Friday, April 23, 2010

Getting to Know Tino

So Tino goes into the Fall as the starting quarterback. The bad news is you really don't want to enter a season in which you can win a conference with a new quarterback. The good news is that Tino should be at least serviceable and is being given the keys to something better than an El Camino.

He comes in with possibly the best running back in the country in Dion Lewis. Then mix in a dose of playmaking WR Jonathan Baldwin and a very good defense, and you can see he's stepping into a pretty good situation. I also feel a little better since Sunseri's been in the system for two years now. He's had some experience and should have an idea of what it takes to be successful at this point.

Athlon's Big East preview says Pitt will need to bank on Sunseri getting better as the season goes on to gear up for their final four-game stretch, which includes three road games.

Brian Bennett of blogging fame talks with Tino about the Spring. He also gushed about Tino's ability to throw a great ball when he was in town.

Is Tino going to face pressure from a fan base that wasn't even totally happy after Bill Stull put up incredible numbers last year? No doubt. Dave Curtis and Matt Hayes of the Sporting News think so as well and place Tino in their top ten of first-year QBs under the most pressure.

I don't know what it is, but I like this kid. Maybe it's the fact that he at least has something of a tough persona:
For most of his youth football career, Tino Sunseri eschewed the glory positions. Instead, he played offensive and defensive line and fullback.

"I always liked to hit people," he says.

Tino Sunseri has done the most work with the first team this spring and is expected to start this season.But he also had a stronger and better arm than anybody on his team, and in the middle of one game his coach tried him at quarterback. Sunseri tossed a couple of touchdown passes, the team won and his days in the trenches officially ended.
I also like the fact hat he can scramble, too, as evidenced by his 12-yard TD scramble in the Blue-Gold game.

Even his most glaring 'weakness' doesn't really seem like that much of an issue:
Although Sunseri can throw all the passes, has a strong arm, quick release and all the intangibles to be an excellent quarterback, the one question that seems to follow him is his height.

He is listed at 6 feet 2, but that seems to be a little bit of a stretch as he looks smaller when he is in the pocket.

Still, he has had very few passes deflected at the line of scrimmage and has been very good at finding or even creating passing lanes to throw the ball.

"I think that's funny [when people question his height] because I am actually a little bit taller than Drew Brees [of the New Orleans Saints, who is listed at 6-0]. I've looked that stat up plenty of times," Sunseri said, then he laughed. "If you look across our offensive line, they are all tall, and with those guys being so big I've been able to find the lanes in between them and also I've been able to throw over them because we've been taught high elbow and things of that nature.

"The bottom line is, that it isn't an issue because I've shown this spring I can make the throws and we won't see a taller offensive or defensive line than ours."
Are there going to be times when he has balls batted down at the line or doesn't have a clear line of sight? Sure. But I won't believe it's going to be a major problem until I see it. He mentioned Drew Brees and, well, Drew hasn't had that much of a problem.


  1. (Sorry about the mess with the posts - here is what I actually mean...)

    Tino Sunseri may well turn out to be an effective QB for us, he has all the physical tools you need almost, but I don't discount his height like you seem to. He truly is short for even a college QB. TV doesn't justify the reality - he's maybe pushing 6'0" even, but after standing right next to him I'd bet 5'11" tops.

    If you have watched the practices up close or were at the Spring game both this season and last than you would have seen that there is going to be a problem with a defensive line push up the middle.

    In many instances Sunseri has had passes knocked down by the DL - and I'm not just talking about the odd play, but as a recurring instance. It happened twice in this last Spring scrimmage just a week ago. It happens in practice on a regular basis.

    So, how many OL did we graduate last season? Three. Where are we replacing those three starting offensive lineman? Up the middle. He isn't going to have the opportunity to stand in the pocket and get the pass off at the last second before being hit - he'll have to move into a passing lane on which success depends on many moving parts - new OL included. And any short passes across the middle of the field will have to be thrown differently than most QBs do - that could be a problem... luckily PITT doesn't seem to do that too often though.

    With Sunseri's inexperience (and he is regardless of how many years he sat on the bench, just like Stull was his first year starting in 2008) and the new OL I believe this aspect of his game becomes magnified.

    So - what Cignetti is now forced to do is roll him out more often and rely on snap-quick decision making plays. That could work out real well, but I think we won't see him and the offense get comfortable with things until mid-point in the season or later.

    Personally, I think fans who expect Sunseri to show major success right out of the gate are going to be disappointed especially at Utah - that could be a bit of a mess. We'll be OK in the long run but modifying an offense, even for smaller changes like this, open room for error. Cignetti seems to be a good coach who can adapt his tools for success though.

  2. I think anyone who expects major success or play like Stull gave Pitt last year is in for a surprise. But I think he'll be able to manage games and also play well at times.

    His scrambling ability is encouraging and as I pointed out, he'll have plenty of weapons to work with. Pitt will likely rely on the running game and ask Sunseri to make a few plays. I think he's capable of doing that.

    As for the height thing, I think it can be an issue, but not a deal-breaker as far as being an effective QB. Getting a few balls batted down doesn't scare me. Taking sacks and throwing interceptions does. I think as long as he can manage a game, Pitt will be okay.

    And as he mentions, Pitt has a fairly tall defensive line...and one of the better ones. It may be the best he sees all season long and if he regularly goes against them in practice, I would think that will help him.

    On top of all that, I trust in what Cignetti can do and think he'll find ways around it, such as th rollouts as you mentioned.