NCF Nation: Trey Anderson

Breaking down the spring in the ACC Coastal division:


Spring practice over

What we learned:
  • Momentum rolls on. It's hard to believe the Blue Devils are already done with spring ball, but coach David Cutcliffe opted to open practice in February to capitalize on the momentum that was created last season. After the spring game ended Saturday, he praised the way his players handled the practices. There was a great deal of retention and not a lot of re-teaching, so coaches were able to get much more out of their players this spring.
  • Max McCaffrey emerges. Jamison Crowder had a spectacular 2013 season, but it was essentially him and then everybody else in the receiver group. That may not be the case this season. McCaffrey earned praise from coaches and teammates for the way he improved during the spring. Offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery said McCaffrey made as many plays as anybody else on the offense this spring.
  • Stepping up on the line. The Blue Devils lost three starters on their defensive line -- both ends in Kenny Anunike and Justin Foxx, and defensive tackle Sydney Sarmiento. But it appears as if the players behind them are ready to step up and make a seamless transition. Defensive ends Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo and Dezmond Johnson each had two sacks in the spring game. Kyler Brown also made the switch from linebacker to defensive end and had a sack in the spring game as well.
Georgia Tech

Spring start: March 24

Spring game: April 18

What to watch:
  • Justin Thomas takes over. After Vad Lee announced his transfer from Georgia Tech, the quarterback reigns fell to Thomas, who played in 10 games this season. The Jackets had their share of highs and lows under Lee, but what the staff is going to be looking for first and foremost is Thomas’ ability to hold on to the football. Georgia Tech had 24 giveaways and ranked No. 12 in the ACC in turnover margin.
  • Defensive line questions. The Jackets lose three starters on the defensive line, including All-ACC defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu -- who had 22.5 sacks over the last two seasons. Who will step up and fill that type of production? The most experienced backups returning are sophomores Tyler Stargel and Patrick Gamble. Also, Travin Henry will get a look at defensive end after playing wide receiver last season.
  • Offensive line questions. Georgia Tech also loses three starters on the offensive line -- tackles Ray Beno and Will Jackson and center Jay Finch. The trio combined to start 117 games in their careers, so there is no doubt this is going to be a much less experienced unit in 2014. The good news is All-ACC guard Shaq Mason returns to help anchor the new-look line.

Spring start: Started March 1

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • Quarterback derby. Stephen Morris is gone, but the Canes do have at least one experienced quarterback on the roster in Ryan Williams, a Memphis transfer who has served as Morris’ backup the last two seasons. As a true freshman with the Tigers, Williams started 10 games -- all the way back in 2010. Challenging Williams is redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen, who had a bit of a rocky first year in Miami, along with Gray Crow.
  • Defensive improvements. Perhaps more than what happens at quarterback, Miami must see improvements out of its defense this season. Embattled defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio kept his job but the status quo cannot persist. Every single area of the defense must be upgraded. Ranking No. 13 in the ACC in total defense just can’t happen again.
  • Defensive improvements, Part II. To try and help the secondary, Miami already moved Dallas Crawford over to safety, where the Canes could use the help. But Miami must be stronger on the defensive front. The Canes only had 12 sacks in eight conference games. By comparison, BC led the way with 25 sacks in conference games. This is a big opportunity for guys like Al-Quadin Muhammad, Tyriq McCord and Ufomba Kamalu to really step up.
North Carolina

Spring start: Started March 5

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • The quarterbacks. Marquise Williams took over as the starter when Bryn Renner was gone for the season and ended up helping the Tar Heels make a bowl game after a 1-5 start. But coach Larry Fedora said the competition is open this spring. Look for Mitch Trubisky and Kanler Coker to give Williams a major push.
  • Defensive line questions. Kareem Martin and Tim Jackson are both gone, leaving big holes in the North Carolina front. Martin ended up notching 21.5 tackles for loss to rank No. 3 in the ACC. So who are the next guys up? At end, Junior Gnonkonde and Jessie Rogers are the top two contenders, while Shawn Underwood, Devonte Brown and Justin Thomason will compete for one of the tackle spots.
  • Replacing Ebron. Eric Ebron was dynamic at tight end for the Tar Heels last season, leading the team with 62 receptions for 973 yards, while adding three touchdowns. Will the Tar Heels be able to replace that type of production with just one player? Jack Tabb would be next in line among the tight ends, but this is a huge opportunity for the North Carolina receiving group as well. We saw plenty of promise out of young guys like Bug Howard, T.J. Thorpe and Ryan Switzer.

Spring start: March 16

Spring game: No spring game. Last day of practice April 13

What to watch:
  • The quarterbacks. Chad Voytik played really well in relief of an injured Tom Savage in the bowl game, but coach Paul Chryst said the competition to win the starting job is open headed into the spring. At this point, Voytik and Trey Anderson are the only scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. So you can bet the biggest goal of all is to keep them both healthy.
  • Replacing Aaron Donald. One of the biggest surprises in all of college football this past season was the emergence and utter dominance of Donald at defensive tackle. Donald swept every major defensive award after notching 28.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, 16 quarterback hurries and four forced fumbles. Darryl Render is the next man up.
  • Complementary receiver. Devin Street is gone, leaving Tyler Boyd as the only standout receiver on the roster. Not only do the Panthers have to develop a consistent No. 2 receiver, they also have to develop some depth. Watch for Manasseh Garner, a former H-back who moved to receiver late last season when Street got hurt. He is more physical than Boyd, and has some extended playing experience.

