Personnel groupings and depth charts can be exciting this time of year. The naming of team captains are also exciting, especially when they come earlier than expected. Today, Todd Graham named Mike Shanahan, Chris Jacobson and Tino Sunseri as team captains for the offense; Myles Caragein, Jarred Holley and Antwuan Reed for the defense, along with Andrew Taglianetti as the special teams captain.
It's a little bit different from Dave Wannstedt's selection process. In both cases, neither was publicized much. Under Wannstedt, captains were officially announced after a few games, and were voted on by the team. Under Graham, in addition to players, team managers, strength coaches and athletic trainers—people around the players as much so or even more than their own teammates—were given the opportunity to weigh in.
"We take the input of people that have merit," Graham added. "It's not a popularity vote where everybody votes. The people that have worked hard have earned that right."
The result, was the seven players Graham announced. Of those seven, all are Pennsylvania natives including five from local WPIAL schools. Six of them came from Pitt's 2007 recruiting class, with Jacobson and Caragein the two members of the 2007 class.
After announcing them, Graham said there was no design to the number of captains selected, where they were from, or what class they were in.
The two players that were surprises in being named captains, according to Graham's tone, were Sunseri and Reed. In the case of both, he feels it wasn't so much the work they've put it, as much as it's been the attitude they've done it with.
"l told Tino today, I think if we had voted on that in the spring, I don't know if it would have happened," Graham said. "He's made great strides. It means he has the respect of his team, and that's exciting. I think he's done a phenomenal job.
"I think Tino, the thing that excites me, is that his peers respect him. That's big. That's really big at quarterback. We're not going to make anyone a captain that doesn't earn it from his peers."
Sunseri's vote as a team captain impressed fellow co-captain Chris Jacobson. It's easy for Jacobson to notice the difference in how he directs the offense, but his view of Sunseri is what the quarterback does away from the field. He also said that Sunseri is simply more mature in his second-year as a starter.
"Tino's done a good job, he's more of a vocal guy now," Jacobson said. "He's getting after it on offense. He comes in to work every day and in the weight room. In the film room, you can just see that and see he matured a lot through the summer. That's helped, and that's what you need out of him."
Jacobson, himself, was pleasantly surprised by his own honor.
"It's a great honor; all your teammates and peers look up to you," Jacobson said. "They respect you. That's awesome. Same with Myles and Shanahan and Reed all getting picked. It's a great honor. I thank them for that.
Reed didn't even compete in the spring, sitting out while recovering from a concussion. He not only had to work his way back after a strong spring from Buddy Jackson—he had to do it starting over, trying to impress a new coaching staff. Reed is one of the more quiet players on the team, which made his selection as a captain surprising to Graham and even more impressive.
"I was real excited for him," Graham added. "That was one, I've been pleasantly surprised. The summer that he had was phenomenal. I know he was a good player last year, but over the summer, he reported to camp and what he's done to this point, he's really put himself in position to take his game to a different level. He has a special rapport with his teammates. You can tell that. I thought that was something that was impressive to me."
After the seven team captains, is a group of co-captains—as Graham referred to them as—that are part of the group called the leadership council, or unity council. From the way Graham described it, they sounded like the players who came in next in line, according to the vote total. On the leadership council, representing the offense, is Jordan Gibbs, Lucas Nix and Ray Graham. For defense, it's Chas Alecxih, Max Gruder, Jason Hendricks and Brandon Lindsey. He expanded on what Nix and Ray Graham provide, in terms of leadership.
"There's no question, on our offense, when things get tough, there's one guy who steps up and gets vocal," Graham said. "It's Nix. That's what I've tried to get him to see. A lot of guys don't see themselves as a leader. There's different ways to lead. I think our emotional leader is Nix. I'm really proud of Ray."
There is also a set of sophomores and a set of freshmen on the leadership council. Graham did point out that freshmen were not allowed to vote, citing the fact that they haven't been around the program long enough to really appreciate who the leaders on the team are. Devin Street and K'Waun Williams were the additional sophomores on the leadership council, joined by freshmen Nicholas Grigsby, Lafayette Pitts and Ejuan Price.
"Now, those guys have to take it and lead our football team," Graham added. "We're going to get out of them, what we're going to get out of them. To win a championship, they're going to have to have great leadership from amongst them."