- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Pitt coach Paul Chryst has not definitively declared Tino Sunseri as his starting quarterback headed into fall practice.
Does he need to?
Chryst said last week that Sunseri had separated himself from Mark Myers and Trey Anderson, which seemingly points in the direction of Sunseri winning the starting job. True freshman Chad Voytik enrolls this summer, so there is a chance that he could come in and blow everybody away with his amazing talent and grasp of the offense.
But right now, it appears Sunseri will go into his third straight season as the starter.
That is hard to believe for many, considering the lackluster results along the way. It is no secret that Sunseri has struggled with the deep ball, and clearly cannot run a spread offense. He should never be asked to do that again. I truly believe Sunseri should be given a pass for what happened last season, and I think the longer time goes on, perhaps more Pitt fans feel the same way. Todd Graham deserves the blame for what happened last season.
The point is that Chryst must believe Sunseri truly gives his team the best chance to win, given his experience and current understanding of the new offense. While the passing game was nothing to write home about -- Sunseri went 13-of-27 for 147 yards with a touchdown and interception in the spring game -- you wonder how much of an ask is going to be made of the quarterbacks with the potential for such a strong running game.
Perhaps the quarterback for Pitt this season will be more of a game manager. Sunseri has been good at times throughout his career. Look back to the USF, UConn and Louisville games for recent examples. Give him time in the pocket, and he does not implode. I can guarantee the offensive line will be miles better this season.
The short passing game works for him, along with play action. Does he need to make 80-yard throws every game? Obviously a home run ball is nice every once in a while, but there have been quarterbacks without the greatest command of the deep ball that have fared just fine.
With the development of Isaac Bennett and Corey Davis, along with the return of Ray Graham and the arrival of Rushel Shell, Pitt has the perfect opportunity this season to just ground and pound, and let Sunseri throw it as a change of pace. Obviously, any great team wants to have balance with their running and passing attack. Obviously, teams will want to stack the box to force Pitt to throw. Sunseri has to learn how to beat the blitzes and make the clutch throws with games on the line.
But Ray Graham was so good last season, teams loaded the box and still couldn't stop him. The potential exists for the same to happen again this season with so much talent in the backfield. Pitt needs its ground game to work for Sunseri to work.
"(The run game) has a chance to be good," Chryst said after spring ball wrapped. "But it all starts with the line. The line made some improvements this spring. Ray's working, we need to get him back healthy and Rushel, we all know what he is ... There's also a lot of quesitons, but that will be a good problem if we have a bunch of running backs."
Especially if it takes pressure off Sunseri.