PITTSBURGH — A rainy, windy afternoon greeted the Pitt Panthers and their new coaching staff led by Todd Graham Saturday at Heinz Field.
Despite the conditions, there were quite a few bright spots from the Blue-Gold scrimmage. Here are my top five thoughts from watching the game — almost all deal with the offensive side of the ball because, well, we’re talking about “speed, speed and speed.”
1. Tino Sunseri looked confident in his new role
Almost every performance in these types of scrimmages — be it from a team or individual perspective — need to be taken somewhat lightly, given that it’s all first team vs. second team. Nevertheless, Sunseri appeared very confident running the team in this brand new offense. He seemed aware of his offensive playbook and what the defense was showing him.
He showcased an ability to throw inside the pocket while also getting out to the edges and throwing on the run. He had a mix of deep balls and harder-thrown passes to underneath routes. All told, it seemed like a strong debut for Sunseri.
2. Todd Graham really meant it when he said “speed three times”
By my count in the first 60 plays, the first-team offense under Tino Sunseri had all but one play snapped with 17 seconds or more remaining on the 40-second play clock. That’s impressive and rather incredible, given how slowly this offense moved last year under Dave Wannstedt.
Offense, defense and special teams sprinted on and off the field. Ray Graham found running room all over the field in both run and pass scenarios. Buddy Jackson took the opening kickoff for a touchdown, blowing past would-be tacklers on his way. Mike Shanahan went deep and outran the secondary for a touchdown.
There was speed all over the field Saturday afternoon.
3. Sunseri vs. Gonzalez
The battle between these two quarterbacks wasn’t close, as Sunseri showed he is clearly the most complete quarterback on the team and within the confines of Graham’s offensive scheme. While Anthony Gonzalez had success on a few drives, he looked like a young quarterback that still has improving to do.
Sunseri threw on the run and in the pocket while also taking off and scrambling at times — he had a healthy mix of all three. Gonzalez seemed much more dependent on his legs, taking off more frequently if a play broke down. Both possess different qualities and have a different playing style.
It seems like Sunseri’s skill set is the best fit, which many Pitt fans keep hearing but refusing to believe.
4. Snaps must improve
Practice footage has shown struggles in the center-to-quarterback snap connection and there were instances of that continuing Saturday. It’s something that has to improve and can not be an issue when actual games roll around in the fall.
You can’t fail at the most basic of things. I’m sure it will be addressed and corrected.
5. Official Attendance: 1,507
I can’t blame anyone for not showing up, given the horrible weather conditions. However, tradition is something this program and university pride. While Notre Dame and Penn State played to far bigger crowds on the same day, Pitt played to empty seats.
Hopefully that number is far different next spring.
Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog