Panthers Rusty In 1st Spring Practice

Let's get this out of the way immediately after the first spring practice session for the Pitt football team Thursday afternoon: Both quarterbacks appeared to be a little rusty, and neither came away with an edge in the competition for the starting job with the Panthers.

Redshirt sophomore Tino Sunseri took all the reps with the first unit during team drills, and he clearly has the stronger arm and throws the best ball. That hasn't changed from this time last spring. However, redshirt junior Pat Bostick is much more accurate and clearly has a better handle on the Pittsburgh offense.

This battle won't be decided in a week and maybe not even the entire spring, even though Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt said several times during the offseason that a starter should be determined by the annual Blue-Gold Game April 17 at 2 p.m. at Heinz Field.

"Both of them, the timing was the biggest thing there,'' Wannstedt said. "They both knew what to do, which showed that they had a good offseason from a film-study standpoint. But as far as making the throws and the timing with the receivers, it's going to take a little more time there.''

Bostick actually completed the top passes on the day where arm strength was needed. He connected on a deep bomb to redshirt freshman Ed Tinker down the left sideline and fired a deep out to the right that Cam Saddler pulled in while tight-roping the sideline.

And just another note about Bostick, he always appears to be having a good time. Sure, he can be as intense as the next guy on the field, but he has fun while playing football. And that has to be picked up by his teammates.

"The best thing about this was being outside in March, mid-March in Pittsburgh, you don't get that all the time,'' Bostick said. "So, it's great to be outside. We're a little bit rusty, but we'll get better. I think we'll get better every day.

"I think I have as good a grasp on the offense as anybody, and I pride myself in that. But as far as the (starting) job is concerned, I don't have any control over that. I'm just going to study and work hard and practice hard every day and be coachable, and we'll see what happens after that.

"And that's all I can control, my preparation and the way I practice,'' Bostick added. "But competition is good. It makes everybody better. (And) you always need depth, and that's where competition comes in handy. So, hopefully, Tino and me, we'll both make each other better.''

Sunseri displayed his usual strong arm, but he misfired on several outs and underthrew a couple deep routes -- including one to fifth-year senior Greg Cross that would have been a touchdown. Cross waited for it, but kind of flubbed it as the coverage converged.

All in all, it wasn't a bad first day for the Panthers and their top quarterbacks.

"You work out all the offseason, running and conditioning and lifting, it was a lot of fun to get back out on the field and just throwing the ball around,'' Sunseri said. "Playing behind Billy was a big learning experience for me. I always talked with him when he came off the sideline, and I knew I was one play away.

"So, I did my best to do everything that the starter was doing. And things are a lot easier for me now. The game has slowed down, and I know where everybody is supposed to line up. I know where the play starts and what's supposed to happen. (But) competition is healthy, and it should be great for the team. Me and Pat help each other out, so it's a friendly competition, you could say.''

Both players had redshirt years to sharpen their skills without the pressure of having to prepare for a game, but Sunseri got is as a freshman. Bostick was pressed into action his first two season and redshirted last fall.

"Last year was a great experience for me, because I got to experience things that I should have gone through my freshman year,'' Bostick said. "I was able to sit back, prepare myself and get into the best physical condition I could get in.

"And I also got to see what Bill did to be successful, and a quarterback here has not been that successful since Tyler was here even though he had some bumps in the road with wins and losses. ... So, being part of that was awesome.''

Sunseri believed he made great strides as Bill Stull's backup last season, but there still are areas he needs to improve.

"I need to work on my leadership qualities in the huddle,'' Sunseri said. "I think I need to be a leader on and off the field, and I also need to work on my footwork and get it down to make sure everyone is on the same page. So, I'll work on that a little extra to sharpen that area up as much as possible.''

The defensive plays of the day were interceptions by junior cornerback Antwuan Reed and defensive end Brandon Lindsey. Reed picked off Sunseri on a nice read where he stepped into the lane. Sunseri didn't see him. And Lindsey made an incredibly athletic play on an attempted screen pass by Bostick. Lindsey leaped and snagged the lobbed toss and returned it for a score.

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