Monday, October 20, 2008

"I have no idea why we did it" (part 2)

On our 3rd offensive drive of the 2nd half against Navy, we winning 42-14. We had decided to pull Shady and Hot Rod from the game, yet Bill Stull remained in at quarterback. 6 of the 8 plays were running plays and the name of the game at this point was kill the clock. After a fumble by Conredge Collins, Navy took over and scored a touchdown with only a few minutes left in the game. With a 21 point lead and only a few minutes left, running out the clock seemed like a simple task. To our surprise though, on our 2nd to last series, Pat Bostick replaced Bill Stull. On every play from here we ran the ball to kill the clock. The remaining Pitt fans who stayed instead of trying to beat the traffic were shocked by the move to put Bostick in.

Here are the reasons of why we were all shocked to see Bostick in the game:
1. We have 2 other quarterbacks (Cross and Smith) who are not eligible for a redshirt.
2. Through out the camp (after naming a starter) and during the season, Wannstedt has said that the plans were to redshirt Bostick and allow him to gain an extra year of eligibility and to develop more as a quarterback.
3. He entered the game at a point where he was not going to throw the ball or do anything to help him improve as a quarterback.
4. When we were struggling in the early games, we did not make the change to Bostick to try and give the team a spark.
5. Wannstedt has continually said through out the season that Greg Cross will play and that we need to get him in there more while not making any mentions about Pat Bostick's playing time.

As far as why Wannstedt made the move, I have not heard from the coaches so I don't have any specific information, but here are some things he said at the press conference today.
"If we expect to win this season, Pat needs to see some playing time."
"We will do what it takes to give our team the best chance to win"
"We put him in there becausePat needs to be prepared to play every week" then he said "Pat is prepared to play every week".
When he was asked about the possibility of redshirting next season Wannstedt said "It's too early to talk about that"

Lastly, the biggest thing that Wannstedt told us, was something he did not say. Wannstedt would not say if Pat would play again this season.

Before I move forward, I just want to say that everything from this point will be mostly my opinions. I'm sure Jason Jones agrees with me on most of the stuff as we talked about this at length after the game, on the drive home from the game, and through out the day today.

Pat Bostick was not a great quarterback last season. That is not saying that he won't be great later, but given the situation last year, he did not perform well. Last season our offensive line was terrible. They prevented us from succeeding more with the passing and running game. Also last season, Oderick Turner and Darrell Strong were two of the laziest football players at any level of college football, yet they were not reprimanded for their laziness, penalties, and ineffectiveness. One key moment I remember was throwing deep against USF last year and Turner quit on the route despite being open. We replaced Moe Williams with Turner, ran the same play, and Williams ended up scoring on a long touchdown pass. Lastly, the staff took the ball out of Pat's hands last year. If anyone got a 10 point or larger lead on us, it was over because we were not going to open up the offense.

This season Jason Pinkston, Robb Houser, and John Malecki have all done a great job on the line. CJ Davis has been very steady and Joe Thomas has improved throughout the season and is playing better than Mike McGlynn did last year. Also the return of Derek Kinder and Nate Byham from injury as well as the arrival of Jonathan Baldwin and Dorin Dickerson (from lb) has allowed Stull to have a tremendous set of receivers. Kinder, Porter, McGee, Baldwin, Dickerson, Pelusi and Byham are a dynamic group who you can rely on. The group of Turner, Porter, Williams, Pestano, Strong and Pelusi just don't match up. Outside of Porter and Pelusi, the rest of the guys were disappointments with how they finished last season.

The coaches have changed after the Bowling Green loss too. We have seen less bubble screens and long yardage draws. Now we are seeing nice passes to the running backs over the flat, deep passes to Baldwin, more usage of the tight end, and more play action than we have seen all season.

The odds have been entirely in the favor for Stull to succeed this year compared to Bostick last year.

Stull has done a decent job this year though. I think Stull is the type of quarterback that Wannstedt looks for. He can manage the game and is going to be consistent from week to week. He won't be an explosive playmaker, but in our offense he doesn't need to be since we have strengths in other areas.

