Sunseri: We have to look forward ...
Despite two years as the starting quarterback, there was no guarantee that Tino Sunseri would be Pitt's starting signal caller when camp opened this month.
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Pitt's Tino Sunseri may be the least experienced fifth-senior quarterback in Division I-A with 26 career starts under his belt when you consider how many systems he has had to learn in his career.
"This is my fourth system, but [offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph] is the sixth or seventh guy I have worked with calling games," Sunseri said.
"And each different guy has different philosophies, but each one you can pull a little bit from and carry it over into the next. Obviously, I have had to work with a bunch of different ones, but first and foremost, I am going to make the most of it and try to execute."
Sunseri said the frustrating part of learning so many systems over the years is he never got to learn the nuances of any one system, and that makes it tough to progress as a player -- or an offensive unit -- from year to year.
He said every system takes at least a year to learn and understand completely, but the Panthers have had to be on a very steep learning curve each of the past three seasons.
"Whenever they talk about the best quarterbacks in the NFL, [Tom] Brady, [Peyton] Manning, if you notice, they have all worked in the same system," Sunseri said.
"So, whenever they say they knew exactly where the running back was supposed to be, he meant he knew where he the running back was supposed to be in that system because they have had so many reps over the years in that system.
"That's fluid, even in college football when guys who have been in the same system for three years, it is not new to them. We have had to learn a new system every spring. We haven't had bowl game practices where we have worked on the system the next year. Heck, we have gone into bowl games the last two years and haven't even had a head coach.
"So we have to really concentrate on learning the most we can and not worry about the past. We have to keep looking forward and control what we can control and do the best we are able to do."
Sunseri said that learning so many different systems over the past few years probably has brought some of the veteran players together because the players -- not the system -- have been the common denominator.
And while Sunseri said stability would have been nice, the fact that he has played so many games with receivers Mike Shanahan, Devin Street and Cam Saddler should ease the Panthers' transition to the latest offensive system under first-year coach Paul Chryst.
Street and Shanahan each have played in all 26 of Sunseri's starts.
Saddler has played in 21, and, with tailback Ray Graham playing in 20 of those games and tight ends Hubie Graham and Drew Carswell in all 13 games last season, the offense should have some cohesiveness, even though this will be the first year in another system.
"That is huge [having so many players around him who have experience]," Sunseri said.
"But, with people getting injured last year on the line, the young guys got some experience, too, and now they can take that experience and carry it over ... And those receivers have been through it and now we have been trying to incorporate this new system to what we do so it can be second nature.
"And the veteran guys, we met three times a week on our own. They know what it takes to get a passing game to click. We have all been through this and been through camps and understand what stuff can happen in games and, hopefully, that experience carries over from system to system.
"But playing with all those guys, I understand where they are going to be and how they play and things like when guys are going to make those route adjustments. That's huge."
Sunseri, 14-12 as a starter, completed 247 of 385 passes for 2,616 yards, 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last year in Todd Graham's high-octane spread offense, but he never seemed comfortable and often was erratic.
One of the biggest issues he had was holding the ball too long and taking sacks.
That is a sign that he wasn't trusting what he was seeing -- or he was trying to learn a new system and thus didn't have a lot of confidence in himself.
This year, he will be playing in a system he is familiar with -- the pro-style he played a version of in his first three years at Pitt.
That has helped with his transition, but the Panthers' opener against Youngstown State still will be his first game under Chryst and Rudolph.
"These first few days of camp have been a feeling-out process," Sunseri said.
"But if we keep talking about things, keep working things out, keep in the film room, things will start to come together.
"We've been through this before. We just need to worry about winning camp, getting better every day and if we do that, then we can worry about trying to win games."
NOTES -- The Panthers had a tough scrimmage Saturday, one that included 183 plays. Chryst said that is the only way to get the team ready. "We were able to run a lot of plays, which is good," Chryst said. "I think the film will show that we had guys doing the right things, which will give them a chance to have success. We also had guys who we need to make sure keep grinding away who haven't gotten it yet.". ... There were a few injuries, none which seemed to be significant, although defensive end T.J. Clemmings was carted off. Chryst said he did not know the extent of Clemmings' injury. ...One of the stars of the scrimmage was redshirt freshman cornerback Lafayette Pitts (Woodland Hills) as he made a number of big plays and a couple of pass break-ups in key situations. Pitts has been battling with Cullen Christian for an open corner spot. ... Receiver Mike Shanahan did not participate in the scrimmage. ... A number of recruits were in attendance, including Belle Vernon tackle Dorian Johnson, one of the highest-rated linemen prospects in the state. Johnson was committed to Penn State but decommitted once the Nittany Lions were hit with NCAA sanctions, The Panthers are on the short list of teams he is considering.
First Published August 12, 2012 12:00 am