Wannstedt says Pitt mistreating QB Sunseri

Jerry DiPaola
| Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011

Former Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said he is shocked at the current coaching staff's treatment of quarterback Tino Sunseri and suggested that he should transfer to another school.

"If he was my son, he would be gone," Wannstedt said Monday, speaking on TribLive Radio. "I would pull him out of there and transfer him."

Sunseri, a redshirt junior who has started 25 games at Pitt the past two seasons, has been criticized repeatedly by coach Todd Graham for taking too many sacks and not running the rhythm-based offense efficiently. Sunseri was sacked 55 times and threw 10 interceptions in 12 games this season.

Graham called Sunseri's 419-yard passing effort against Connecticut "average." When asked last week about possibly changing quarterbacks, Graham said, "That's what we have to work with, and we have to get better." Wannstedt, who recruited Sunseri from Central Catholic, said the scrutiny has been too intense for a college student-athlete.

"I'm really shocked the way people have put a microscope on this kid," Wannstedt said. "It is very disappointing to me. In the NFL, you do it when a guy is making $10 million a year. You throw him under the bus and try to run him out of town.

"But not a 20-, 18-, 19-year-old college kid who had other places to go and chose to come to Pitt, and he wins a state championship there at the local high school and his father (Sal) was an All-American there.

"Hey, if he can't play, don't play him, but do it the right way."

Sunseri, who turns 23 on Dec. 21, has one season of eligibility remaining. Through a Pitt spokesman, Sunseri and Graham declined comment. Sal Sunseri, assistant head coach/linebackers at Alabama, did not return a text message to the Tribune-Review.

Wannstedt, who was fired last year after six seasons at Pitt, said he doesn't know what Tino Sunseri will do.

"It doesn't sound like the school or the football program is giving him many options, to be quite honest with you," he said.

Wannstedt, an assistant coach with the Buffalo Bills, said Sunseri isn't blameless in Pitt's offensive problems, but he's not alone.

"I don't know enough about the details and what they are asking him to do or not do. But I do know when you get sacked nine times out of 25 plays (at the end of the West Virginia game), I guess you can put some of it on the quarterback, but anybody who knows anything about football sits back and chuckles when you read that and you are going to blame it all on the quarterback."

Wannstedt, who says he stays in contact with many Pitt players, also commented on other matters surrounding the team:

> > On the 6-6 record and return trip to the BBVA Compass Bowl:

"We were co-Big East champs last year, and (the seniors) were looking to take it one step further this year. I am happy for the seniors that they are getting to go to a bowl game, but obviously the way the season went and the whole situation is disappointing."

> > On Hopewell running back Rushel Shell, who has made a verbal commitment to Pitt:

"I offered him a scholarship in ninth grade or something. He will be a very good college player. He has the body of a fullback, but he has the skills of a tailback."

> > On NFL prospects Lucas Nix, a guard, and Brandon Lindsey, an outside linebacker:

"(Nix) is smart, tough and big. I think Lucas will play a long time in the NFL. What Pitt was trying to do with (Lindsey) this year is probably his best position where he can be a rusher, dropper type of guy. Maybe a 3-4 type outside linebacker is probably his best spot."

Lindsey was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year after forcing two fumbles and intercepting a pass in the 33-20 victory against Syracuse.

Note: Former Pitt assistants Calvin Magee, Tony Gibson and Tony Dews, who resigned Sunday after less than a year on the job, were named to coach Rich Rodriguez's staff at Arizona. Magee will be associate head coach and offensive coordinator, with Gibson coaching the secondary and Dews the wide receivers.

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