Todd Graham held a meeting with the media on Tuesday morning where he gave an overview of his first month on the job. Among some of the things discussed were the strength and conditioning program, his focus on team discipline and how it will translate to the field, and he also talked about personnel.
Graham talked a lot about the quarterback position. He talked specifically on his early relationship with returning starter Tino Sunseri, which seems to be off to a good start. At Tulsa, Graham's offense produced explosive numbers, while relying heavily on the quarterback position. Graham didn't hesitate when putting a value on the quarterback position.
"The key to the quarterback position, is it the most important position on the field? Is the quarterback more important than anyone else? Yeah. He sure is," Graham said. "You can't win a championship if you don't have a quarterback that manages the game and executes the system, period. You can't."
Sunseri started all 13 games in 2010, completing 223-of-346 passes for 2,572 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His quarterback at Tulsa, G.J. Kinne, completed 275-of-460 passes for 3,650 yards, 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Graham says that Sunseri has been one of the players that has stopped by to visit him at his office the most since he was hired on January 11.
"I talk to him every day," Graham said. "(Quarterbacks) coach (Todd) Dodge talks to him every day. I don't know if there hasn't been a day where he hasn't come by and seen me."
Graham did not say whether or not Sunseri is the starting quarterback at this point, nor did he declare anyone else as the number-one quarterback at this point. He did talk about how he might gear his system, or his philosophy, in order to get the most out of Sunseri or whoever is going to be that starting quarterback.
"When it comes to what schemes we're doing and how we're doing it, we adapt to their skills and talents," Graham said. "We're evaluating and assessing the quarterback. Here's the profile for what his skills and talents are in each one of them, the guys that we got that we're working with. We've got more information on Tino than the other ones. Then, we start formulating a plan for what we're going to do."
When it comes to selecting a starting quarterback, he feels he can build a system tailored to whatever the quarterback's individual strengths are. He talked about whether or not he looks into a quarterback's physical attributes, but more importantly talked about leadership characteristics as being the first thing he needs to see."
"The key to being a great quarterback is not your physical skills," Graham said. "If we asked our quarterbacks, ‘Son, what separates you from all the other quarterbacks in the country?' He ought to say, ‘My character, and I'm smart.' That's what I want. I don't want him to say, ‘My skills.' We don't him to be relying on his physical skills. It's the intangibles—the leadership. That's the key. For us to win a championship, it starts with your staff, but the quarterback is the key.
"We would like him the ability to manage, operate and execute our offense. I think the biggest thing I like about Tino is that he's a coach's kid. He understands the level that you have to study. The quarterback almost has to be a coach on the field. We want our guy to be able to manage the game and make great decisions."
Graham mentioned one position switch. He said more could be coming, but said he would have a better idea closer to the start of spring ball. He's already determined that Kolby Gray will go back to offense. Gray was recruited by Graham at Tulsa, and by Dodge when he was the head coach at North Texas. Gray threw for close to 5,000 yards and rushed for over 1,300 yards as a starter at Cypress Falls High School in Texas.
"Kolby Gray is going back to quarterback," Graham said. "The injury that kind of moved him over (to defense). He ran a similar type of system (in high school)."
In addition to Gray, Pitt announced Tuesday that fifth-year senior Pat Bostick would not play out his final year of eligibility, as he will focus on graduate school studies. Without Bostick now, Pitt has no other quarterbacks with any game experience. Gray played a valuable role as a reserve defensive back and special teams player in 2010.
Another position that is going to be under the watch is the offensive line. Graham is very excited about the group of linemen on both sides of the ball coming back, but talked specifically of his early first impression of the offensive line. The line has three returning starters in Jordan Gibbs, Lucas Nix and Chris Jacobson, four if you include Greg Gaskins who started four games in 2010.
"I've been very impressed," Graham said of the offensive line. "I think one of the guys that is a great leader on our team is Jacobson. I've been very, very impressed with him. We feel very good about six or seven of the guys right now.
"I think that the thing that hits me about Jacobson and Gibbs and Gaskins; I'm impressed with that group and how they have this synergy about each other. The thing I like about them is that they're tough. They like being physical. You sit there, and you watch last year, they line up and they have a three, a five, a nine and a safety coming off the edge, and they're running the power right into it. Those boys are into it. They're making yards. That's impressive."
Graham said there are some other players who will undergo some offseason surgeries, but declined to mention who they were, specifically.
"We don't want to talk anything specifically," Graham said. "We expect all those guys to make a full recovery, be ready. Some of them can do things that are non-contact in the spring, and things like that."