Pitt's quarterback progression in state of flux
The quarterback landscape at Pitt has changed so dramatically that the No. 1 backup is now catching passes.
The freshman walk-on who couldn't get a scholarship after leading his Texas high school to a state championship is threatening to seize the No. 2 job.
And the biggest, most physically imposing player on the depth chart needs to consistently get "a little fire in his belly when he steps between the white lines," according to quarterbacks coach Todd Dodge.
At least starter Tino Sunseri has no issues at the moment. Even his bad days turn into good ones before anyone has a chance to worry about him.
"Mistakes that Tino made 16 hours ago, he didn't make (Wednesday)," Dodge said.
The situation turned upside down this week when Anthony Gonzalez, a redshirt freshman who is suspended for the first two games after his arrest on drug and other charges, was moved to H-back — Pitt's version of tight end in coach Todd Graham's offense.
The move was not a punitive measure — just a way to get a good athlete on the field, even if it's only to improve depth.
Coaches can't stop raving about him.
"Every film we watch, he is a natural," Todd Graham said. "He can be a big contributor for us at that position."
Gonzalez was not available for comment because of his suspension, but tight ends coach Tony Dews admitted Gonzalez "had some reservations (about the move), but excitement at the same time."
"It was one of those things," Dews said. "(He said) 'I'll try it and see, but my heart is at quarterback.' He still wants to be a quarterback. It's hard to give up."
Dews is excited about Gonzalez's potential at H-back.
"He has the potential to be one of our best athletes on offense," he said.
Meanwhile, two other quarterbacks — freshman walk-on Trey Anderson and 6-foot-4, 230-pound redshirt freshman Mark Myers — wage an interesting and unresolved battle for the top backup job.
Dodge, who tried to recruit Anderson to North Texas State where he was fired as head coach last year, calls him "a real operator."
Anderson, who doesn't look the part at 6-foot, 180 pounds, was set to join eight of his high school teammates at Tyler (Texas) Junior College where he would have been the starter. Then, Dodge lured him to Pitt without offering a scholarship and challenged him not to settle for a minor role.
"He didn't come in with the attitude that he is going to be No. 3," Dodge said. "He came in with the attitude that he is going to compete."
Dodge, who coached 6-foot quarterback Chase Daniel (now of the New Orleans Saints) in high school, said Anderson has the skills Pitt seeks in its quarterbacks.
That includes versatility, mobility and accuracy, even on the deep throws.
"What he has done is put himself right in contention for the backup job," Dodge said.
Still, Myers won't go down without a fight.
A day after Dodge challenged him to become more of a leader, Myers had a good day yesterday, hitting 16-of-24 passes, according to the coach's count.
"He is kind of a laid-back personality guy," Dodge said. "He has to get a little fire in his belly when he steps between the white lines. When you step between the white lines, you have to inspire other people. I saw that in him today."
Redshirt junior — 6-2, 215 pounds
Did you know• He completed 64.5 percent of his passes last season, but Pitt quarterbacks coach Todd Dodge wants it to be more than 67 percent this season.
Redshirt freshman — 6-4, 230 pounds
Did you know• He was considered the top high school quarterback in Ohio in 2009.
Redshirt freshman — 6-3, 215
Did you know? He led Bethlehem Liberty to a PIAA Class AAAA championship against Bethel Park by rushing for 205 yards and three touchdowns, throwing a scoring pass and intercepting a pass in overtime.
Freshman — 6-0, 180
Did you know? He chose to walk on at Pitt over Oklahoma and Boise State because he believed it was his best chance to eventually win a scholarship.