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Coaching stability provides promise for Pitt

| Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013, 8:56 p.m.

Two years ago, many Pitt football players were angry when coach Dave Wannstedt was fired.

What made matters worse?

His immediate replacements,

Michael Haywood and Todd Graham set the program back much more than Wannstedt ever did, largely because they were gone before they could make an impact.

Wannstedt was 18-8 in his final two seasons. Since then, Pitt is 12-14, including a 38-17 loss to Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl on Saturday.

At least the wreckage is in good hands with coach Paul Chryst, according to departing senior quarterback Tino Sunseri, who sees similarities in his two favorite coaches.

“We believed in coach Wannstedt,” said Sunseri, when asked how Pitt's Class of 2008 came together. “We thought that he was a character guy that loved Pitt. He wanted us to have as much success as we possibly could because he honestly cared about us.”

Now, the hope is that the program has completed the circle.

“There is a lot of stuff that happened in the middle, and for us to finish with a guy like coach Chryst, he is a Dave Wannstedt kind of guy,” Sunseri said. “He, obviously, is his own person, but he is one of those guys who loves the university, loves the players, one of those guys you want to play for.

“When you don't make plays, you feel like you are letting him down.”

Sunseri said upheaval in the program, with a new coach and new system in each of the past two seasons, has been difficult. Now, with his career at an end, he regrets having only one year with Chryst.

“It's so disheartening because you wish you could play for him more,” he said.

Most of Pitt's key players get at least one more season with Chryst.

Pitt will have a few holes to fill on offense when it enters the ACC this year. Gone are running back Ray Graham, offensive linemen Chris Jacobson and Ryan Turnley, Sunseri and wide receiver Mike Shanahan. Only defensive end Shayne Hale and strong safety Jarred Holley will leave the defense.

Junior wide receiver Devin Street and defensive tackle Aaron Donald are exploring possible entry into the NFL Draft, but both have indicated they are leaning toward returning to school.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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