That being said, this is the 4th year Bill Stull has been in the offense. He will turn 22 this year and was given adequate time to develop under Matt Cavanaugh and was able to learn from Tyler Palko. Compare that to Pat Bostick from last year. He was 18 years old and fresh out of high school. He was playing in an offense that he had never played in before. He had missed time due to the family emergency and did not see any action throughout the first 3 games. He had a set of poor receivers and a poor offensive line.

The big things last year that everyone harped on was Pat's conditioning, his arm strength, and the hitch in the throwing motion. After attending many practices and seeing Pat quite often, it is very evident to me that Pat is in much better shape than last year. He entered camp 30 pounds lighter than he finished the season last year and has continued lose weight through out the season. Also through his work with Buddy Morris and Matt Cavanaugh he has developed better arm strength and improved his throwing motion.

Even though those improvements have been made, people are not able to see them because he hasn't played this season so their perceptions are only further cemented in their minds. Another problem is that since Wannstedt said we had an "open qb competition" this off season, people think that since Bostick didn't win the job he must not be a very good quarterback.

This is where a major problem comes into play. Even though he is our #2 quarterback, there is no reason to blow his redshirt opportunity to hand the ball off 3 times and kneel the ball once. If Wannstedt was really serious about doing this, he could have had Pat come in for each of the games that ended with us kneeling the ball and had him do it instead of Stull or Cross.

But here is where we stand right now. If you read this blog you know that I was born and raised in Pittsburgh. While I am a Pittsburgh homer, I often disagree with many of our fans. One of the biggest things I hate about our fan base is this paranoia that we need Pittsburgh guys for everything. After Ben Howland left and when Jamie Dixon was rumored to leave, people talked about John Calipari, Skip Prosser, and Sean Miller all taking over. The key between those three is that they all have Pittsburgh connections. After an amazing 7 year run under coach Dixon, he has proved that he has a great mind for the game and should give the fans a reason to believe in him. After the USF game, a message board poster wrote "all of you guys want to give all of this credit to Jamie Dixon, but why don't you do the same for coach Wannstedt". My honest response is that because we've lost many games we should have won, we have underachieved for the last 3 seasons, and we have only won 3 games that we should not have (USF, WVU, and Cincy) under Coach Wannstedt. While we continue to improve, if we should keep winning and eventually become a consistent, dominant team, I will give Dave Wannstedt the same respect I give to Jamie Dixon.

This mentality goes farther than just coaches though. There are many fans who believe that we should only get kids from the WPIAL and stay within the wall around Western Pennsylvania. Part of this goes to the fact Walt Harris did not spend much time recruiting here and had a bad reputation with many of the local coaches. Rutherford and Palko received amazing support from the fans after they settled in (yes they were booed early in their careers here) as the starting quarterback. They were both from Western Pa. At the beginning of this year when the "quarterback competition" was taking place people were bashing Bostick as if he were the reason that our entire season went wrong last year. It wasn't just talking about the way he played, rather they attacked his character, his desire to play, and his appearance. If you want to compare Bill Stull to Pat Bostick, then that is fine, but do it with how they play, not this other made up stuff that you read from unreasonable "fans".

Now we have Bill Stull who has led us to a 5 - 1 record and has us going in the right direction towards earning a bowl bid and hopefully winning the Big East. However, instead of talking about the success of the team, we have to discuss the Pat Bostick situation because of a questionable coaching decision. This has led to more negative talk from our "fans".

Bill Stull is a WPIAL kid and I often feel that because he is a local guy he is given more leniency than Pat was given last year. This also applies to our freshman quarterback Tino Sunseri. He has all of the chips in his favor from fans from Pittsburgh. First of all, not only is he from the WPIAL, but rather he played for Central Catholic. Secondly his father went to Pitt. Lastly, we are often in favor of the back up quarterback in Pittsburgh and it appears that Tino is filling that role. I don't buy for a second that after 6 games into a planned redshirt season that Tino is ahead of Bostick. What I do believe is that a select vocal part of our fan base wants to believe that Tino is ahead of Pat. For them I believe their natural hope is that Stull succeeds this year and next, and then in 2010 Tino takes over as our starting quarterback.