Spring start: Started March 1

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • The quarterbacks. David Watford is not guaranteed to win his starting job back after last season, when he threw eight touchdown passes to 15 interceptions. Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns are also in the mix and reps with the first team will be split. In fact, Lambert got the first-team reps when the Hoos opened spring ball last weekend.
  • Andrew Brown. The highly-touted freshman will have every opportunity to win a starting job at defensive tackle, and it all starts in spring ball. The No. 3-ranked player in the ESPN 300 comes in with tons of hype; now can he translate that into on-field success? He, Donte Wilkins and Chris Brathwaite will be competing to start next to David Dean.
  • Mr. McGee. Jake McGee was the best player the Hoos had among the group of tight ends and receivers a year ago, leading the team with 43 catches for 395 yards. This spring, McGee has now moved over to receiver so the Hoos can take advantage of his athletic ability. Plus, Virginia is lacking playmakers at the position, so we’ll see how much this move benefits both McGee and the offense.
Virginia Tech

Spring start: March 27

Spring game: April 26

What to watch:
  • Quarterback. Mark Leal heads into the spring with a leg up in the quarterback competition but make no mistake, there is no set starter. He will get competition from freshmen Andrew Ford and Brenden Motley in the spring, with freshman Chris Durkin and Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer arriving in summer. This competition will likely drag on into the fall.
  • Front seven. The Hokies are losing five terrific players up front, including ends James Gayle and J.R. Collins, and linebacker Jack Tyler, who racked up 100 tackles in back-to-back seasons. There is no doubt a major priority this spring is finding their replacements and building depth along the line and at linebacker. Who will step up as the leader of this group with Tyler gone?
  • Skill players. This has been an ongoing theme over the last two seasons and will continue to be a theme until the Hokies have consistently good players at running back and receiver. Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler is excited about the return of tight end Ryan Malleck, and his entire tight end group for that matter. A healthy Malleck and improvement from Kalvin Cline means the Hokies could simultaneously improve their run and pass game.

Q&A with Pitt OC Joe Rudolph

May, 21, 2013
Pitt offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Joe Rudolph is entering his second season with the Panthers and he has six returning starters to work with. It’s a young group that’s facing a lot of questions, but Rudolph addressed some of those concerns and his quarterback competition in a spring interview. Here are the highlights of our conversation:

[+] EnlargeJoe Rudolph
Courtesy of Pittsburgh athleticsJoe Rudolph, in his second year as the Panthers' offensive coordinator, has a young group of players in key roles for 2013.
How did Tom [Savage] look this spring? A lot of fans haven’t seen him play. What does he look like as a quarterback?

Joe Rudolph: For the position in general I think there’s excitement. Tino [Sunseri] had held that down for the last couple of years, and somebody new being in that spot, I think everyone is excited to see. Tom, it’s a unique group with Tom being a fifth-year senior and having some experience and some success early in his career and then really some young guys and Chad [Voytik] being the one who is pushing … and Tra’Von [Chapman] coming in as a high school senior and starting his career early. And Trey [Anderson] is doing a good job. He’s wearing a coach’s hat. Todd’s been fun to watch this spring. I think you truly can see the urgency in his approach to it and I think he takes that very seriously. I think he’s going to be a player who truly wants to play fast and play with a full knowledge base. As he gains that, you can see him having more fun and playing faster and being more in the moment, so I’m excited to see how hits fall camp. Once you actually go through it, you gotta get it out of your mouth. You gotta get the signal from the sideline, you gotta get the guys up, you gotta shift, motion, see the defense. As that becomes more second-nature to him, I think you’ll continue to see him play faster and faster. He’s got really a great length of time in summer where he can study what we’ve done, study some things from the past, put it together. I think he’ll take a great approach to it. When you see a fifth-year senior taking that type of approach, it’s great for those guys. It’s a unique group in the room with the age difference, but pretty complimentary in a lot of ways.

Is it hard for him to take an assertive leadership role because he hasn’t played a snap for you guys?

JR: By the nature of the position you’re going to have to. You’re in charge of the huddle, you’re getting them up, you kind of have to be that, but as he gains that confidence in the details of his position, I think you’ll see that emerge and his comfort level will continue to emerge.

Did he read the defense well this spring?

JR: Yeah, and I think that’s it, it starts with where are my guys going to be? How will my read roll into it? You go up there, you get it out of your mouth easy from calling the play, you know where your guys are going to be, and then it’s supposed to be easy enough to say let me look at this picture and go through my read. I think there’s some progression to all of it. I think that’s really what we saw the last week of spring from him, where he was starting to really put it together. It’s a good place to be, now hopefully we keep taking advantage of the summer, and I think he will. I think he’ll work his tail off.

From the outside looking in, the perception is there is a question at quarterback, nobody on the offensive line who has really played the same position, Rushel Shell transferring, a lot of questions. Where is your comfort level at right now with all of those things?

JR: A huge comfort level is in the coaching staff. Those guys do an outstanding job. Their relationships with their players in the room is outstanding, and so I have great comfort in that. I also have great comfort in the approach of the guys to work and learn. You’re right, we have two tackles who are moving to guard, but their approach to that, how does the experience last year help them be good players this year? It doesn’t the first day of spring, but I think as they get comfortable with their assignments and their job at guard, the experience of them being a tackle will really come into play for them, and their experience of being out of the field will add to that communication. It’s going to be a young group. You say that and you’ve got a wide receiver in Devin Street we’re obviously excited about who has a lot of ability and will be a senior. Quarterback might be exactly the same, a fifth-year senior, but other than that, looking around, there are a lot of young faces. There could be two freshmen starting in the O-line. J.P. Holtz at tight end, he’s still in a freshman year even though he started 10 games, so, you’ll have some young players out there. I think the approach of our guys and how they take advantage of the summer will be big for them. Rushel is a loss, and you wish him the best. You hope everyone finds the best thing for them to be successful, but I’m excited about the guys in the room. I think they sense the opportunity and they have taken advantage of things this spring to bring that out. There will be a nice influx and we’ll see who can help from the guys who walk in the door here in a few months.

