April 16, 2011
Quoting Pitt Head Coach Todd Graham
Spring Football Festival
“It was a beautiful day for football and I wanted to challenge the guys before we went out. It doesn’t matter how we’re going to operate, we’re going to run our offense and do things like we always do. Our ultimate goal is to take care of the ball and execute on offense. I was impressed with how the guys played today. I thought everyone did a great job. It was the first time that we have gotten to that play count, as we ran over 100 plays on offense. Our Blue’s were the ones; our Gold’s mostly the twos. The score was pretty predictable. I am very pleased with where we are as a team. There are so many things that I see we need to accomplish by the time that we kick this thing off in the fall. There’s a lot of information, there’s a lot for us to work on and get better at. That’s the big key and the factor for us offensively.
“We have a lot of great leaders and great young men. Our summer program is going to be critical for us. I have a lot of faith and confidence in this program. I wish I could sit up here and tell you the individual story for each one of these guys. Emanuel Rackard is a walk-on. He’s always been able to overcome big odds to be where he is at today. He scored a touchdown today and I think that was most exciting for him. Some guys stuck out to me this spring offensively. Mike Shanahan sticks out to me as a leader and as a play-maker. He will be a special player for us as he gets in mental and physical shape. Ray Graham is also a leader and has a natural ability for his position. I think the leadership of Jordan Gibbs, Chris Jacobson and Lucas Nix is special. I don’t know if I have ever coached a team where I can list that many people as leaders. We’re really excited. They responded well to the weather. I like where we’re at as a program.”
On Tino Sunseri:
“I think it’s the little things. I’m very observant with how you do anything and everything. There were two turnovers that were unacceptable and we can’t continue to make those same mistakes. You throw for over 400-yards but there’s a whole bunch of missed yardage that you don’t see in this offense. He has a lot to learn. That’s the biggest thing that we have to work with him. Right now, he’s kind of running the offense – it’s different than becoming a disciple of the offense. To this point is has been very difficult for him to learn this complicated system. This is a quarterback-driven offense. We need a quarterback that is smart and makes good decisions. I’ve been impressed with Tino Sunseri. I’m also very impressed with Anthony Gonzalez and Mark Myers. I would describe all three of those players as winners.
“No matter what the yardage is today, we’re not even close to being where we want to be in the fall with running this offense. When the quarterback goes out on that field, he needs to be an extension of Coach Magee, Coach Norvell and myself. That means he has to know the offense as well as we do and believe in this system as much as we do. As quarterback, you tend to be a creature of habit, you tend to go back and act the same way that you do in other systems. That position’s development is the number one key to our success. Naturally on the offensive line we have to develop a guard or two up front. We need to take the guys that are great and make them outstanding. It’s moving those guys that are already up at top and making them better. We need to be training and straining the top tier guys to bring everyone up.”
On the quarterback position:
“We have training wheels on right now, and I’m the training wheel. I’ve gotten in better shape this spring because I usually don’t have to do that. Earlier this spring, the quarterback was hurrying the other players up. He was hurrying them, but not himself. There’s a lot on a quarterback’s plate in our system. I do think that they’ve done a great job of that. We have come a million miles in just getting lined up. We ran those 100 plays pretty fast – in a two-hour period. I think we should disband halftime, I like going straight through.”
On the Ed Conway winners:
“A lot of guys we could have talked about in that area. Buddy Jackson has really impressed me. Coming in with our program, and the emphasis that we make – he has really flourished. I really like him and he has made a tremendous turnaround as a player. We do our commitment deal where we have each person commit to living the Pitt way and they sign it. We talk to our kids and tell them why we coach. We go through our family and the things that are important in our life to try and build a relationship with them. We talk about our greatest triumphs and defeats. I was impressed with Buddy because he said that his greatest triumph would be next fall. He has to take care of the football. I think he’s going to do some great things there.
“Tyrone Ezell is just absolutely phenomenal. I’ve been so impressed with him. I hate to point out two guys on defense because I don’t know two guys on our defense that haven’t gotten better. Ezell is going to be an inside force for us. He had a great spring. Anthony Gonzalez was another winner for us. Anthony just keeps getting better, he just does everything right. As he develops physically and gets stronger, I think that he’s going to be a special player.
“I thought there were some other guys who we failed to mention such as, Khaynin Mosley-Smith. Smith shows a lot of promise. He could be another important guy upfront for us.”
On the weather:
“I can’t do anything about the things that are out of my control. I thought it was a good day. I wish we had a lot bigger turnout for sure but it doesn’t matter. You’re going to have games like that, especially in this part of the country, where the weather isn’t ideal. We threw the football today. I think that was one of the most encouraging things.”
On the summer program:
“My philosophy is not to have the standard way low. I don’t sit around and say ‘don’t get in trouble.’ We talk about much higher standards. One of the things that I told them after the scrimmage was that all over the country and up to camp there will be stories of players getting into trouble. Every one of them signed that commitment and we made that commitment to each other. We’ve given each other our word so I have great confidence that these guys are going to do the right thing.”
On analyzing his first spring at Pitt:
“We got a lot done. When I talk to Calvin Magee, Mike Norvell, Keith Patterson and Paul Randolph – those are the four guys that I really spend a lot of time talking too. We are all excited about this fall. We think that we really have a chance to have a special group on defense. We’re all optimists for sure, there’s no question about that. I could not draw up a better spring than we have had because these kids believe in what we’re doing and we’ve started to build some trust. We have enough talent in place. Do we have everything we want? Not really. Will we look different in three or four years? Of course we will.
“There are times that it doesn’t matter to me either way. I do think that our defense does have the chance to be really good. We have to do a great job of coaching – of leading. We’re going to have guys that we talk about as leaders. On the offensive side of the ball we’re going to have guys who come out this fall and want to take on that role. Tino has potential to be one of our leaders. No question, potential to be one of the best in the country and the conference. Now there is no question that what we do put a little bit of a challenge on that. We’re going to play a whole bunch haven’t run a 100 snaps ever. Whether the offense carries the defense or the defense carries the offense, I don’t care. These kids believe in us, I believe in them and they believe we’re winner.”
On the defense:
“I was impressed with how the defense impacted the quarterback. We can’t run our defense without pressure. This spring we worked on the quarterback. There are a lot of guys out there in that white jersey that can help us out in specific ways. Going into the league that we play in and the roles that we have, it’s going to come down to having the confidence that we can do it.”
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