Pitt's seniors get ready to wrap up their college careers
Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri is one of many senior Panthers whose careers will end against Mississippi in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
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Over the past six weeks, Pitt's seniors have had their share of "lasts."
Last full week of practice, last home game, last finals week.
The BBVA Compass Bowl on Saturday, though, actually will be the end.
Eighteen seniors will wrap up their Pitt careers in Birmingham, Ala.. For now, though, it's still business as usual.
"I think we've talked about it a little bit as the seniors," quarterback Tino Sunseri said. "The biggest thing we've trying to concentrate on is just enjoying the day-to-day processes of practice and not letting the game get in front of what you have to do."
BBVA Compass Bowl
• Game: Pitt (6-6) vs. Mississippi (6-6), Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala.
• When: 1 p.m. Saturday.
• TV: ESPN.
• Favored: Mississippi by 3 1/2.
• The skinny: While Pitt is playing in Birmingham for the third consecutive year, Mississippi is in its first bowl game since 2009.
Sunseri said, based on watching the seniors in years past, he didn't expect it to really hit him that his college career was ending until he was in the locker room taking off his Pitt jersey for the final time.
For some Pitt seniors, Saturday will be the final time they strap up in a competitive football game. Others will try to extend their careers to the next level.
Running back Ray Graham and center Ryan Turnley will play in the East-West Shrine Bowl on Jan. 19 in St. Petersburg, Fla.. Sunseri will play in the Raycom All-Star Classic in Mongomery, Ala., on the same day. Left guard Chris Jacobson is heading to the Casino Del Sol All-Star Game on Jan. 11 in Tucson, Ariz..
After the all-star games, those players and others will break off and prepare for Pitt's pro day, some working in Pittsburgh, others elsewhere.
For now, though, these seniors are taking in the minute details of preparation for their final collegiate game, even down to the grinding practices.
"It doesn't matter if you have 50 more practices because once they're gone you're going to miss it," Turnley said.
"Just take everything in and have a great time while you're doing it, so that's what I'm trying to do."
With up and down results on the field, this senior class probably will most be remembered for the revolving door of coaches that came through Pitt during their five year tenure.
Sunseri and Turnley each said they had no regrets about their time as Panthers, but Sunseri said he often questioned what would've happened if Pitt had hired Paul Chryst in 2010, rather than Todd Graham.
Sunseri would have another year of comfort in Chryst's pro-style offense, and there would have been no failed "high-octane" experiment.
"Things happen for a reason. It builds character," Sunseri said. "We understand what it's like to be left, we understand now what it's like to have a coach and have somebody there for you that wants to see you succeed."
Turnley, too, said he would not let the coaching turbulence define his tenure at Pitt.
"I guess it is a sense of accomplishment, but that's what I signed up for," Turnley said. "I love Pitt and always will."
First Published January 2, 2013 12:00 am