Check back tomorrow for Part II of this interview.
Pittsburgh starts spring practices today with its first ACC schedule in hand, as the Panthers will officially join the conference on July 1. Coach Paul Chryst enters his second season looking for improvement in every area after a 6-7 finish in 2012. Pitt will have a new starting quarterback for the first time in three years, but with three starters back on the defensive line and three more starters in the secondary, the defense should be a strength. I spoke with Chryst on Monday to get his take on starting spring ball in the ACC.

Here are the highlights of our conversation:

Have you noticed a change in your players or any more excitement in the air knowing you guys will be lining up against different opponents this year and some tougher teams?

Paul Chryst: I think it probably does do something, but you would also hope that each kid, no matter what, you’re getting ready for one of four competitive seasons. I can’t say I’ve noticed, ‘Oh, it’s so different,’ but I do think they know.

[+] EnlargePitt's Paul Chryst
AP Photo/Keith SrakocicPaul Chryst and the Panthers are set to join the ACC on July 1.
What are your biggest areas of concern or your top priorities heading into spring ball? What are the most important things you guys need to get done?

PC: Well, concern is everything. First and foremost, each player has to improve. Spring is a great time for that. I don’t care if it’s your first spring, or our best player’s last spring. Each player has to get better individually. From a coaching perspective, you have to truly teach and emphasize a drill and fundamental techniques you have to be good at. If there’s ever a time you can do it, spring is the time to be less on scheme and more about the how-to of something. I think that’s the big emphasis. The spring provides an opportunity for players to establish themselves or put themselves in position to have a role for the fall, to say, ‘Hey, you can count on me, I’m good enough to be playing.’ Then for some of the players it’s truly just learning the base schemes and getting comfortable with it. For Tom Savage, he was here last year, but wasn’t featured in a lot of the reps.

What does your quarterback competition look like?

PC: You’ve got Tommy Savage, who’s got the most experience, and that was as a freshman at a different school. (Savage played at Rutgers in 2009-10, where as a freshman he threw for 2,211 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was on scholarship at Arizona in 2011 but didn’t play in any games.) I like everything he’s done since he’s come on campus. He’s done everything you’d want him to do, now he has to go out and compete and earn his spot. Trey Anderson is a guy who’s been here and will be starting his third season. He was a backup last year and then you have two freshmen, a redshirt freshman, Chad Voytik, and a true freshman, Tra’Von Chapman. First and foremost they have to get comfortable with the offense and then once that happens, there is a quarterback competition because we haven’t named a starter. They’ll get a lot of work, I know that much.

Entering your second season, how much more comfortable are you? Or are you a little uncomfortable, knowing you have to play Florida State on Labor Day to kick it off?

PC: I’m never comfortable, but you ask of yourself everything you ask of your players -- to get better. I certainly know there’s areas where I can and need to.

Where do you think you guys will make the most progress this year? Or where would you like to see the most progress?

PC: Everywhere, seriously, we need to. The only consistent thing for us last was we were consistently inconsistent. We need to make strides and grow across the board. There’s not two or three things you can say, ‘Well, if we got this squared away we’d be that much better.’ In every area we have to get better.

What are your thoughts on the schedule and playing in the ACC this year?

PC: I’m excited in a sense that last year we knew we were going to the ACC, but now we’re here. As far as the schedule, every year you get your schedule and you embrace and find a way to get excited about it. You’re naturally excited because that’s the season; it’s the best part of the year. It’s not like you have to manufacture excitement, but who you play and when you play them, those are given to you, and you try to play them accordingly. It’s our first year in the ACC, we’ve joined the ACC and now we can plan on that.

Spring start: March 4

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:

1. Boone is up. Duke loses three-year starter Sean Renfree, who threw for 3,113 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. Anthony Boone is the next man up, and has plenty of game experience. But coming in for spot duty is vastly different from taking over the starting quarterback job. He has to get a jump on becoming the leader of this offense in the spring.

2. Receiver spots open. The Blue Devils lose the most prolific receiver in ACC history in Conner Vernon, plus the versatile and athletic Desmond Scott. Jamison Crowder is back, but Duke is going to need to find two more starters and several more to step up and help with depth.

3. Handling success. This is the first time since 1994 that Duke goes into a spring with 15 bowl practices already under its belt and a taste of success. That should presumably give the Blue Devils an advantage. But it is much harder maintaining, as many coach will tell you. How does this new success impact the mind-set in spring practice?


Spring start: March 25

Spring game: April 19

What to watch:

1. Ted Roof takes over. What is the Georgia Tech defense going to look like with Ted Roof in charge? He has not really given out specifics about the type of scheme he wants to use as his base, so it will be interesting to see how he fits his personnel to what he likes to do best. The Jackets do return eight starters to a unit that improved in the second half of the season.

2. Vad Lee time. We saw glimpse of what Lee could do as he began to share quarterback duties with Tevin Washington last season. Now, the show is all his, so we get to see how he develops as a full-time starter.

3. So long, Orwin. The Jackets lose one of their most dynamic playmakers in Orwin Smith, who finished his career ranked among Georgia Tech’s all-time leaders in kickoff returns (76), kickoff return yards (1,624) and career all-purpose yards (4,278). Georgia Tech has to find somebody to replace that productivity.


Spring start: March 2

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:

1. D in Defense? The No. 1 spring priority has got to be improving a defense that was one of the worst in the nation in every NCAA statistical category (No. 112 rushing defense, No. 102 passing defense, No. 116 total defense, No. 82 scoring defense). If Miami is going to be a favorite to win the Coastal, it needs better play out of this group.

