Todd Dodge comes to Pitt after a head coaching stint at North Texas. Prior to North Texas, Dodge was the head coach at one of the most successful high school programs in the state, in Southlake Carroll. He led Southlake Carroll to a 79-1 record in his final five seasons, which included four Class 5A state championships.
Dodge had a little bit of a role with the signing of the 2011 recruiting class. He flew out to California to give Michael Eubank an in-home visit. His visit was obviously effective, as the four-star was at least willing to give Pitt an official visit, following his meeting with Dodge.
For the most part, though, Dodge has spent the past four weeks evaluating Pitt's current offensive standouts. Now, with Eubank committed to Arizona State, his recruiting focus has already shifted to signing at least one quarterback for the 2012 class. Dodge may not have gotten a quarterback in this year's class, but he did offer the following on the three receivers that Pitt signed in this year's class.
"Darius Patton and Ronald Jones will be more (like Tulsa receiver Damaris Johnson), the great one they had at Tulsa the last few years," Dodge said. "(Johnson) is really, really special, and you hope that as we go through the journey that we're going through here that we'll get one to have that type of production. We have a couple guys who remind (receivers) coach (Mike) Norvell of the kid they had at Tulsa.
"Justin Jackson, it's just one of those deals where you go into a three-week period, and you're digging, and digging and digging, looking into every option that you might have. We got the video of him, and it was late in the process, but he's a guy that fits into that X position as an outside guy."
While obviously excited the guys coming in to this offense, Dodge said in the limited time he's had to evaluate film from the returning crop of Pitt receivers, and just by observing some early conditioning reports, he's even more encouraged by what is returning on offense for 2011. Typically, first-year coaches are excited to get their own guys in the mix, who were recruited to fit their system. That doesn't mean he, along with the rest of the staff, doesn't have the same mission for the players already on the roster.
"I'm really excited about the guys we have here right now; (Mike) Shanahan, (Devin) Street, Cam Saddler," Dodge said. "I think Cam is going to have a newfound, probably rejuvenation because of the type of player that he is. He is exactly the type of player who has been unbelievably explosive in this offense. Our job to do right now, is to put everything together, and to paint a picture for these guys that are here, for spring ball. The guys we recruited, we're very excited. I'm more excited about the guys we have now."
Obviously, quarterback is Dodge's position of focus. He likes the receivers returning, and feels they will fit this system well. He also says the same for quarterback Tino Sunseri.
"I think we have the pieces in place to be real hard to defend by personnel; meaning to spread the ball around to a lot of different people, whether it be speed sweeps, the inside zone game or zone read game," Dodge said. "Frankly, I think Tino Sunseri is the kind of guy who can do those kinds of things."
Dodge also gave us a little more of a picture on Todd Graham's philosophy. It relates to any position on the field right now, not just at receiver or quarterback. It's a philosophy that keeps the door open for the younger players, while pushing the returning veterans at the same time.
"Coach Graham, his philosophy is, don't get hung up on chronological age," Dodge said. "You come in and compete right from the get-go. Don't see yourself as a guy who is going to be on the shelf for awhile. Come in and compete, see what happens. It'll be interesting to see not only who on this team takes off in this offense, but who else that we signed comes in and takes off, because of what they do, and their mindset in coming in to Pitt."