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Pitt coach Todd Graham unhappy with his quarterback

Jerry DiPaola
| Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011

Pitt coach Todd Graham is discovering that quarterback Tino Sunseri picking up his offense isn't as easy as 1-2-3.

For the second time in two seasons as a starter, Sunseri is struggling to perform consistently, and Graham expressed his unhappiness at Monday's weekly news conference.

Sunseri will start next Saturday at Iowa, but how long will Graham wait to insert freshman Trey Anderson?

Pitt is 2-0, but Sunseri has thrown two interceptions, lost a fumble and been sacked nine times while trying to adapt to the speed of the no-huddle offense.

He didn't finish the 35-29 victory against Maine on Saturday after Graham replaced him with Anderson, who led the team to a touchdown in his first series. Graham said that was his plan before the game, but he didn't make the change until the fourth quarter when "we were making mistakes and fumbling around."

Graham's biggest criticism of Sunseri has been an inability to get rid of the ball quickly. The offense is based on the quarterback reading the defense and making quick decisions.

"We are a timing passing team -- 1-2 and out on our quick passing game; 1-2-3 and out on our drop-back passing game," Graham said. "The play has no chance because we are not reading what we are supposed to be reading, and we are not getting the ball off on time.

"There are about 10 or 12 plays a game like that. Then, the play breaks down, and it becomes a mess. Fans get frustrated. We get frustrated."

Graham said he counted eight sacks in two games while Pitt was aligned in a maximum seven-man protection scheme.

"I would tell you we haven't been sacked four times in four years (in maximum protection). That tells you where we are at. We, obviously, don't understand that."

If Sunseri can't reverse his poor play, Graham will be faced with a dilemma. Through spring and summer workouts, Sunseri was one of the team's emotional leaders and one of its hardest workers.

"He is a guy who has come a long way in his work ethic," Graham said.

Anderson, 6-foot, 180 pounds, didn't join the team until just before summer training camp, but he wrestled the top backup job from redshirt freshmen Mark Myers while coaches moved former quarterback Anthony Gonzalez to H-back.

"Trey has some things he brings to the table that you could see him in a package in a game," Graham said. "But we have one starting quarterback and that's Tino.

"Has he played well• No, he hasn't played well. He has made some good plays, but he has to play better and execute our system.

"I have a lot of confidence in him. I have seen him do it in practice. I have seen him do it in games. In this system, there is no question I think he can be successful."

But Graham said his offense depends on precision and a disciplined approach.

"We have to run our system exactly how we teach it," he said "We, obviously, have not gotten it taught yet, but we are going to get it taught.

Graham didn't point a critical finger only at Sunseri. He said the wide receiver group, with the exception of junior Mike Shanahan, has been inconsistent and the offensive line has had "too many mental mistakes and breakdowns."

"The key to our development is going to be up front, the offensive line getting better fundamentally and just our quarterback settling in and running the offense.

"We have all the confidence in the world in Tino. But he has to play better, and we have to get it done."

Additional Information:

Around the Panthers

• Coach Todd Graham said he counted eight freshmen who may not redshirt this season in an attempt by coaches to get more speed on the field. 'There are some guys we would like to redshirt, but the bottom line is if we have to play them to win, that's what we will do,' he said. Seven freshmen played against Maine, including kick returner Corey Davis, punt returner Ronald Jones, wide receiver Darius Patton, quarterback Trey Anderson, linebackers Ejuan Price and LaQuentin Smith and nose tackle K.K. Mosley-Smith. Graham also said of linebacker Nicholas Grigsby, 'I doubt he will redshirt.'

• Redshirt freshman and former quarterback Anthony Gonzalez served his two-game suspension for a drug arrest last spring and will play H-back at Iowa, Graham said. 'That's more athleticism on the field. I am really pleased with how he has handled the situation.' Graham added that Gonzalez's suspension included community service work.

• Pitt's game against Notre Dame on Sept. 24 at Heinz Field will be televised nationally by ABC. Kickoff is scheduled for noon. Ticket sales indicate the game may be sold out, which would be the sixth sellout since Pitt moved into Heinz Field in 2001 and only the second in the past six seasons.

• Pitt is the only Big East school that hasn't had a game televised on a traditional broadcast or cable outlet this season. That will change Saturday when ESPN2 televises the Panthers' game at Iowa.

• Running back Ray Graham was named to the Big East honor roll after rushing for 121 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries against Maine. Graham, a junior, leads the nation in rushing (161 yards per game). Graham also has been nominated for the Running Back Performance of the Year, an award sponsored by the sports marketing company Intersport and based on fan voting.

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