Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spring Football QB Preview

So here is the most important position battle coming into the spring. QB has been a position of much discussion and strife in the program. Currently, we have a bunch of bodies at the QB position and two with starting experience. Now the real question is do we have anybody who can play the position well.

Breakdown of what we have at the position:
  1. Bill Stull; Before Cavanaugh left the program Wanny made it clear to the media that Bill Stull was coming into the spring as the starter. Then Cignetti was hired and Wanny has changed his tune to that there will be a 3-way competition for the starting job. Everybody knows what Stull brings to the table and what he doesn't. We have written article after article about how we feel about Stull's play over the last season so no need to re-hash it. The real question for Stull is what Cignetti thinks of him and how he would fit into the new offense. 
  2. Pat Bostick; Two things that Bostick brings to the table is the ability to win a game while playing badly and the ability to turn the football over. Bostick was an interception and fumble machine in the old Cavanaugh offense. Despite that flaw Bostick also showed the ability to spread the football around and read a defense. If we are running an offense where the QB needs to use all his weapons Bostick is the way to go. 
  3. Tino Sunseri; Sunseri is in a really bad position for a young quarterback in that he is perceived as a solution to our QB problems because he isn't Bostick or Stull. Since Sunseri redshirted last year nobody knows what we have in him. Sunseri has some good physical tools and is apparently going to get a chance to win the starting job. Everybody needs to cool their expectations on Sunseri for this season until we see what we have in him.
  4. Greg Cross; Here is the x-factor in the QB battle. Cross brings something to the table that no other QB on the depth chart has, speed. He got a raw deal last year with the constant promises of us having packages for him but in the end never getting a real chance to contribute. Hopefully, Cignetti will create formations and scenarios for Cross to touch the ball multiple times per game. Cignetti  values what Cross brings to the table since he rescued him from a position change. If Wanny wasn't the head coach I would include Cross as a candidate to win the starting job.
I didn't include freshman Kolby Gray I expect him to redshirt. No matter what happens in spring practices we need to figure something out at this position before we get to fall camp. Cignetti will be putting in a new offense and he needs to find his guy to run it. Reading between the lines of his comments to the media since the end of last season Wanny has tied his horse to Stull. Each QB on the roster has their flaws and we have no clear candidate to be the starter. Can 2009 be the year we get competent QB play? 


johnny said...

In Bostick I trust.

rkohberger said...

J Jones - a couple of points you raised, raised my eyebrows in turn. One is your singling out that Bostick could wins games while playing badly. True - but just what do you think Stull did last season - to the tune of eight wins as a starting QB? I'm not advocating Stull as the starter - far from it, but don't put on blinders when discussing this point about the two QBs.

Secondly - how did Cignetti "rescue" Cross from a position change when two days before you wrote this post we read that Cross is now with the WRs? Apparently Cross will battle with the other talented WRs we have on roster for playing time - perhaps due to the need to get another body over there to replace TJ Porter who will sit out the season.

Cross will not be the "X-Factor" in our QB battle, he wasn't last season and nothing he has shown or done will change that. At best the 'promises' of a package you refer to were thoughts of getting the ball in his hands once or twice a game as a change up in the wildcat (or similar) offense. I highly doubt that the problems Cross has have cleared up enough that a new OC will suddenly trust him to execute his QB responsibilities when it was pretty clear he was fourth best choice out of four pretty average QBs last season. If anything, when throwing Sunseri into the mix instead of Kevan Smith, Cross' chances get even more slim.

Again, this is a case of too high fan expectations rather than reality.

Personally I agree with Johnny above in that I feel Bostick gives us the best chance at this point for a competent passing game - which is the QBs first and foremost responsibility. We have seen what Stull can do, both good and bad, and IMO we saw his limitations and ceiling on his talents.

~ The Oakland Zoo ~ said...

Cross was going to be moved to safety until Cignetti got here.

Cignetti understands Cross won't be the every down quarterback but has openly said he hopes to use him in a variety of packages including using him as a wide receiver and as a dual option qb.

rkohberger said...

Zoo - I must have missed Cignetti actually saying that he would look at Cross as a "dual -option QB".

I find that hard to believe because there is no "dual-option" in Cross' game. His passing skills, and understanding of the passing game, are the most limited of any QB on the team - and that may include Andrew Janocko. There was a reason the coaches didn't put the pass in with Cross at all last season - which in turn limited him to being just another RB. I don't expect that to change over the course of one off season - and apparently the coaching staff didn't either, hence Cross being a WR at the beginning of this camp.

As to the theory that Cignetti will suddenly see something in Cross that Cavanaugh didn't - well, you can believe that if you want. But, I'll refer to DW's comments in the press today regarding the move of Cross to WR... if DW didn't want Cross at some position other than QB it wouldn't have happened. Wouldn't any new OC want as many options at QB to evaluate when coming into a job where there is no clear QB starter? Yet, the first thing we read is that one of those QB options is no longer there. Would a HC make that move by himself without discussing it with the new OC? No - he wouldn't. Cignetti bought into that position switch for a reason - because it was the best thing to do.

Sometimes a duck is just a duck.

