Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Pitt feeling like home for Calvin Magee
By Brian Bennett
Calvin Magee and his wife, Rosie, were driving around Pittsburgh last weekend looking for a place to live. Magee didn't need to use a GPS. Rosie knew where they were going and told him what streets to turn down.
The Steel City might not exactly be home, but it feels close enough for Magee. He worked for seven seasons as an assistant coach at West Virginia, including the last three as offensive coordinator under Rich Rodriguez.
"I didn't spend a lot of time right here in Pittsburgh, but I spent a lot of time on I-79 coming in and out of here," he said.
Now, his job is to get the Panthers into their new offensive system under head coach Todd Graham. The two worked together in Morgantown, when Graham was on the other side of the ball. Graham went on to oversee potent offenses as the head coach at Rice and Tulsa, while Magee followed Rodriguez to Michigan.
The two coaches, along with co-offensive coordinator/receivers coach Mike Norvell and quarterbacks coach Todd Dodge, are blending their philosophies together while watching film from last season to get a sense of what the Pitt players can do. The Panthers open spring practice March 15.
Though the Michigan/West Virginia offense was known more for its zone reads than Graham's more pass-heavy attack, Magee says there isn't that much difference between the two.
"It's funny," he said, "a lot of the base is the same. We base it from the same premise in the running game. Throwing it is a little different, and I'm excited about putting those two together. We have a good blend of people who understand the systems, and we're going to take the best of the best and go."
The offense will look dramatically different than Dave Wannstedt's pro-style philosophy. Just don't, as Graham cautioned, call it a spread.
"We want to make people play in space and defend everything sideline to sideline on every play," Magee said. "People thought we were all spread (at Michigan and West Virginia), but we had tight ends and one or two running backs most of the time.
"But they see shotgun and three or four receivers standing around and they think it's a spread, when it's really just no-huddle. We don't have four little receivers running around there and just throwing the ball around. It's still based on running the football, and then the passing game is based off of that."
Magee said he and the staff are watching all of last season's games and want to incorporate some things that Pitt did well under Wannstedt. Yet every job will be open, including quarterback. Tino Sunseri started every game last season but will have to win his job back in the spring.
"We're excited about the experience that comes back there with Tino, but we're going to make it competitive," Magee said. "Competition makes everybody better."
One spot where there's not a lot of competition, at least in the spring, is running back. Junior Ray Graham is the only experienced ball carrier and could see a lot of touches in this offense.
"I've coached a lot of very good backs in this system," said Magee, who coached running backs at West Virginia. "And, boy, he fits it."
Magee is fitting in at Pittsburgh, even if he spent several years on the other side of the Backyard Brawl rivalry. I asked him if he's gotten used to wearing the Panthers colors yet.
"I'm excited about wearing them and I love them," he said.