We feel it, hear it and say it all the time; “Why can’t Pitt get good QBs?” It is a damn fine question and one that strikes to the heart of the matter when looking at our mediocrity as a football program over the last 16 years. And yes folks, we have been of “moderate ability or value” on the whole over that time period. Some good years but overall…
We can point to the coaching changes we have gone through in that time period – as I count on my fingers I list Harris, Wannstedt, Haywood, Graham, Chryst and Narduzzi… and that isn’t counting the interim HCs we had in that period either.
We can point to the administrations we have had also – Nordenberg and now Gallagher or the Pederson-Long-Pederson hires, that surely didn’t help. But in my mind the root cause of our tepid play on the field, and the associated overall record of 115-99 (53%), is the lack of being able to recruit, retain and get quality play out of good quarterbacks.
Sure the other positions are important, but I don’t think we’ll find a college football fan who will disagree that it starts and ends with a strong QB at the helm. It is from there every offensive play begins and where strong leadership and sharp execution is expected.
So let’s take a look at our history at that position… starting with last Saturday’s game.
Yesterday a commenter on here made a rather witty remark in saying that when I write about Nate Peterman, who is currently Pitt’s starting QB, “it’s like a patriot fan talking about Tom Brady and deflate gate.”
I had to laugh at that because just a day earlier in the Monday Morning QB article for the Villanova game I had listed Peterman’s play as the #2 negative issue for the game (behind the play of the OL). He didn’t do what we all wanted to see him do with the passing game and that bothers us fans – makes us nervous for this coming game especially.
But I have been a supporter of Peterman of sorts. I guess that stems back to his June 2015 transfer in when I was pretty much the lone voice in the wind when writing that Peterman was brought in to compete for the starting QB position held by the previous year’s starter Chad Voytik.
That brought howls of protests from Pitt fans because Voytik had just had a decent year as our QB and was, hopefully, poised to do better in his 2nd year with experience of already playing under his belt.
And it also has to be said the Pitt fans really liked Chad Voytik because as a consensus 4* recruit, something we hadn’t had in a QB in a long time, he stuck with Pitt when Todd Graham shed his Pitt skin and slithered off in the dead of night… and then Voytik got to work on his cell phone to convince other recruits in his class to hang in with Pitt also.
That was a mature and admirable thing to do in my opinion – Hell, I love it when an 18-year-old makes a commitment and actually sticks with it even when external events change the situation. Good for Chad with that absolutely.
But when the Peterman news broke that he was transferring in the general opinion was that he was being brought in strictly for depth. But I wrote that Voytik hadn’t played so well that he couldn’t be sat down. And that was true and that is what happened.
It wasn’t that I thought Peterman was really good – I had no idea how he could play ball because he had such limited playing time at Tennessee – and he didn’t do well there at all. I felt he could compete for the starting job because we had a brand new coaching staff who hadn’t recruited Voytik thus had no real ties to him whatsoever.
And let’s not kid ourselves that thoughts like that don’t come into play with college coaching staffs – we need look now further back then when Dave Wannstedt proclaimed “It’s Tino’s Time!” the week after Stull’s last game. He cut out camp competition right then.
It sure does happen that staffs make decisions based on things other than play on the practice field or during games sometimes. They are humans and with that sometimes make choices where emotions come into play.
I really believe that QB situation, where Peterman usurped the job from Voytik was a 50/50 split of Voytik playing poorly and Peterman playing some better and it was pretty much a no-brainer at that point to go with Peterman. Or it may well have been a toss-up between the two kids and Chaney went with his guy. Who really knows?
But the bottom line with both of those QBs is that neither were (are) really “good” quarterbacks. They just aren’t and neither has been any QB Pitt recruited in the recent past.
I guess my definition of a good QB is one who is under center for games we win; who can lead the team with his skills and his personality and who can compete and excel under pressure. When you get one of those you have a great starting point to fill out the rest of the offensive starting lineup.
If we look at the recruited starters we have had lately no one kid jumps out as a ‘star’, or even close to one. We have to go back to West Allegheny’s Tyler Palko to find a highly rated QB recruit who actually lived up to his billing. And he was highly recruited back in 2002 as an across-the-board 4*, was rated #8 nationally, and he did play well for us. But 14 years ago is a lifetime in college ball where most programs have a new starting QB about every two years on average.
