Sunseri can expect playing in opener vs. YSU and beyond
Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt vowed to get Tino Sunseri into "as many games as we can," but one detail remains in the air.
When, exactly, the redshirt freshman quarterback will play.
"Nothing is scripted out," Wannstedt said. "We will see how the game unfolds."
In other words, Sunseri, who won the back-up job behind senior Bill Stull after a standout training camp, could play a series midway through the first half or he could settle for mop-up time in the 2009 opener against Youngstown State at 1 p.m. Saturday at Heinz Field.
Wannstedt said the decision to get the 6-foot-2, 210-pound strong-armed Central Catholic graduate on the field will be made during the game - this week and beyond -- not anything set in stone before-hand.
"Tino Sunseri is the guy. Tino is going to be an outstanding quarterback for us. He had a very good camp. He knows that," Wannstedt sad. "I think the big thing is to get him some playing time and to get him in the action a little bit."
Similarly, Wannstedt said there is no set formula to get carries for freshman tailback Ray Graham, who, like Sunseri, enjoyed an eye-opening training camp. Graham will back-up freshman Dion Lewis, as the Panthers look to replace second-round draft pick LeSean McCoy. Redshirt freshman Chris Burns is listed as third-string.
"We don't have a plan," Wannstedt said. "I think (Graham) needs to play."
Another first-string job settled during training camp went to senior Joe Thomas, who beat out redshirt sophomore Chris Jacobsen at left guard. Dan Hutchins will handle both punting and place-kicking duties. There are two starters listed at flanker (Cedric McGee and Oderick Turner) and at free safety (Andrew Taglianetti and Elijah Fields).
Wannstedt said three freshmen - Lewis, Graham and linebacker Dan Mason - are certain to play this year. Barring injuries, the other 16 true freshmen - along with third-string quarterback Pat Bostick -- will redshirt.
"We're just going to take it week by week and see," Wannstedt said. "It will all be predicated, obviously, on injuries."
Nothing hurt more than losing last year's opener to Bowling Green, 27-17, at Heinz Field as Pitt turned the ball over four times. Senior linebacker Adam Gunn, who suffered a broken neck in Pitt's first home loss to a MAC team in 25 tries, said the defeat has served as a constant reminder, both gnawing and self-inflicted, leading into the Youngstown State game.
"I can almost say we overlooked (Bowling Green)," Gunn said. "We're making sure we don't do that against Youngstown State."
Added Stull, "After that happened, it really struck some light onto us. We want to finish each game and focus on those little details."
Youngstown State has played an FBS opponent each of the past four seasons, losing by a combined score of 159-9, including 43-0 to Ohio State last year. Pitt defeated Youngstown State, 41-0, in 2005, in Wannstedt's first victory with the Panthers after an 0-3 start.
It will be an emotional game for Gunn, who is replacing All-America Scott McKillop at middle linebacker. The redshirt senior was unsure if he would ever play football again following last year's neck injury.
"I guarantee," Gunn said, "that I will be the most excited person out there."