when coach Chryst was hired," Myers said. "I think now with this offense, I have a real chance to get on the field and help this team out."
Both quarterbacks are happy with the change at the top.
Sunseri said the pro-style offense was "the style football I was recruited to play."
The quarterbacks also believe they will benefit because their new position coach, Brooks Bollinger, is a former Wisconsin and NFL player and is only 32 years old, not that removed from his playing days.
"I couldn't tell you how happy I was when they announced him as the quarterbacks coach," Sunseri said.
"He's a guy that's actually played the position, stood back there, had people rush at him and be the guy to relay the message. Those kinds of guys understand what's going on and they understand what your mindset is."
If Myers, a redshirt sophomore, is ready to put the past two years behind him and get serious about playing football, he will be able to push Sunseri, even though Sunseri has started 26 career games and has far more experience.
There are six players at the position this spring, but two of them, Anothony Gonzalez and E.J. Banks, are likely to move to other positions at some point.
Bollinger said he hopes all of the quarterbacks just worry about improving their skills and let the competition take care of itself.
"I'm excited to work with every one of them," Bollinger said. "One of the great things about coaching is seeing that light bulb go off in each of them at different times. Each one of them is a joy to work with and it's just a matter of finding how to help make each one better.
"The better each one of them are, the better the top guy is going to be and, ultimately, the better the team will be. I like our quarterback meeting room. We're going through this together."