2. New OC. James Coley takes over as offensive coordinator, replacing Jedd Fisch. Coley served as offensive coordinator at Florida State before arriving at Miami, but did not call the plays. So he has much more responsibility here, and is charged with taking Stephen Morris from great to next-level great.

3. D-Line improvement. If Miami is going to be better on defense, it has to start up front, where the Hurricanes were extremely young and mostly ineffective for 2012. The Hurricanes had to deal with their share of injuries, but they also were not great at stopping the run or putting pressure on the passer -- with only 13 sacks all year. That is the lowest total since at least 2005, the first year NCAA stats began listing team sack totals.


Spring start: March 6

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:

1. Bye bye, Gio. Life begins without All-ACC running back Giovani Bernard, who left school early for the NFL draft. The cupboard is not completely bare, though, as A.J. Blue and Romar Morris both return. Blue and Morris combined for 819 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns last season.

2. Replacing Williams, Reddick. North Carolina returns nine starters on defense. That is the good news. The bad news is the Tar Heels lose their two best players in linebacker Kevin Reddick and defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, two first-team All-ACC selections. We'll see if Ethan Farmer at tackle and P.J. Clyburn at linebacker emerge to win the starting jobs.

3. Replacing Coop. The Tar Heels have a major hole to fill on their offensive line as they say goodbye to unanimous All-America guard Jonathan Cooper, a stalwart who made 47 career starts. Cooper was the unheralded leader of the offense, so filling his spot is a major priority this spring.


Spring start: March 5

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:

1. QB situation. Tino Sunseri is gone, leaving Arizona transfer Tom Savage, redshirt freshman Chad Voytik and junior Trey Anderson to compete for the starting job. Inconsistent quarterback play has been a major issue for the Panthers, so upgrading this position is an absolute must.

2. Adjusting to DC. Pitt is going into the season with its fourth new coordinator in as many years, as Dave Huxtable left for NC State after only one year on the job. Secondary coach Matt House was promoted to coordinator, so at least there will be some familiarity. But he has to get to work on improving this unit's consistency.

3. Offensive line improvements. Is this the year we finally see a vastly improved Pitt offensive line? The Panthers have to replace center Ryan Turnley and guard Chris Jacobson, two key positions to watch during spring practice.


Spring start: March 18

Spring game: April 6

What to watch:

1. New coaches. How will the three most high-profile hires Mike London made mesh with the staff and returning players? How will the offense deal with a new scheme under Steve Fairchild? How will the defense deal with a new scheme under Jon Tenuta? How big will Tom O'Brien's role be with the offense? Inquiring minds want to know.

2. QB competition. Fairchild has already said he will open up the quarterback job to a "very spirited competition" this spring. The two front-runners figure to be Phillip Sims and David Watford, who both have game experience. But there will be no shortage of quarterbacks in Charlottesville this year, so there are no guarantees that either of them will win the job.

3. Replacing Greer. The Hoos have some big shoes to fill in the middle of their defense with the departure of linebacker Steve Greer, who ended his career with 376 tackles -- ranking No. 6 in school history. Kwontie Moore, one of nine true freshmen to play in 2012, backed up Greer last season. Will he win the starting job?


Spring start: March 27

Spring game: April 20

What to watch:

1. Logan Thomas. All eyes will be on Thomas as he heads into his senior season, especially with new offensive coordinator in Scot Loeffler in charge. How will the two work together, and what will Loeffler do to get Thomas to cut down on his mistakes and capitalize on the immense potential he has?

2. Rushing attack. Item No. 2 on the agenda for Loeffler is to figure out a way to jump start the Virginia Tech rushing game, which struggled in 2012. The offensive line was inconsistent, and so were the running backs. The Hokies could never really settle on a starter or a clear rotation in the backfield, either. Somebody has to emerge as THE guy.

3. Filling in for Exum. Virginia Tech took a serious hit to its defensive backfield last month when emerging cornerback Antone Exum tore his ACL in a pickup basketball game. The Hokies will look to several young players to try and fill his void, including Donovan Riley, Donaldven Manning and Davion Tookes. Fans will have to wait on highly touted cornerback Kendall Fuller, who joins in the summer.
Every year dating back to 2009, at least one true freshman has played -- and started -- at quarterback in the Big East.

You have guys like Tom Savage (now at a different Big East school), Chas Dodd and Gary Nova (battling it out to start), and up-and-coming Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville. While it seems B.J. Daniels has been starting since 2002 -- a joke made by coach Skip Holtz at media day -- he actually started as a redshirt freshman in 2009. I mistakenly had him starting as a true freshman in an earlier version.

[+] EnlargeChad Voytik
Tom HauckCould Pitt's Chad Voytik be the next true freshman to start at QB in the Big East?
So now that fall camps are underway, are there any candidates to play as true freshmen in 2012? As of right now, it does not appear any Big East team will go into the season with a true freshman starting at quarterback. But several players could have a backup role, depending on how they progress. Here is a look at two with the most likely shot.

Casey Cochran, UConn. Given that Cochran is recovering from a broken wrist, the possibility exists that the Huskies just redshirt him this season. Coach Paul Pasqualoni already announced Chandler Whitmer as his starter. But the recent news that Michael Nebrich will transfer certainly makes this an interesting situation to watch. UConn is left with walk-on Johnny McEntee and Wildcat quarterback Scott McCummings, who has been absent taking care of personal matters. I think the best-case scenario for UConn is to have Whitmer make it through the entire season and play at a high level. That way, the Huskies can redshirt Cochran and give him four years of eligibility.

