When Todd Graham put freshman quarterback Trey Anderson into the game last week against Maine, he said it was part of a plan to get him some snaps and some game experience. Based on the events surrounding the time when Anderson was put into the game, it looked as if Pitt was heading for a quarterback controversy.
Not the case, said Graham after the game and in the days since. It was all part of a plan to get him experience. In a worst-case scenario—in Tino Sunseri has another rough outing, or even worse if he gets injured—he can now put Anderson in with more confidence, knowing the freshman at least has some game experience. In fact, Graham has not ruled out the possibility of putting Anderson in another game—not so much to push Sunseri at this time—but to just get game experience. Looking at the bigger picture, outside of Sunseri, Anderson is the only other quarterback on the roster who has now taken live snaps in a game—seven passing attempts, to be exact.
"I'm going to put (Anderson) in," Graham said. "We planned on putting him in anyway and I wasn't going to go through Maine and not have our backup quarterback play. Trey has some things that he brings to the table, that you could see him in a package in the game."
Kirk Ferentz is familiar with this type of pattern, as far as breaking in a new quarterback. In 2001, Iowa had a starting quarterback in Kyle McCann he was very comfortable with. The Hawkeyes added a little known JUCO transfer in the 2001 recruiting class by the name of Brad Banks. Ferentz said at the time, they were confident with McCann, but they also needed to get Banks some experience. Therefore, similar to what Pitt is doing with Anderson right now, Ferentz had a plan for Banks to get some reps at certain points of a game.
"It's hard," Ferentz said, referring to getting quarterbacks playing time. "I don't know what it's like for Pitt, but with a lot of close games through the years, it's hard to get any backup in the game. It's tricky."
What's also similar about Banks, is how like Anderson, he was an unexpected addition to the team. Ferentz said when they recruited quarterbacks for the 2001, his staff went back and scathed over a list of quarterbacks who were interested in Iowa. They had enough room for scholarships, so being that Banks was the one who was most interested in Iowa, they took him. It's similar to Anderson, in a sense. Anderson was headed for JUCO. The Pitt staff took a look at adding a walk-on. Anderson, because of his familiarity with Pitt quarterbacks coach Todd Dodge, selected Pitt instead of his initial plan of heading to a JUCO.
"Brad was a guy we recruited unintentionally out of junior college," Ferentz added. "One of the last things I wanted was a JUCO guy, but he was one of the best guys rated that liked us. We found a mutual relationship, and Brad came here. We knew McCann would graduate after ‘01, so we had to make sure he got game experience; a series or two series."
The result was positive for Iowa. Banks, who was just short of 6-0, came from Florida power Glades Central after two years at Hinds Community College. He played in 10 games behind McCann in 2001, before making his first career start for the season-opener against Akron in 2002. He led the Hawkeyes to a 11-2 record that season, and finished as the runner-up to Carson Palmer in the Heisman voting that season. Iowa also advanced to the Orange Bowl, with Banks taking home several prominent individual awards, including 2002 Big Ten Player of the Year.
"It was pretty remarkable, but one time, we did it," Ferentz said, referring to the whole process. "We decided when that game would be, and by the end of the year, he'd thrown the football. He even made one of worst decisions a quarterback had made in 2001, but that's part of the learning experience. After a month (of playing in a reserve role), he became a pretty good player."
There's no guarantee for similar success for Trey Anderson, but Banks' situation proved that this type of plan can work. It started with a plan, which is what Anderson is going through now. That plan seemed to work real well for Banks. Anderson came to Pitt as a little known walk-on, who has already been put on scholarship for the Panthers. Banks went to Iowa as a little known JUCO player. He led Iowa to what many perceive as the Hawkeyes' best season in the modern era. It all started with a plan, which proved to be successful in the case with Banks. Just ask Ferentz.