Pitt hunting for some right answers


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Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt has plenty of decisions facing him now that the season is in jeopardy of falling apart.

The Panthers are 1-2, and they have not begun Big East Conference play. But, if nothing else, the way they were hammered by Miami, 31-3, Thursday night and the way they have played in their other two games suggests there are holes in the lineup and some issues that need to be resolved.

Wannstedt has been pretty good at steering the Panthers through adversity, but this likely will be his greatest challenge.

Pitt was expected to do great things this year but appears not to be as good as advertised. Furthermore, there have been many embarrassing off-field incidents involving his players.

Wannstedt said after the game Thursday that the Panthers need a renewed commitment. He met with his seniors after the game, and his message was clear -- talk to the younger players about the level of commitment, hard work and dedication it took to have the success of the past two seasons.

Pitt senior defensive end Jabaal Sheard said the Panthers' effort was "embarrassing" and hinted that maybe there are bigger problems than just poor performance.

"Maybe we have too many individuals or maybe some guys aren't practicing hard enough, I don't know what it is," he said. "But I do know we have to find out what it is, we have to come back and play as a team and get back to where we were. The last two years, we were going up, and now it seems like we are going back down, we're getting worse."

Several players confirmed that the locker room might not be as unified as it needs to be and that not everybody is completely focused on winning.

In addition, Pitt has had four players arrested in the past two months and that, coupled with some key injuries, cannot help the team's focus.

On the field, the offensive line might be difficult to fix, but Wannstedt said he and his staff won't be opposed to making lineup changes.

"We are not in sync in some areas of our football team," he said. "It is not easy, it is pretty simple. We need to get back to the basics and keep working, keep working, keep working. If changes need to be made, we'll make some changes.

"We are not efficient enough to move the ball to sustain drives and score points. We're going to take a look at the offensive line and see if we can juggle some guys around.

"Right now, we're a one-win football team. What happened last year or two years ago means nothing. We've got to understand that nobody is going to give us anything. That's not going to happen."

Possible changes to the offensive line could see right tackle Lucas Nix moving to right guard to replace the struggling Greg Gaskins. Jordan Gibbs likely would move to Nix's tackle spot.

On defense, Greg Williams and Tristan Roberts have struggled at weakside linebacker, which could result in safety Dom DeCicco moving there and Williams going to the strongside. Max Gruder would play in the middle. Jason Hendricks' play at safety when DeCicco was out with a hamstring injury would give the coaching staff confidence to make such a move.

Safety Andrew Taglianetti (groin) is close to being fully recovered, and he played a few snaps against the Hurricanes in the nickel package, which adds more depth to the position.

One place there will not be a change is at quarterback, where Wannstedt said Tino Sunseri will continue to be the starter. Sunseri was pulled Thursday night and replaced by Pat Bostick, but Wannstedt said the move was made because Sunseri was hurt when he took a shot to the head.

"No [there won't be a change]. Pat is as good as there is and Pat will be ready to play," Wannstedt said, "Tino needs to make improvement just like everybody else."


Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1720.


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