QB spot worrisome for Graham
Success stories for fifth-year senior transfers such as that of Russell Wilson at Wisconsin this season are why Todd Graham would entertain the idea if he thought it would help solidify the quarterback position in 2012. Wilson has led Wisconsin into the inaugural Big Ten championship, passing for 2,692 yards and 28 touchdowns.
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Pitt would seem to be set at quarterback next season. All four scholarship quarterbacks return, including two-year starter Tino Sunseri, and one of the top high school quarterbacks in the country, Chad Voytik from Cleveland, Tenn., has committed to the Panthers.
But Sunseri's inconsistent -- sometimes poor -- play this year has the coaching staff considering options to shore up the position in case Voytik isn't ready to take over next season as a true freshman.
Coach Todd Graham, who can't comment on Voytik because he has not yet signed a letter of intent, made it clear that recruiting a second quarterback for next year's class, though not necessarily a high school senior, is a strong possibility.
Pitt could bring in a junior-college quarterback to compete for the job. But Graham might be more interested in a fifth-year player who is transferring with a year of eligibility and entering a graduate program and wouldn't have to sit out a year.
Senior tailback Zach Brown is an example. He transferred to Pitt from Wisconsin this season. Current Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson, meanwhile, played his first three years at North Carolina State.
"At quarterback it's very difficult [to rely on a junior-college quarterback]; not to say that we wouldn't do that," Graham said. "I've never done the fifth-year deal until this year; it takes a special person to do that. I think Zach has been awesome. We could do something like that.
"But long term, and programmatically, I like bringing guys in that are going to be here four and five years. I think the quarterback position is the relationships and the development."
It's not just Sunseri's inconsistent play that has Graham concerned about the position. Backup Trey Anderson has a lingering wrist injury, and redshirt freshman Mark Myers reportedly is considering a transfer, which would leave Anthony Gonzalez, another redshirt freshman who has played H-back all season, as the only other quarterback for spring drills.
"I'm really fired up about where we're at right now," Graham said of having a commitment from Voytik but still searching for another quarterback to recruit.
"A lot of it depends on Trey's situation, his injury and how that's going to progress. We're hoping that's going to be OK, but we don't know that right now. So right now he's just kind of out indefinitely and hoping that heals up. Number-wise, we could pretty much have to take two people."
Of course, Sunseri could win the job again next season, but Graham isn't opposed to having a true freshman start at quarterback.
"I think the right [freshman] that's smart and sharp, no doubt can come in and compete," Graham said.
It will be senior day Saturday at Heinz Field, and the 17 seniors on the roster will be honored before the game.
No question it has been a rough year for the senior class. The coach who recruited them -- Dave Wannstedt -- was fired at the end of last year and his replacement, Mike Haywood, was arrested after a domestic dispute and fired less than three weeks later before Graham was eventually hired.
Pitt senior defensive tackle Chas Alecxih said that as tough as the season has been -- a 5-6 record -- it would have been much worse for the team had Graham not been hired.
"When Mike Haywood came in, all he said to us was 'sit up in your chairs,' " Alecxih said. "But Todd Graham came in and said, 'You had a great coach before me [meaning Wannstedt].' Which we did. But then he said, 'We're going to take this program to the next level.' And I think they will do that in the future.
"Our first meeting with Haywood, he came in with a wrinkled suit, the worst suit I've ever seen, then acted like we owed him something. He was very arrogant. And when we walked out of the meeting we all said, 'Wow, this is going to be our next coach.' So when he got fired, I was happy, and obviously we got a great coach in Todd Graham to come in."
Graham said that Ronald Jones (concussion) and Brown (sternum) did not practice Tuesday and are questionable for Saturday. ... If Brown can't play, freshman Isaac Bennett will start, Corey Davis will be the backup and walk-on junior Desmond Brown, the younger brother of Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, will be the third back. Graham said he will not break freshman Malcolm Crockett's redshirt under any circumstances. ... Gonzalez has taken over the "wildcat quarterback" role for this week from Jones. "Obviously, it is something we think Anthony can do," Graham said. Gonzalez and Jones will compete in the spring for the specialized quarterback position.
First Published November 30, 2011 12:00 am