Pitt, WVU and Penn State using practices to groom new starting quarterbacks
College Football Videos
It's been nearly a decade since Pitt, West Virginia and Penn State were all in the unenviable position of having to break in a new starting quarterback.
In 2002, Rod Rutherford took over for David Priestley at Pitt. It was a smooth transition, as Rutherford led the Panthers to a 9-4 record and an Insight Bowl victory.
It helped, of course, that Rutherford had All-American receiver Larry Fitzgerald catching everything within reach.
Fortunately, for the Panthers, Nittany Lions and Mountaineers, their 2010 offenses are not built on the passing game, even though West Virginia offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen said he adjusts to his quarterback.
"The identity of your offense is your quarterback," Mullen said. "It's not the system, then quarterback. It's quarterback, then system."
Frank Cignetti, beginning his second season as offensive coordinator at Pitt, differs philosophically with Mullen.
"Every year, your identity changes because of personnel changes," Cignetti said. "But the foundation of our offense will not change."
Will Pitt turn to Sunseri?
The Panthers, who have to replace quarterback Bill Stull, three linemen and two other starters on offense, will be fueled by tailback Dion Lewis and wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin.
Cignetti is likely to settle on Tino Sunseri at quarterback, although the sophomore isn't a lock. Sunseri, a product of Central Catholic, could face a tough challenge from Pat Bostick and Andrew Janocko.
Coach Dave Wannstedt and Cignetti must then wait until the fall to determine if heralded recruits Anthony Gonzalez and Mark Myers are capable of challenging for playing time.
It's hard to fairly evaluate Sunseri, who had only 17 pass attempts last season. But the Panthers hope he is ready to open the season Sept. 2 at Utah.
PSU race wide open
The favorite to win the QB job at Penn State is Kevin Newsome, who completed 8 of 11 passes as a freshman last season.
But the Nittany Lions, who open spring drills March 26, are not ready to commit to Newsome as the replacement to Daryll Clark.
"If we say that Newsome is the No.1 guy, then that signals that the other guys have to beat him out," Penn State quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno said. "This thing is wide open, really wide open."
The "other guys" includes Paul Jones, a 6-3, 226-pound true freshman from McKeees Rocks, who is already on campus. Robert Bolden, a blue-chip recruit from Michigan, will arrive this fall.
"We have to build around what we have," Paterno said. "We'll go about six or seven practices into the spring and adjust from there.
"Obviously, it'll help (Jones) because he'll have 14 (spring) practices under his belt, and he'll get familiar with terminology and formations. It'll help during the spring game, because we'll have 75,000 to 80,000 (fans)."
However, Paterno said Jones' spring participation doesn't necessarily give him an edge over Bolden, who was rated among the top-10 high school quarterbacks in the country by some scouting services.
Newsome, who battled Clark for the starting job last spring, should be better for the experience.
"We could see near the end of last year that Kevin was a little more focused and paying more attention," Paterno said. "He's ramped up a lot about competing for the starting job again."
Odd situation at WVU
Mullen will have both his 2009 leading rusher (Noel Devine) and receiver (Jock Sanders) when the Mountaineers kick off spring practice on April 6. But the Mountaineers' projected QB starter, Geno Smith, will be sidelined the entire spring while he continues to recover from a broken foot.
The Mountaineers won't have depth at quarterback in the spring. Both of their freshmen recruits, Jeremy Johnson and Barry Brunetti, will arrive in the fall.
But Mullen and Coach Bill Stewart have a far more complex problem. They decided immediately after a 33-21 loss to Florida State in the Gator Bowl that Smith would inherit the starting job from fifth-year senior Jarrett Brown. However, with Smith sitting out, Coley White will get most of the reps. White, though, doesn't appear to have a future at quarterback. Odds are he will shift to slot or running back upon Smith's return this fall.
"(White) is certainly a capable kid at that position (quarterback)," Mullen said. "Because Geno beat him out for the No. 2 job last year, we had planned on moving (White) to the slot or slash position. Unfortunately, we won't be able to do that in the spring.
"When we move into the fall, depending on the development of Johnson and Brunetti, we'll decide whether to keep Coley as a backup quarterback."
While Pitt, West Virginia and Penn State sort through their quarterback dilemma, growing pains are seemingly unavoidable for all three.
"In the spring, you throw everything at the (quarterbacks)," Mullen said. "Spring is a time to find out what they can do physically and mentally."
The last time Pitt, West Virginia and Penn State all opened the season with a new starting quarterback was 2002. All three schools finished 9-4 in 2002.
Pitt - Rod Rutherford replaced David Priestly
Penn State - Zach Mills replaced Matt Senneca
West Virginia - Rasheed Wallace replaced Brad Lewis
Dates for spring games:
Pitt - April 17
Penn State - April 24
West Virginia - April 30th
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Roundup: PUC schedules hearings for FirstEnergy rate increase; New-home sales almost flat in September; more
- WPIAL football playoff clinchings
- Serra Catholic snaps 28-game losing streak with 38-36 victory over Wilkinsburg
- Connellsville reaches playoff despite blowout loss
- Kittanning routs Ford City in rivalry’s final game
- Linebacker Harrison coming along slowly since return to Steelers
- Armstrong Conservation District shows off year’s work
- Clairton runs past Leechburg for PIAA record
- Steelers notebook: Shazier returns just in time
- BVA enters playoffs with 3 straight wins
- Corbett, Wolf resort to sticks, stones to attract attention