Here is one of the best examples I can give you. Pat Bostick was our starting quarterback for the majority of our season last year. You would think that our fans would see that his name is Pat Bostick not Pat Bostic. If people continually spelled Bill Stull's name as Bill Stuul, or Stall, or Stall, or any other variation, people would make a huge deal about it. Instead I think people see spelling Bostick as Bostic as some type of natural dig at the kid. It's the same group of people who were mad at Tony Dorsett for changing the syllabic emphasis in his last name after he left Pitt.

People will allow others to be thrown under the bus for the simplest reasons. I just can't believe that our base isn't standing up to the certain fans who base all of their beliefs on where a person comes from. The local players don't deserve a free pass because they are from the area. Dave Wannstedt does not deserve a free pass because he played for Pitt. As a fan base we have a right to want to know the truth of why certain things are done. When you say all season long that you're going to redshirt a player and then put him in for 4 meaningless snaps at the end of the game, that raises a red flag. When the other coaches are saying they are completely surprised by this and that they had no idea it was coming, then I think it is something that we should really look into.

Again, we are 5-1 and should be enjoying this win. While we are happy that we are 5-1 (which is where I thought we would be at the beginning of the season), we have also seen things that have made us a little nervous and skeptical. Losing to Bowling Green and barely beating Buffalo, Syracuse, and Iowa are certainly reasons for that. However, beating USF and soundly defeating Navy are things we should be proud of and use for reasoning that we are headed in the right direction.

It is just sad that after a big margin victory we are discussing Bostick's redshirt instead of focusing on Rutgers because of a small coaching move that may end up to prove significant in a year or two.

I may have upset some of you with this column, but I felt that I needed to say something because I don't feel that Pat Bostick has been treated fairly by some Pitt fans. I also feel that some fans turn a blind eye to things we do because of a non-questioning policy when it comes to Wannstedt. Lastly, I like everyone else reading this want what is best for Pitt. If Pat didn't need to play this year, then he should not have. You make a move when it is necessary, not just because you can do it. 4 insignificant snaps may just have shaped one 19 year old's future more than anything else thus far in his life.


johnny said...

Dave, your logic is unassailable. I wish we could make a Venn Diagram showing the overlap of dumbass Yinzers, people who can’t spell ‘Bostick’, and people who can’t spell ‘Pederson’. Something tells me that we would have three practically overlapping circles. I mean, I understand that in Western PA you run into a lot of Croat surnames, but there is a freaking “K” at the end of the kid’s name. He’s only been recruited by or on the team for over two years, so give them time, I suppose.

As you know, I am a native Pittsburgher, but I am also a pragmatist and having lived outside the confluence of the Three Rivers, I can tell you that other parts of the country other than the WPIAL and Western PA produce football talent. While it may be heresy, parts of the country have even surpassed the freaking WPIAL. The fact that the same wanker posters on the other sites constantly hype up the local guy and not entertaining the possibility that the kid from NJ, Northern VA, or Florida may be more talented is beyond me.

More to the point, I don’t understand the cavalier attitude to blowing kids’s redshirts. The people who see no problem with this make the spurious claim that since we have recruited well the past several years, this trend will continue. While this seems intuitive, there is no guarantee that the depth or breadth of the talent pool of younger classes exists nor is there a guarantee that these kids will sign with Pitt. This doesn’t even consider the assumption that all players that we recruit will develop to their maximum scouting service potential.

Some of these posters are acting like Paul Jones is already on the roster and ready to become the next Vince Young. We cannot act as though high school Juniors are already on the Pitt rosters, nor can we assume that players who have yet to take a snap will outshine Alex Van Pelt in 2010.

I consider myself a Coach Wannstedt apologist, but this move baffles me. It is indefensible under the circumstances and dampens what should be a great momentum-building win. I have been high on Pat since all the high school hype. Surely my expectations were too high last year, but I am not ready to stick a fork in this kid or jump on the Yinzer talking points like, “Wanny is trying to send him a message that he should transfer to IUP.” Every time I think that Coach Wannstedt has it all figured out, he finds new ways to baffle me, just like my Piper's Pit quote from Saturday’s posts.

