Pressed against a wall in the team meeting room, Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri answered every question thrown at him Tuesday by the prying media.
He even smiled a little.
Three days after the 35-29 victory against Maine in which he threw two interceptions and one day after coach Todd Graham pointed out to reporters all that has gone wrong with the Pitt passing game, Sunseri was steadfast in his resolve.
“My confidence is great,” he said.
“As soon as I threw that second interception, I knew it was dumb,” he said. “I came off to the sideline talking to myself.”
Sunseri said he knew what he did wrong.
“If I was sitting back in the pocket and throwing (deliberately) into coverage, that’s when I would say I was lost. Coaches are doing a great job of communicating with me, and we are seeing the same things.”
Once, he was a bit defiant when a reporter asked about venturing Saturday into Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium, one of the most hostile environments in college football for a visiting team.
“My first game as a collegiate starter was at Utah against a ranked team on national television,” he said. “It was pretty loud there, too. We have an experienced team and we will be able to handle overselves out there.”
— Graham said something interesting today (he does so almost every day, actually).
He was talking about how doing the right thing off the field helps players do the right thing on the field.
“If you are just going to class to pass class, it’s going to show up on the field,” he said. “We want guys to compete in the classroom like they compete on the field, and it’s not just because we think academics are important. It’s because I think it affects you on the field.”
It led to my personal favorite Graham-ism: “How you do anything is how you do everything.”
This guy gets it, people. I am not ready to predict a Big East championship for his team in his first season at Pitt, but I truly believe he is going about his business the right way.
What Graham is saying is what I have always believed about student-athletes. Good students often make good competitors because they know how to focus and organize their minds. And success is important to them.
Graham said running backs Ray Graham and Zach Brown have been great examples of that to the younger players. “They are off the charts (in that regard),” he said.
Senior guard Chris Jacobson also stood out in Graham’s mind over the first two weeks of the season.
“He has played unbelievable. He overachieves every game.”
It’s not just Jacobson’s stellar work on the offensive line that sets him apart.
“He is in here every time I turn around, watching film, studying, taking pride in it,” Graham said.
Again, how you do anything is how you do everything.
— Graham said the team is practicing and scrimmaging better than it’s playing, and he hopes it finally carries over to the game Saturday in Iowa City.
“How it translates to the game, it’s all about your purpose and what you are investing,” he said.
“I don’t think we invest enough. We don’t know about how to prepare. They have to come in and voluntarily watch film extra.”
— Mark Myers is still a quarterback, but he took on additional duties this week when Graham made him the backup punter.
“I am excited because it gives us a little different dimension having a quarterback back there,” Graham said.
Graham doesn’t have a problem with regular punter Matt Yoklic, who is averaging 42.5 yards, which would be good for 26th in the nation if he had enough attempts under NCAA guidelines. Yoklic has punted three times, equal to the number of pooch punts attempted by Sunseri.
— Graham keeps hoping more freshmen step up and claim playing time, and near the top of the list is wide receiver Darius Patton.
“I said to him, `Son, you have to learn the plays so you can get on the field.’ He’s special. He can do some things with his speed.”
— Freshman LaQuentin Smith, who is listed as a backup outside linebacker behind freshman Ejuan Price, started camp as an inside linebacker because defensive coordinator Keith Patterson likes his ability to read plays.
But Graham thinks Smith can better disrupt the quarterback while rushing from the outside.
The kid’s a freshman. He doesn’t care where he plays. He just wants to get on the field.
“I try to do both,” he said. “It will help me out in the long run.”
— You have to wonder about the emergence of so many freshmen climbing up the depth chart. At least eight probably won’t be redshirted.
There are two reasons for that:
A new coaching staff has no allegiance to the upperclassmen.
Pitt doesn’t have that many great players, so freshmen get more of an opportunity, especially in games.