What is the root cause of this for Pitt? Is it poor recruiting scouts? Is it inefficient coaching at the college level? After all some HS QBs don’t play like all-stars in school then when they get to college they blossom. That is almost always due to a quick mind in the student and excellent coaching. When a staff can look at a HS QB and see him not for what he was last year but for what he’ll be in two years and then teach them to reach that potential – a star is born.
But we also see that vaunted HS star QBs who are over-hyped get to college and for whatever reason; better competition, not adjusting to college life, harder academics, or just plain attitude.. we see them not live up to their rated potential or they just fail altogether.
So let’s take a look at our QB history and try to figure this out. Because as we all know in our damn hearts that things will get better next year and that the next QB we get is really going to be The One…
I’ll list our QB recruits by stars and then we’ll talk about them. (Note: I use Rivals.com)
|2005||Stull||Two year starter|
|2006||Davidson||Kevan Smith||Smith starter then quit, Davidson transferred|
|2008||Cross (JUCO)||Sunseri||Sunseri three-year starter, Cross moved to WR|
|2010||Myers||Gonzalez||Myers transferred, Gonzo moved to LB|
As you can see I put Palko in blue as the only star QB we had and the only QB to live up to that 4* ranking. Some others lived up to their billings also – those I bolded. It is safe to say that Getsky, Stull and Sunseri played like 3* and 2* recruits respectively.
But some didn’t – Voytik didn’t play at a 4* level nor did Mark Myers or Pat Bostick.
But the busts we had were pretty spectacular at the same time (in red) – 4* Mark Myers didn’t like D1 ball and didn’t put the effort in so transferred. 4* Tra’von Chapman was expelled for criminal acts; 3* Dexter Davidson did nothing as a QB for us, as didn’t Cross, Bertke or Gonzalez.
We recruited 18 QBs over that time period and eight transferred or quit; two were moved to different positions and one was expelled. With the exception of Palko the others played average ball.
Only one of 18 QBs can be considered a star QB for us in 16 years. That is sad on the face of it and has held us back terribly.
Is it just that we really suck at looking at HS quarterbacks and actually being able to see what they will be in college? I’d have to say yes in the main. Granted some of those kids just couldn’t or wouldn’t succeed but others – Bostick, Voytik and Myers particularity were big time recruits who should have had very nice careers but didn’t.
Maybe the reason is our track record with QBs going into the NFL. That sucks also. In the last 33 years we have had three QBs drafted; Marino in 1983, Van Pelt in 1993 and Tom Savage – a transfer in but Pitt grad – in 2014.
Whatever it is it brings us full circle back to 2016 and Nate Peterman. Because of our crappy ability to acquire and retain quality QBs we are at the point of debating the merits of yet another transfer quarterback – because all our recruited ones fell short of the mark.
The bottom line with Peterman is that he’s what the staff wants and he’s what we got. He was the QB for a pretty good Pitt season in 2016 and might get another winning season under his belt this year. Let’s hope anyway. For a Pitt QB that’s as good as it gets.
Look – for some reasons the future great QBs just don’t want to come to Pitt to play football. They just don’t. The best ones we have had lately have been both transfers… and Voytik, who was also an average QB, didn’t stick around to try to win his starting job back and went to greener pastures.
I’m not sure we are going to see a change in this trend any time soon either.
I know Pitt fans are putting their eggs in the basket for Thomas MacVitte but I’m not holding my breath that he’s The Answer. He might be a sort of an answer but perhaps not The Answer. The reason I say that is that in football – especially in Pitt football – history tends to repeat itself.
Narduzzi just recruited a transfer QB in Bo Schneider. He did that because Peterman is gone after this season and there is no one on the roster, even MacVitte, who he feels comfortable with being a starter in 2017. Remember one important thing – our HC got Schneider to transfer in on March 16th – after MacVitte signed his LOI. That was also when we had Bertke and DiNucci on the roster for the ’17 season. That says something right there
Optimists will say that Schneider was signed only as a back up and that MacVitte is a lock for the starting job next season. Realists will say ‘put your hand to your ear and listen to the echoes of the offseason between the ’14 and ’15 seasons“. We saw pretty much this same scenario just last year fans.
There is going to be an open competition in the spring practices and fall camp next year and honestly, and especially given our poor QB track record with QB recruits, anything can and will happen.
On another note:
Hey, speaking of Pitt QBs – my childhood paperboy’s best friend at Central Catholic actually reached out to me for money… He remembers me!!