I still think that Pat has the pedigree and the character to be a great asset for our program. I also think that Mr. Pederson needs to higher somebody to run onto the field and tackle the following players before the ball is snapped, should they find themselves placed into a game situation: Shayne Hale, Jarred Holley, and Chris Burns.

I also applaud your courage in inviting the wrath of Mr. McGlynn by giving Otah the shoutout in Part I and noting that Joe Thomas is an upgrade in Part II.

rkohberger said...

That is a good in-depth article about how things transpired over the course of the last 18 months at our QB position. Thanks.

However, I'll disagree with some points you make. I have been as critical as anyone regarding Pat Bostick's play on the field last season - however, and this may be because I'm a bit older and understanding - I've never criticized the kid himself. I think Pat Bostick could have a great future here at PITT, and also realize he never may have that chance, or succeed even if he does get the chance. No one really knows.

But what I do not argue with is how Wannstedt has the right as head coach to make personnel decisions based on what he feels is best for the team at any point in time. It's hard not to feel that whatever decisions DW make is, in his mind, best for the team. I also think that he considers his players themselves when he makes these decisions - but if the scale tips in any direction it will be towards PITT and the team.

DW handled Pat Bostick's star as a Panther about as well as any HC I've ever seen. Many would have written the kid off completely after a training camp like Pat had regardless of the reason it went down the way it did, but not only didn't DW do that - I think he went made it a point to include Pat Bostick in every way.

Pat had a tough road to hoe last season, and while his results on the playing field were not good, and they really weren't no matter how you spin it, the was no doubt in my mind he tried as hard as he could to help this team. Unfortunately, our whole offensive approach had to be tailored to accommodate the level of QB play we were capable of - and that crippled us. Still, give credit where it's due and Bostick worked hard over the off season to make sure that he'll be valuable to PITT as long as he's here.

There is no QB controversy in my mind - Stull leading this team has been night and day from last season. I do believe though that DW is looking at our QB position, remembering last season and realizing that Stull gets banged up pretty often. So - with that in mind it's completely understandable that he could have to rely on a #2 QB at any moment.

There is a world of difference between being a kid sitting on the bench thinking he's going to redshirt this season, and a kid that knows without fail that he's the one on the on deck circle. There was talk earlier about a 'short' term relief QB (possibly Smith or Cross) and a "longer" term backup (Bostick). Now that is out the window and it is etched in stone that Bostick is in no matter what. That has to make an impact in his mental outlook and preparation week to week. When faced with a decision to redshirt or not – that decision becomes harder as the season grows longer. If in our 11th or 12th game (WVU & UCONN) being played possibly for the BE title, and if Stull gets dinged up – the decision to leapfrog our next best chance at QB to preserve the redshirt is now off the table. That’s good in my mind.

Plus, another benefit to this may the message it sends to Bill Stull in that he’s not the only QB on this team the staff has confidence in, and contrary to some fan’s opinions, I think this does show confidence in Pat Bostick. DW is saying you’re our next guy no matter what so be as ready as possible. Bostick is a good teammate and a good sportsman; I don’t doubt that he understands this decision.

I think Stull has played well so far this year – not great, but well and is getting the results DW and Cav want from their QB in this offense. But, we have all seen some of the plays that he has made that make us cringe – and those plays could really hurt in a tight game down the road. DW did something similar to this with Thomas & Nix on the OL, and it’s not inconceivable that he was thinking of it on Saturday also. Let the kid know he’s not the only QB on the roster.

Finally and when all the dust settles, my opinion is that Pat Bostick – regardless of the HS publicity, star ratings and fan’s expectations – is really just one of many players on the PITT roster and needs to be treated as such. He didn’t burst onto the scene like a supernova as McCoy or now Baldwin has. There is no solid proof that he’s going to be any better or worse than any other QB’s on the roster now or potential PITT QBs in 2010 and 2011 – so why should his extra year be sacrosanct? He’s there to be used just like anyone else, and the staff decisions regarding him are their’s to make as they see fit.

In Statu Viae said...

This is some great analysis by both the Cat Basket and Reed. Thanks guys for taking the time to explain your thoughts.

I think that the anti-Bostick perspective draws from watching him play last year, and has nothing to do with where he came from. He came in as a top recruit and was supposed to be the best HS football player in the state of PA. What we saw on the field from him was a quarterback who was not physically ready to play. There were problems with the exchange from center, problems in dropping back, and that awful hitch in his throwing motion.

