PantherDigest Q&A: Todd Dodge

Todd Dodge talks about what he feels are some positives for Tino Sunseri. He also talks about the significant push that Trey Anderson has made since he set foot on campus.

On Tino Sunseri's progression through two games:
"The down in, and down out mechanics of being a spread quarterback. I believe he has all the ingredients to get it done. There's been a level of inconsistency that he'll be the first to admit as we've gone through the first two games."

"I break down the passing game into three categories, as far as what we're trying to get done, completion-wise. We call them ‘bang-homes,' which is a quick gain, nakeds, boots, quick screens. We want to be 90 percent completion percentage on those. Our intermediate passing game, which is anything that's 10 to 15 yards down the field. We want to be 65 percent on those. And then shots (deep ball); I love Coach Graham's philosophy. We want to take 10 shots a game. We'd like to hit four of those 10. Right now, Tino in the first two categories, Tino is outstanding. He was 11-of-12 against Buffalo in the ‘bang-home' stuff. He was 15-of-19 on intermediate. In the last game against Maine, he was 22-of-26 on intermediate."

"With all that said, a big portion of our offense is about being very accurate. The shots game—the first game—we overthrew some things. The last game, we had five, six sacks I think. When the public thinks six sacks, they think the offensive line is terrible. There's more to protecting the quarterback than the offensive line. Receivers are responsible, (running) backs and the quarterback is responsible for protecting himself. That's somewhere in the pass game; where we have to improve from last game to this game, is pocket presence, knowing when to step up in the pocket—those type of things. The other thing, when he got sacked, he couldn't help it. It was good to protect the football."

"I look at the game against Maine. Tino had some stretches on some drives where he's executing parts of our offense where he puts part of an install tape to teach in the spring. He's executing that well. Other parts, it's a matter of getting consistency. All of those things, with the zone read, being a little inconsistent on reading defensive ends and things like that. Those are things that are an improvement for him because it's the first time he's done it in a live situation. We're trying to take inventory of things he can control, making sure that I—the guy who coaches him on a day-to-day basis—has complete confidence in him. He had a tremendous two days. It really got his attention going into (Tuesday's) practice. He responded. The guy absolutely will respond to criticism; constructive criticism. He has responded in the last two days."

Is Tino on a short leash?
"Tino is our guy. There's way too much he's doing good in this offense to put him on a short leash. I tell him all the time, when I came here—the first 24 hours—I tell him, ‘the best thing I'll be able to do for you, I've been the guy in Austin, Texas, that everyone wanted to hang off of a bridge, or whatever.' I've been the number-two (quarterback) in Austin, Texas that everybody wanted to be the player. I've been the guy that's been on fire in Austin, Texas. I understand everything that you're going through. Lets make sure we take inventory of things we can control. That is not a problem from his standpoint. Tino has done way too much good, just like our entire football team. Everything that he does, obviously, is magnified because he touches (the ball) 100 percent of the time."

"Our football team is constantly improving. We're playing Iowa. The thing that he can control is, what he did yesterday in practice, and what he did today in practice. I saw a much more focused (player). How are you preparing, day in and day out? What is the consistency of your preparation? Whether we're playing Maine, or whether we're playing Notre Dame or Iowa. It's got to be the same. It's just habits, good habits. I understand how there's going to be quarterback questions going all over America, on a whole lot of towns. He is not on a short leash with us. He is a guy that we believe in."

"However, we've got a young kid (Trey Anderson) who has got a little skill set, and a little passion for the game. I'm dang glad that we got Trey Anderson. He was a guy that we were recruiting at North Texas, and a guy that we openly recruited as a walk-on (at Pitt) because we thought he could be a really good fit for where we were. He's come in here and really done better than any of us expected, any earlier. He's pushing. He's getting all the snaps with the twos. I as a head coach at North Texas last year; I know exactly at this time last year—game four—I was on my fourth quarterback. My job as a quarterback coach is to keep my entire room ready. I have to keep my starter ready, I have to keep my backup ready and I have to keep my number-three ready."

What does Trey Anderson bring that impressed you?
"First of all, he's been run in a spread, no-huddle offense since he was in seventh grade. That's a comfort for him; a comfort zone for him. He's a guy that's very, very versatile as a quarterback. He's a guy who throws on the run very well, he can throw in the pocket. He has above-average arm strength. He doesn't have anywhere close to the arm strength that Tino has. Tino has one of the strongest arms I've been around, and one of the most durable arms around. Trey has a very above-average arm, and he gets the ball out on time. He's quick on his feet, he's quick with his decisions. He's got a little moxy to him. He's got that twinkle in his eye. He loves to compete. The thing is, and he'll tell you, he's not in to getting in to any quarterback controversies or anything like that. When I talked to him, he was told to come in here and compete. That's the same thing I told Chase Daniel when he was at the University of Missouri—go out and compete. Don't think about being a redshirt, just go in and make your football team better either by pushing the guy that's in front of you or whatever it might take."

Are there similarities with (Anderson) and Daniel?
"Very much so. They're very similar in their style."

Anything in particular?
"Just their style and their versatility; being able to throw in the pocket and in the quick game. They can throw the deep ball. To be honest with you, I think Tino—a lot of times people do not consider Tino Sunseri to be a good athlete—I disagree. He's not a quick twitch, he's not a real fast athlete. A lot of things that Tino does real well is he can throw the ball, and throw a lot of different types of balls. The thing that we've got to get to, is where a shoelace, or a Pat White was going to take the ball and run with it in the Michigan or West Virginia offense. He's going to, off his own read, kick it off the edge. There's a lot of triple-option—read, boom and kick it off the edge. That's something in practice, and in spring ball, that Tino has done really well. We have not executed that part of the offense very well in the first two weeks."

Can you give us a few memories of the '84 Freedom Bowl (between Iowa and Texas)?
"It's funny that you bring that up, because I have not told my players that I have a history with Iowa. The one thing I remember about that, is (Iowa quarterback) Chuck Long, at the end of the game, he had set an NCAA-record for bowl games; most yards passing yards in a game. He had a little bit of mud on his socks. I had an all white Texas uniform on, and they had a big (painted) flag at midfield. I looked like my uniform was tie-dyed; I had been hit and knocked around so much. I remember it was 21-17 (Iowa) at half, and the just waxed us in the second half. That was (Bob) Stoops; all the guys who are at Oklahoma were on that team. Not great memories though. This is my chance."

The system you have in Texas high school football, is it similar to what's being run at Pitt?
"Very similar. It's kind of the trend that's taken place since about 2001, 2002. When we started it at Southlake Carroll, it's been a deal that has gone across the state. People are in the spread, the no-huddle. The coaches Trey's high school (Pearland) visited with me a lot about the things that they were putting in. It's funny, I can go back and talk with about things they put in with Pearland's offense, and they're exactly what they called them at Southlake. There's some similarities there. It's pretty prominent in that state."

Would Trey be at North Texas if you were there?
"Yes. There's no doubt. He was a kid we had to evaluate going into his senior year. He was only 5-9, 150 pounds his junior year in high school. He really took off his senior year. By mid-season, he really had his team number-three, number-four in the state. He took them to a state championship. Had I remained the head coach at North Texas, he would have had an offer from North Texas."

"I saw him play three times in the playoffs, when I was between jobs, so to speak. I got a chance to see him play. It's interesting, his teammate—his best friend—ended up at West Virginia, the running back for (Pearland). He had no offers, and he ended up signing. We end up signing Trey, and they end up 70 miles apart; Dustin Garrison. That's an interesting deal."


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