Chad Voytik, Pitt. With the transfer of Mark Myers, Pitt now has three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster eligible for this season. Tino Sunseri is the unquestioned starter, despite some of his shortfalls. So now the backup job will be a competition between Trey Anderson and Voytik, a four-star recruit from Tennessee. Coach Paul Chryst said the team would take full advantage of giving Voytik more reps with Myers gone. But so far through the beginning of camp, Anderson and Sunseri have gotten the majority of the reps. "Both Tino and Trey need as many reps as they can get," Chryst said. "Chad has done a great job of studying and learning and that’s not easy, no spring ball and no real reference, but I think he’s done a great job of knowing what to do and I think he goes out and works at it. So I’m pleased where he’s at.” Like UConn, Pitt would be best served to have Voytik redshirt if the Panthers can win without him.
AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- Pitt coach Paul Chryst came right out and said what had become obvious this spring -- Tino Sunseri is his starting quarterback going into fall practice.

Chryst said Tuesday during the ACC spring meetings, "He was the best quarterback we had out of spring. That's why he's the starter."

Sunseri had been competing with Mark Myers and Trey Anderson for the starting job after a pretty brutal 2011 season. The truth is that Sunseri was not really a match for the spread offense under former coach Todd Graham. But he was inconsistent the season before under Dave Wannstedt, so there are those Pitt fans probably scratching their heads wondering what Sunseri can do to be better entering his third season as a starter.

"The biggest thing for quarterbacking is being able to do it and doing it on a consistent level," Chryst said. "That’s your normal progression. He clearly was the best this spring that we had. You’re aware of the history but it doesn’t really matter for us. What do you have right now? It’s our job to coach them and how can you help everyone get better? He’s got a great opportunity. He has played in a lot of games, he does have experience. He’s got room to grow. If he chooses to grow, and I know it’s easier for us to say last year or two years before that doesn’t matter. It matters in the sense that you should learn from all of it, positive or negative. But it doesn’t matter going forward.

"Right now, if you were to say who gives you the best chance to have success, it would be him. So coach the heck out of him."

Chryst said nobody grabbed the backup quarterback job. As for what he anticipates for Chad Voytik once the four-star prospect arrives this summer, Chryst said, "First he's got to get here. Then we've got to see how he picks up things. I anticipate him getting work. Legitimately getting work and then we'll see."

Now here is a quick update on running back Ray Graham, coming off a knee injury. Chryst said Graham is "progressing" and anticipates his star back will be ready for the start of fall camp.

"The plan is he will be ready," Chryst said. "We’ll have him practice. He needs it. They all need it. I’m not going to project too much until it’s time. But we’re planning on it. We’re going full steam ahead."

Chryst anticipates he will have all his players available for practice when fall camp opens.
With nearly every Big East team having wrapped up spring practice, one constant remains -- open quarterback competitions.

Unless coach Kyle Flood makes a last-second decision following the Rutgers spring game Saturday, four schools will go into the summer without a starter at perhaps the most important position on a team. Here is a quick look at how those competitions stack up:

Cincinnati. Munchie Legaux and Brendon Kay are the top two players vying for the job. Coach Butch Jones has decided not to name a starter, but all indications point to Legaux as winning the job once the fall rolls around. Legaux said during an interview this spring he had been taking most of the reps with the first team.

UConn. Five players remain in the competition -- Junior college transfer Chandler Whitmer, freshman Casey Cochran, Michael Nebrich, Scott McCummings and Johnny McEntee. Nobody distinguished himself through the spring or in the spring game, though Whitmer had the "best" performance of the three. Don't be surprised if Whitmer is the starter, Cochran is redshirted and McCummings continues in his role as Wildcat quarterback.

Pitt. Coach Paul Chryst has not named his starter, either, but he has indicated that incumbent Tino Sunseri has separated himself from Mark Myers and Trey Anderson. Now we'll see what happens when true freshman Chad Voytik enters the mix when he arrives in the summer.

Rutgers. Chas Dodd and Gary Nova went back and forth at quarterback last season for the Scarlet Knights, and neither one has really stood out this spring. Defense has dominated the scrimmages so far. Flood has said he would not make a decision until one player stood head and shoulders above the rest, but would like a starter in place a week to 10 days before the start of the season.

Pitt turns to ... Sunseri?

April, 17, 2012
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.

[+] EnlargeTino Sunseri
Charles LeClaire/US PresswirePittsburgh coach Paul Chryst has hinted that Tino Sunseri will be his starting quarterback in the fall.
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.

Big East recruiting needs

January, 23, 2012
National signing day is inching ever closer, so it is time to take a look at the biggest recruiting needs for every team in the Big East.


Defensive line. Cincinnati loses a host of seniors from this position, including Co-Defensive Player of the Year Derek Wolfe, John Hughes, Monte Taylor, and Rob Trigg. Factor in the key contributors for 2012 will be seniors in Dan Giordano, Brandon Mills and Walter Stewart and it is time to reload at this position.

Receiver. There is some promising young talent on the roster, but several guys are going to be leaving in the next few years. The Bearcats really need a guy who can stretch the field and make some big plays to join Anthony McClung and Alex Chisum.

Secondary. The Bearcats are going to take a hit at this position after 2012, losing a ton of seniors-to-be, including Cam Cheatham, Drew Frey, Dominique Battle and Reuben Johnson. Senior safety Wesley Richardson is already gone. The lone four-star commitment the Bearcats have is from a safety, Marcus Foster.


Quarterback. This need has been addressed in this recruiting cycle, with junior college transfer Chandler Whitmer and Casey Cochran already enrolled in school.

Tight end. With the impending departure of Ryan Griffin and John Delahunt, the Huskies could use another young player to be groomed to take over. Tight end is a critical part of the UConn offense.

Offensive line. UConn is losing its two best linemen in Moe Petrus and Mike Ryan. Of the 16 linemen currently listed on the roster, seven are juniors or seniors. Linemen generally take a redshirt season, so it never hurts to sign more to be able to restock.


