After Further Review

Mad Max Gruder

Dave Wannstedt and his staff watched the tape over the weekend from Pitt's initial intra-squad scrimmage, and the Panthers' head football coach had a more in-depth view than he had shortly afterward Saturday.

Wannstedt spoke Tuesday afternoon before the ninth Pittsburgh practice session this spring. The Panthers also have workouts scheduled for Thursday and Friday afternoon to set up the second scrimmage Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

"Overall, defensively, we gave up the one big pass play to Jonathan Baldwin, which is unacceptable,'' Wannstedt said. "But, overall, defensively, I think we were pretty solid. And if I were to highlight a few players, I think that Max Gruder is establishing himself as a starter (at weak-side linebacker). We hoped that he would step up, and he was very productive.

"Myles Caragein, if you look at the defensive line and evaluate the whole spring, he's a guy who would jump out as being a play-maker. Right now, he's working with the first group, depending on how Gus Mustakas comes back and when he comes back (from a second knee surgery). But I was very pleased with Myles. I thought he had a real good scrimmage.''

The defense has appeared to get the better of the play during the opening two weeks in spring practice, and the same held true in the first scrimmage. However, the offense wasn't without a few solid performances, according to Wannstedt.

"Offensively,'' Wannstedt said, "(tailback) Dion Lewis probably has done a remarkable job of showing up here as a true freshman, learning the offense, jumping in with both feet from a work standpoint and really going out there and competing for a job. Shariff Harris and Chris Burns are doing fine, but Dion is in the mix. So, we've got some real healthy competition there.

"And I think the quarterbacks did some good things, but they all know that they have some room to improve. I think (offensive coordinator-quarterbacks coach) Frank (Cignetti) has done a nice job keeping the repetitions in practice somewhat even and somewhat fair. We're not really getting hung up on who's working with which group, but we're trying to get everyone equal reps.

"So, hopefully, we'll have a lot of good work on fundamentals this week, (today), Thursday and Friday,'' Wannstedt added, "and I expect the guys to improve this week after watching the tape from the first scrimmage. And then, we'll have another big scrimmage Saturday and see where we're at.''

A closer look at the quarterbacks revealed that fifth-year senior Bill Stull, junior Pat Bostick and redshirt freshman Tino Sunseri had a rough day overall. Stull had just two completions, but both were for touchdowns. Bostick had the best completion rate at better than 50 percent, while Sunseri was at less than 40.

"Whenever guys are pressing like that, and you've got a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterbacks coach and a few new wrinkles from a passing-game standpoint it creates a sense of urgency,'' Wannstedt said.

"But I don't want that sense of urgency to be go out there and try to make the most big plays. The thing that we're looking for from our quarterback is consistency. (That's) someone who can put us in the right plays and make the right checks and when guys are open, get the ball to the right person.''

Bostick believed that he was that quarterback Saturday.

"I thought I played well, but it's a process,'' Bostick said. "And it's what we go through in the spring. (But) I thought I did my job. There were some little things, like my footwork, that I can improve that will make me more efficient. But I did all right. I got the ball out of my hands and took what was there.

"There's a common misconception in football that you need to throw the ball way downfield to make big plays. But you can't force it. With all the talented playmakers we've recruited here, taking the guy in a shallow-cross (pattern) or a check-down, guys like Dion Lewis and Chris Burns will make plays for you.

"Or even Henry Hynoski in the flat,'' Bostick added. "You can talk all you want about Jonathan Baldwin, Dorin Dickerson and our receivers, and I want to get the ball to them as much possible. But I can't be afraid to take what a defense gives me rather than trying to force the ball somewhere I can't get it.''

Wannstedt noted that Sunseri's low completion percentage primarily was due to him forcing some passes and not taking what the defense gave him.

"He's got the arm-strength to make all the throws, and he's very intelligent,'' Wannstedt said. "He understands what we're doing. He's got leadership qualities, and he's a better athlete that what you might give him credit for.

"(But) the biggest thing with Tino, I think he was 5-for-12 or 5-for-13, and he ... should have been (11-for-13) if he would have just checked the ball down to the tight ends and backs. So, right now, he's still trying to force things a little bit. He needs to think more about completions than making big plays.

"He wants to make plays,'' Wannstedt added. "He wants to score, and that's a good. (But) dump the ball off to Dorin or Chris Burns, and you're going to be surprised how many yards they make. Last year, he was a scout team player, so ... he's got a lot of room to improve, and he will. He's got the right attitude.''

And that generally has been the difference, Wannstedt noted, in Pitt's redshirt freshman quarterback as opposed to its fifth-year senior and junior.

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