-- Pitt is expected to announce a contract extension for Dave Wannstedt Tuesday. That would be a nice thing for the program as one thing Pitt has lacked in its football program is stability and continuity. Wannstedt's current deal runs through 2012 but for recruiting purposes, you'd like to have your coach signed for at least the next four seasons - although it is a mere formality because Wannstedt isn't going anywhere any time soon, that much is clear.
-- Last week when I was in Syracuse, Pitt offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti told my good friend Chris Peak of the Pantherlair that Tino Sunseri was the Panthers "No. 1 quarterback." That isn't a surprise to anyone who has covered this team but it is a bit of a surprise that Cignetti would say that given that the coaching staff has been very sensitive about trying to keep the "competition" alive. But Tino has taken all the first-team snaps in the spring because coaches are really committed to trying to get him as much work as possible to get him ready for the season.
The only thing I'd caution is this - Tino is the No. 1 quarterback because he is physically more gifted than Pat Bostick and has far more upside. But that isn't any different than the way things were last year during training camp - he threw the best ball, could make all the passes, had the strongest arm and quickest release of any quarterback in camp. But when push came to shove, he couldn't seperate himself from the other two so the coaches opted for the experience and grit of Stull and well, that worked out obviously. So while he is clearly on track to be the starter, when they put him in position to win or lose the job against a live pass rush, blitzes and changing defenses in the fall -- will he be able to win it this year or will the coaches be in the position to opt for experience again? I'm thinking he'll get it done but until it happens, you just never know.
-- I talked briefly with Phil Bennett last week and all he could do was rave about his two corners -- Antwuan Reed and Saheed Imoru. I've only seen a few of the spring practices but I can say without a doubt that Reed has been one of the most impressive players so far and Imoru has shown enough to make me believe this -- it is going to be very difficult for Ricky Gary to knock either of these two out of the starting lineup when he returns from injury. Reed has really developed into a very good corner and I really think corner is no longer a shaky position even though both starters from last season graduated. That would be a good thing, anyway, because Gary has proven to be a valuable player as the third corner because he can play both sides in a pinch. I also think the emergence of Reed and Imoru means the coaches have the luxury of keeping Jarred Holley at safety even after Dom DeCicco and Andrew Taglianetti return and so the fallout from all of these injuries might actually be a deeper, more complete secondary than we've seen in quite some time.
-- One young guy I was really impressed with is Tyrone Ezell, the defensive tackle from Steel Valley. Greg Gattuso told me he is still very raw but he is clearly gifted. He is very quick off the ball and gets up the field and makes plays in the backfield but he is still learning. I think he may be a year away from really becoming a player that can help but you never know, with his natural ability, he could make an impact this year.
-- The offensive line has a long way to go. Obviously Jason Pinkston, Lucas Nix and Chris Jacobson are locked in but the other two spots still need some work. Greg Gaskins has been starting at the other guard spot and Alex Karabin has been at center. Don't be surprised if Gaskins gets a look at center if Alex Karabin and Jack Lippert don't get it done. But this unit needs to come together by the end of spring so that it has a full summer and training camp to really develop some chemistry. Remember, the first game out of the gate isn't Youngstown State or some other Division I-AA program - it is Utah on the road. So the margin for error is very little.
-- After watching Dion Lewis carry the ball a zillion times last season, I almost forgot how good the guy who is his back-up -- Ray Graham -- actually is. It didn't take long at the last practice I attended for me to be reminded because he had a couple of runs that were just ridiculous -- including one where I swear he went from second gear to about fifth in about three steps. I will say this again, if you look at this group of running backs (including Hynoski) and receivers, there hasn't been a better group -- from top to bottom -- of skill position players on this team since I've covered it. There have been some individual talents, like Larry Fitzgerald, and some really strong groups but I can't remember ever covering a team that was as deep at both receiver and running back as this team is.
-- I am going to try and stop at practice tomorrow and if I do I will have more notes for you but I am going to be travelling again this week (to the Final Four) so Ray Fittipaldo and Michael Sanserino will handle football for one more week but next week I'll be back and will chronicle the Panthers all the way through the spring game.