Linebacker. The Cardinals are losing Dexter Heyman and have a lot of juniors and seniors on their roster at this position. It is no surprise, then, that three of the top players coming in are linebackers -- Keith Brown and James Burgess are already enrolled; four-star recruit Nick Dawson has given a commitment.

Offensive line. Louisville has young players here, but not much depth, as evidenced this season when several true freshmen were forced to play much earlier than anticipated. It never hurts to build depth here, and the Cardinals have gotten a huge commit from four-star guard Abraham Garcia out of Miami.

Running back. This was an area the Cardinals struggled in this season, having to move quarterback Dominique Brown to the position. Victor Anderson is gone, and this team could really used another back to carry the load.


Quarterback. This one is pretty self explanatory if you watched Tino Sunseri play. Mark Myers and Trey Anderson are also on the roster, but the Panthers are in definite need here -- which is why so many fans are looking forward to commit Chad Voytik coming to town.

Linebacker. This has been an area of inconsistency for the Panthers, who lose their best player in Max Gruder. There are some young players with talent in Todd Thomas and Ejuan Price, but this position could definitely use an upgrade.

Receiver. The play of the offense was disappointing this season, and that includes the receivers. Pitt could use some players to stretch the field. Ronald Jones was a start this season. But when you consider that Cameron Saddler, Mike Shanahan and Devin Street will all be upperclassmen in 2012, this is a definite area of need.


Receiver. Mohamed Sanu is gone, and Mark Harrison is a senior to be. There is plenty of young talent, but there is a reason Rutgers has commitments from four athletes. This gives the Scarlet Knights the flexibility to try them at receiver or running back, another area of need.

Running back. Once Savon Huggins got hurt this year, Rutgers had Jawan Jamison and Jeremy Deering at running back and that was about it. Depth has to be developed here.

Offensive line. Strides have absolutely been made at this position, but coach Greg Schiano likes to reiterate that the Scarlet Knights aren't going to pull themselves out of the hole they were in overnight. They need another solid draft class at this position to keep building.


Secondary. Injuries and inconsistent play this season showed the Bulls really lacked some depth and need some immediate help in this area, which is why they signed junior college cornerbacks Fidel Montgomery and Josh Brown. One of their top four-star commitments is cornerback Chris Bivins.

Quarterback. Beyond B.J. Daniels, a senior in 2012, the Bulls have Bobby Eveld and Matt Floyd as the two heirs to take over. Eveld has been less than impressive, and we don't know much about Floyd. The Bulls would be served to get another quarterback in as they prepare for the future.

Running back. Darrell Scott is gone, and the Bulls are really in need of a game breaker at this position. Demetris Murray is going to be a senior, and nobody else really has stepped up at the position. Depth has to be built here, because USF goes into spring practice with four running backs on the roster.


Defensive line. The Orange are losing Chandler Jones and Mikhail Marinovich and could really used some difference-makers up front who can help get after the quarterback. Depth is an issue here. One of their big commitments so far has been defensive end Josh Manley out of Georgia.

Secondary. This was one of the weakest parts of the team and now the Orange lose Phillip Thomas and Kevyn Scott, and there was a lack of depth when injuries hit this position in 2011. Brooklyn prep safety Wayne Morgan would be a huge get to add to this unit.

Receiver. Alec Lemon is a senior, Van Chew is gone and who knows what happens with Marcus Sales. The bottom line is the Orange are in major need of a game-changer to turn 15-yard passes into 40-yard receptions.

West Virginia

Quarterback. Geno Smith is a rising senior and after him it is crickets in the form of one player behind him in Paul Millard. So consider this need majorly filled with Ford Childress, ranked No. 139 on the ESPNU 150.

Offensive line. The most inconsistent part of the team in 2011, West Virginia has a major need here. The Mountaineers struggled so badly here they started converted defensive lineman Curtis Feigt late in the season. Don Barclay is gone, and Joe Madsen, Jeff Braun and Josh Jenkins are all upperclassmen.

Defensive line. Julian Miller, Josh Taylor and Bruce Irvin are gone, and there are depth concerns here. West Virginia has four commitments from defensive linemen already.
What did we learn in the Big East in Week 7?

1. The offense went missing. West Virginia and its prolific offense took a seat on the couch this week, leaving the rest of the league in the spotlight. Most of us had to hide our eyes at what passed for offense Saturday. UConn, Louisville and Pitt failed to score offensive touchdowns. USF had one. The highest scoring team -- Cincinnati with 25 points. That would be 20 points below its season average. Only the Bearcats and Rutgers went over 20 points. It was the ugliest weekend of the season.

[+] EnlargePitt's Ray Graham
Charles LeClaire/USPRESSWIREWith almost no passing game, Utah was able to key on Pitt running back Ray Graham.
2. Pitt is in trouble. The Panthers have now scored 10 points of offense in the past two games combined, reaching rock bottom in a 26-14 loss to Utah in which they scored on a kickoff return and a blocked punt. Simply put: they have no quarterback. Tino Sunseri has had one good game out of the seven he has started. True freshman backup Trey Anderson has looked totally overwhelmed. Teams know they can key in on Ray Graham when there is no threat to pass. Pitt finished with 50 yards passing, and starting receivers Devin Street, Mike Shanahan and Cam Saddler combined for -- NO catches. What is supposed to be a "high-octane" offense is sputtering like a clunker that is running on molasses. If Pitt continues to play this poorly, its bowl prospects will be in serious jeopardy.