I think that this led a lot of fans who were familiar with WPIAL HS football to compare him with some of the guys they saw under the Friday Night Lights and the comparison was not always favorable for Pat. Of course, this would then reinforce their belief in the superiority of Western PA football talent.

I will grant that Pat was not put in a position to succeed, but his physical tools and readiness to play didn't help him any either.

With the above said, I think that we need better play out of our quarterback position to take the next step. I don't think that Bill Stull will provide that this year or next. I am not sure if Pat Bostick can either, but I am optimistic that between him, Tino Sunseri, Kevin Smith and whatever recruits we can bring in that we can improve our passing game and take this offense to the next level.

Brian Ising said...

The decision to play Bostick was probably not what I would have done. But allow me to give a couple reasons why this decision makes sense.

1. Now that I've had the chance to think about for a couple days, I think it makes more sense to red-shirt Bostick next year rather than this year. I think we would all agree that the staff plans on using Bill Stull as the starting QB for all of 2008 and 2009. In 2009, Sunseri, Smith, and Cross will all be more prepared to play than they are in 2008. Therefore, they will be more equipped to serve the back-up role next year, allowing Bostick to red-shirt. In 2008, Bostick may be the only QB the staff feels comfortable with as the back-up. But in 2009, they may be comfortable with Sunseri/Smith/Cross as the back-up QB.

2. I think we all thought the plan was to use Smith/Cross as the short-term back-up this year with Bostick as the long-term back-up if Stull were to suffer a serious injury. However, this creates a little bit of a gray area. What if Stull gets dinged up in the 2nd half against WVU or UConn with Pitt clinging to a small lead and needing a victory to win the Big East? Do you bring in a lesser QB like Cross or Smith and try to preserve Bostick's red-shirt? Or do you blow Bostick's red-shirt in the last week or two to try to seal the victory? If anything, this move removes any doubt about what would happen in that situation. If Stull were to get injured in the future for any length of time, everyone knows (including Pat) that Bostick would be used.

3. This move may also help to motivate both Bostick and Stull. If Bostick is expecting to be red-shirted, does he prepare each week as well as he would knowing that he was the back-up? None of us know that answer. At the same time, this move puts a little pressure on Bill Stull. Now that Bostick's red-shirt has been blown, he knows that he could be replaced if he does not perform well. The staff is doing everything it can, as it should be, to win as many games as possible in 2008. Perhaps, they think that blowing Bostick's red-shirt at Navy will motivate both QB's to work harder the rest of the season, which will help us win more games.

Having said all of that, I still disagree with the decision. But I don't think that it is as bone-headed as I thought initially and as you guys are portraying it. I don't think this decision is very significant compared to the fine job our coaches have done in preparing for our last two opponents. I also don't understand what a bias towards WPIAL players that you think is held by the staff and fans has to do with this decision.

One final comment - I don't know why you guys are so upset at Wannstedt for this decision. It is obvious who made the call to insert Bostick into the game on Saturday - the "invisible man."

dugdogmaster said...

Here's a great article in today's Tribune Review concerning all of this, and you hear quite a bit from Bostick himself.

Michael said...

Again, bostick proves in that article the honor and class we expect from pitt. if wanny really put him in for that reason, i can't exactly say that i agree with it, but i would love to be wrong here. i've been hating on wanny from day 1 and while i will continue to doubt him until we get at least a BCS bowl. Like jones says, we can win out, but i'm not gonna hold my breath on betting everything that we do.
all in all, we are 5-1, right where we thought we'd be. ironically, we lost to BG and beat USF, but i'm not so sure i'd like it the other way around. If you have to lose a gimme game, then the first game is the best time to do it...

rkohberger said...

Apparently the competition between Stull and Bostick in camp wasn't as close as the one between Bostick and Smith. This adds fuel to the fire in discussions about our QBs: (from PGH Tribune Review 10/23)

"Pitt offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh pointed to "probably consistency more than anything" in sophomore Pat Bostick beating out redshirt sophomore Kevan Smith for the backup quarterback job."