I like this switch - as it's evident that the kid can move in space. I've had conversations with people that watch the practices daily and have been told that once Cross gets some maneuvering room his skills really kick in, and that's when he's most impressive. WR may work out in that regard - and there is some talk about getting him some chances at KR/PR also.

I know I sound pretty negative about Cross - and I'm really not. What I am is realistic about what he as shown the staff over the course of his time here. In that sense I think the staff is doing a good job by not just writing the guy off and allowing him to languish as the #4 (or #5) QB. Making a position switch, even before a senior season, to create any opportunity for the player to contribute, helps both the player and the team. I think it speaks to the fact that DW really does have the kids in mind, and appreciates the efforts and attitudes they bring as a good teammate - which Cross has been.

DPJ said...

In the last video they just posted on Wannstedt said that he would use Cross under center in different packages. He also had him returning punts and practicing the wide receivers.

If Wannstedt and Cignetti aren't lying then Cross will see more than 6 snaps this year.

rkohberger said...

I don't have a subscription to Pantherlair so I'll take your word for it - but, did he say that in reference to practices and camps or to the actual regular season? There is a big difference as we saw last season.

I'd be surprised if he stated definitively that it would be in the actual games - it's more DW's style to allude that they would practice with that, or 'try to work in' some plays during the season.

Regardless - situations change with the team and its needs. Last season our offense was constantly in a state of urgency so experimentation was out the window - this season, with a little luck, we may have opportunities to do different things without the risks involved being too large.

With McCoy gone maybe Cross gets that role in the Wildcat set. I could see that, but what I don't see is Cross getting much, if any, chance to throw the football on any type of a regular basis. My gut tells me we'll see Cross as a WR before and more often than we'll see him under center - personally I think that ship sailed already.

We'll know more come September I guess.

And I hope you understand that when coaches talk about trying different kids at different positions in different situations - and it doesn't turn out the way you may expect - it isn't necessarily 'lying'. This happens all the time in football, and sometimes we see something that we expect and agree on, and sometimes not - case in point our LB situation last season. DW surprised everyone by switching Ransom with no warning - but that didn't mean he was 'lying' about playing Gruder or Roberts or any of the other young LBs there also. Things changed and Ransom became the best choice - and good for that as the results bore it out as a good decision.

DPJ said...

My biggest problem is with things like "We have packages set up for him but didn't get a chance to use them" like it was said last year. In a game like the Bowling Green game last year when things aren't working out, you need to try something different to either put points on the board or prevent the opposition from scoring.

Being a blog we take more of a fan based approach while giving information and we never claim to be 100% objective. We are just Pitt fans writing about the team we love.

But as a fan, no matter who is coaching, it is frustrating to see things happen over and over when you feel some things should be done a different way. I see it with Jamie when he talks about certain players, I saw it under Walt Harris, and I see it under Dave Wannstedt.

I simply want Pitt to win and be at an elite level. I feel we are moving in the right direction in some areas and need to improve in others, so I hope no one feels that we are just out to bash the coaches.

We simply want to perform at a high level consistently.

rkohberger said...

I don't feel that you are out to bash the coaches. If I did I'd never read your stuff - and you're one of the sites I go to read every morning with my first cup of coffee... you write good things. Part of being a good fan is, I believe, the willingness to discuss the team and its issues in detail - which we are doing.

We all have our pet peeves about things... one of mine is when I hear fans continually questioning staff decisions on who they play at any certain time or choose to be starters. This is mainly because I think its silly to believe that we know who or what's best when these coaches are so intimately involved with the players themselves. They could be any number of reasons a kid does or doesn't play. Anything from not being able to grasp the playbook to an attitudinal situation - not to mention academics, injury, lack of practice time, not being able to execute the play correctly - anything. So, I'm one of the trusting fans who thinks that whatever the staff does in the way of personnel is probably best (except not bringing in Bostick sooner in the Sun Bowl).

I don't feel the same way about gameday & in-game coaching decisions however (the BG playcalling & the Rutgers defensive approach for example) so I don't give the staff a completely free ride from criticism.

I do however have a visceral reaction when someone uses the word 'lying' - that's a pretty heavy charge to level at someone, and to do so to someones face usually leads to bad things. When you say a HC is lying you imply that he is purposely misleading the listener, and I don't think that is the case in these situations we are talking about. I have no doubt Cav and DW did have some packages for Cross last season, and that in the long run they chose not to use them - and that is their prerogative. Just as it would be not to play either Nix or Jacobson if they felt that either another player could do better - or if one of those kids didn't deserve to play.

That last point is pretty important - these young players have to deserve to be out on that field, and a myriad of factors go into that. This isn't the NFL where we are dealing with professional adults - the Head Coach in college has other responsibilities than just producing wins - even though some fans may not want to believe that. If a kid is skating by on reputation alone, and not putting in the hard work - on and off the field - that his competition is, then perhaps he needs to sit on the bench until he 'gets it'.

To make these kinds of tough coaching decisions is why we pay the HC's salary. DW doesn't have to justify his personnel decisions to us, and if he started making those decisions based on fan support we'd hate it in the long run.