3. The USF Bulls teased. Again. This is a team that starts off hot, but then disappoints. With 16 days between games, you would have thought the Bulls would have played a bit better against UConn. Four turnovers -- including three from B.J. Daniels -- cost them big time in a 16-10 loss. So did nine penalties and an inability to convert on third down for the second straight week. After a 4-0 start that featured three wins against cupcakes, the Bulls are now 0-2 in conference. Their two losses are to teams that currently have losing records (Pitt, UConn are each 3-4).

4. Rutgers, Cincinnati nearly bowl eligible. Two teams nobody picked anywhere near the top of the conference are now one win away from becoming bowl eligible. Both were 4-8 last season; both sit at 5-1 headed into next week. Both hit the road next week: Rutgers is at Louisville; Cincinnati goes to USF.

5. Defensive fronts dominated. Well, maybe the offense was bad, but the defensive lines had nice showings Saturday. Cincinnati defensive tackle Derek Wolfe had a career-high 11 tackles and the Bearcats had four sacks. Rutgers had four sacks -- on a triple-option team. Pitt had seven sacks against Utah. USF tied a school record with seven sacks -- Ryne Giddins set a career high with two sacks and Sam Barrington set a career high with 1.5 sacks. Louisville had three. The only Big East team that did not have a sack this week was UConn -- the No. 2 team in the conference in that category headed into Week 7.

Final: Utah 26, Pitt 14

October, 15, 2011
The Pitt offense hit a new low in a 26-14 loss to Utah. The Panthers were held without an offensive score, and had season lows in first downs (12), total yards (120), passing yards (50) and carries for Ray Graham (12).

Coach Todd Graham turned to freshman backup Trey Anderson, but he was not much better than Tino Sunseri. Anderson was 5-of-19 for 12 yards, with two interceptions. One was returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to seal the loss. Sunseri was 4-of-11 for 38 yards.

Graham is the best player Pitt has, so many wondered why the Panthers gave him the ball just 12 times for 46 yards. Now you have to wonder what coach Graham is going to do at quarterback, with two players who clearly cannot manage the high-octane offense he promised when he arrived in Pittsburgh.

Will he keep going with Sunseri, who continues to struggle? Or does he go with the true freshman who has had his own struggles? The offensive line remains a wreck. Without the threat to pass, defenses are going to continue to double down on Graham.

Pitt is now 3-4 after being picked to finish No. 2 in the Big East preseason poll. After two straight miserable performances on offense, you can legitimately wonder whether the Panthers will even make a bowl game.

Halftime: Pitt 14, Utah 13

October, 15, 2011
Utah ended the first half with 10 unanswered points to close the gap to 14-13 against Pitt at the break. Here are a few observations.
  • The Panthers continue to be dreadful on offense. Their two scores have come from special teams -- Buddy Jackson had a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and Antwuan Reed returned a blocked punt for six. Tino Sunseri is struggling once again, going 4-of-10 for 38 yards. He has been sacked three times. Trey Anderson came on for the final drive of the first half, but the results were no better. Pitt has eight first downs and 84 yards of total offense.
  • Ray Graham -- the best player on offense -- has seven carries in the first half. SEVEN. Pitt should try to get him the ball just a bit more. He had a nice 21-yard run near the end of the half that proved that theory.
  • Utah has held the ball for 18 minutes, and gone on two drives of 12-plus plays. The final touchdown was a bit fluky, as Jon Hays was being sacked by Max Gruder, but somehow got rid of the ball and Luke Matthews caught it off a deflection for a 33-yard score.

Big East: What we learned

September, 11, 2011
What did we learn about the Big East in Week 2?

1. Undefeated no more. After being one of only two conferences to start the season undefeated, the Big East unraveled in Week 2, going 4-4. Cincinnati, Rutgers and UConn all lost to their opponents from automatic qualifying conferences. Louisville lost to a Sun Belt team for the first time since 1981. What makes the weekend even more galling for fans is the way these teams lost. Cincinnati was supposed to be better on defense but got blown out by a mediocre SEC team in Tennessee. Rutgers could not win despite five turnovers and nine penalties from North Carolina. UConn did not score an offensive touchdown against Vanderbilt. And Louisville gave up 201 yards receiving to T.Y. Hilton.

[+] EnlargeConnecticut Huskies quarterback Johnny McEntee
Jim Brown (US PRESSWIRE)Connecticut Huskies quarterback Johnny McEntee couldn't get the Huskies offense moving.
2. UConn has QB issues. That may have been obvious going into the game, considering the Huskies planned on playing three quarterbacks. But it is even more glaring now that they had such an anemic performance in the pass game in a 24-21 loss to Vanderbilt. Johnny McEntee ended up playing a majority of the game, throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble. He had for just 99 yards passing in the entire game. Coach Paul Pasqualoni said he stuck with McEntee for continuity, but there was no offense. The Huskies failed to score a touchdown on offense. In fact, UConn the last time the Huskies scored an offensive touchdown against an FBS opponent was in the fourth quarter against Cincinnati on Nov. 27, 2010.

3. Too close for comfort. Four teams may have lost, but three others were in games that were a little too close for their liking against FCS opponents. Pitt had to hold off a furious fourth-quarter rally from Maine, 35-29; Syracuse had to hold off Rhode Island 21-14; and West Virginia trailed Norfolk State at halftime 12-10 before storming back to win 55-12. Perhaps all three teams were looking ahead to much bigger games in Week 3. But in the case of Pitt and Syracuse, some of the same problems that appeared in Week 1 appeared again in Week 2. Tino Sunseri struggled at quarterback, and left the game in the fourth quarter. Freshman Trey Anderson came on in relief, but coach Todd Graham said afterward that Sunseri is his starting quarterback. Meanwhile, Syracuse could not get the ground game going, and the defense was sloppy with missed tackles. Both are going to have to be much better if they want to win next week.

4. USF a star again. One of the best things that happened this weekend was seeing USF steamroll Ball State. After an emotional week that featured a win at Notre Dame and the death of founding father Lee Roy Selmon, it would have been understandable if the Bulls started slowly. But they were the only team that looked good from the beginning of their game to the end, easily beating Ball State 37-7. Kudos to coach Skip Holtz for getting his players ready to play in the face of such a difficult week.

5. Offensive line problems. This seems to be a recurring theme for several teams. Louisville has five new starters and yet to find any cohesion there, and played poorly in both games. Syracuse has struggled. So have Pitt (the Panthers gave up seven sacks versus Maine) and West Virginia. UConn gave up five sacks against Vanderbilt. North Carolina had four sacks and 10 quarterback hurries against Rutgers. So if there is one position that seems the shakiest throughout the league, this one would be it.

Final: Pitt 35, Maine 29

September, 10, 2011
There is no way Pitt coach Todd Graham feels good about the end of this game, not with a big test at Iowa looming next week.

The Panthers had a too-close-for-comfort 35-29 win against FCS Maine, a game that featured inconsistent play from quarterback Tino Sunseri, too many big plays given up on defense and a missed field goal and extra point from kicker Kevin Harper.

Pitt led 35-15 with 8 minutes to go in the game, but the Panthers allowed Maine to put together a 13-play, 81-yard drive to cut the lead to 35-22. Harper missed a 39-yard field goal, giving Maine the ball back with 1:13 left. Maine scored again with 3 seconds left, but time essentially ran out on its upset bid.

Sunseri threw two interceptions -- including one in the end zone. After he threw his second interception of the day in the fourth quarter, freshman Trey Anderson replaced him. Once again, Ray Graham was the most reliable player on offense for the Panthers, gaining 121 yards and scoring three touchdowns.

Maine had 334 yards passing in the game and made it much more difficult on the Panthers they they wanted.

Big East news and notes

August, 29, 2011
The Big East football coaches' call wrapped up a little bit ago. UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni was the only coach unable to make it because of disruptions from Hurricane Irene. Here are some news and notes from each coach:

  • Coach Butch Jones confirmed that he has hired former West Virginia offensive line coach Dave Johnson as an assistant.
  • He also said Deven Drane is going to start at cornerback, with Dominique Battle right behind him. Jones also anticipates playing eight true freshmen.
  • On the makeup of the team this season: “I like the mentality of our football team. We’ve improved our toughness and mental state of mind.”
  • Coach Charlie Strong confirmed former Florida cornerback Adrian Bushell has enrolled in school. Bushell played at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College last season and has only been on campus for two days, so it will take time for him to get up to speed before he can contribute.
  • Strong also said center Mario Benavides, defensive end B.J. Butler and freshman running back Corvin Lamb are out with injuries.
  • The Cardinals also plan on playing all three quarterbacks against Murray State on Thursday. Will Stein will start, but Teddy Bridgewater and Dominique Brown will get in as well.
  • The only player out for the game is linebacker Dan Mason.
  • What is Todd Graham most eager to see about this team? “How we handle adversity. I’m anxious to see them get on the field and execute what we’re doing. I feel good about where we’re at. We’ve got an awful lot taught. I'm anxious to see how they respond and get them on the field in game day. I've told them I expect them to be better on game day than they were in the spring and summer.”
  • At his news conference in Pittsburgh, Graham said walk-on freshman Trey Anderson would be the backup at quarterback and Shane Gordon would start at strongside linebacker.
  • Greg Schiano on playing N.C. Central: “I’m not worried about our team overlooking anybody. If you know about the type of season we had last year, we underachieved. We didn’t meet expectations and our entire program can’t wait to play a football game.”
  • Schiano says running back Jeremy Deering should be able to play after missing practice time with a head injury. As for his running back rotation between Savon Huggins, DeAntwan Williams and Jawan Jamison, Schiano said, “Savon is definitely going to play. Depending on what we run the first play of the game, will it be Savon, DeAntwan Williams or Jawan Jamison? I don’t know how it’s going to go. Savon has done a good job in training camp. He’s shown why he is the player that he is. He’s a talented guy, very mature and worked hard to get ready.”
  • Coach Doug Marrone said Phillip Thomas and Shamarko Thomas, and cornerback Keon Lyn are back at practice and would be able to play against Wake Forest on Thursday night.
  • Marrone threw out some stats in his opening remarks. Syracuse is 1-12 against ACC teams since 1996, including 0-8 at home.
  • He also addressed some of the problems with winning home games. Syracuse has not had a winning home record since 2004. The main thing is eliminating the distractions that come with playing at home.
  • Skip Holtz talked a lot about the excitement of playing Notre Dame for his players, and the campus as well. Holtz spoke at a pep rally on campus and felt a buzz around the students, too. “There is a lot of excitement,” he said. “It's fed by not only the way we finished the season last year, but the excitement to play Notre Dame on national television. These are big games for us.”
  • Holtz also said he didn’t expect any players to sit out with injuries.
West Virginia
  • Dana Holgorsen still has not decided on a running back rotation, but said all three freshmen -- Vernard Roberts, Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison will play Sunday against Marshall.
  • On why he doesn’t use a playbook: “The thought process is we don't want people staring at a piece of paper. We want them to understand it based on film, seeing how it's done right, how it's done wrong and doing it trial and error on your own. We put together a few mini-playbook stuff that's video related. It makes more sense to us."
  • Holgorsen also said Pat Eger is leading the race to start at right tackle. Quinton Spain is the backup to both tackles. He also expects Julian Miller to be cleared for Marshall.
  • On Bruce Irvin being an every-down player: “Whether he can be every down as good as he is on specific pass-rush things, I don't know. Time will tell. He set the bar pretty high being a third-down pass-rusher.”