It was just a couple of years ago when people wondered if Dave Wannstedt was the right guy to lead Pittsburgh back to prominence. You don't hear that much anymore now that Wannstedt guided Pitt to 19 wins in the past two years, including the school's first 10-win season in more than a quarter century in 2009. Wannstedt and his staff have turned recruiting into a well-oiled machine and could be favored to win the Big East in 2010.
That doesn't mean the team doesn't have question marks going into spring. I addressed some of these with Wannstedt late last week. Here is the first part of my conversation with the sixth-year coach. Check back Tuesday for Part II.
Before we get to looking ahead, let's look back for a second. What are your reflections on the 2009 season, when you won 10 games and came up just short of a Big East title?
Dave Wannstedt: We were  points away from being unbeaten and four points and 30 seconds or whatever it was away from being undefeated in the Big East. I think that our guys had a little bit of a meltdown at NC State, but for the rest of the season, our players and coaches did a great job of maintaining their focus and being ready to play each week. Even the two conference games we lost, West Virginia down there and obviously Cincinnati, we were in position to win both games.
Obviously, we've taken our expectations from a talk standpoint to another level. Our players now expect to win and expect to compete for the Big East championship. Three years ago, maybe four years ago as a head coach, you're standing up there trying to convince them of that. Now I don't think anybody needs to be convinced. They understand and they want it. We obviously accomplished a few things last year that we haven't done in a while, but we still have a long way to go and a lot of things to accomplish.
How big of a boost was it when Greg Romeus decided to come back for his senior year?
DW: Greg's a great player, and he and I had a lot of discussions. We did our homework, no different than we did with LeSean McCoy and Darrelle Revis. We went through the NFL evaluation process. I probably called 10 NFL head coaches and general managers and friends of mine around the league. And I think, after getting all the evaluations in and talking with Greg and his parents, he really believes -- and I agree -- that he can better his position. That he's going to have a great senior year, he's going to graduate, receive more recognition on a national level, and I think it's going to help his draft status a year from now.
Let's talk about the quarterback situation, which is always a big deal. Where does that stand going into the spring?
DW: We're better off than we've been in the past for a couple reasons. From a depth standpoint, we have Pat Bostick coming back, and I think the redshirt year has done wonders for him knowledge-wise, from a physical and mental standpoint. And the interesting thing with Tino Sunseri is, if you go back to last spring we opened up the competition between Billy Stull, Pat Bostick and Tino. So all three quarterbacks got equal reps throughout the spring. Then we got to training camp and made the decision to redshirt Pat. And Tino was alternating between first group/second group all through camp with Billy.
So, really we came out of camp where Billy was a little bit ahead of him, but Tino had gotten so much work with the first group on offense, as I look back on it, it was one of the better things we did to help his development. So he's ready to play now. He's a redshirt sophomore. He understands the offense and we've got a good feel for his abilities and what he can do. So we'll see what he can do. It's going to be a competition.
Then we have two really good freshmen coming in, and obviously you're not counting on them. But we like Anthony Gonzalez from Liberty (Penn.) and Mark Myers from (Cleveland) St. Ignatius. Here's kind of an interesting tidbit: They were both picked to play in the Big 33 game; one will be playing for Ohio and one for Pennsylvania. So at some point in the game, both quarterbacks in the Big 33 game could both be going to Pitt. That's probably never happened before.
Will you keep Gonzalez at quarterback? He's a versatile all-around athlete.
DW: We'll see. That's the plan right now and we'll just have to see how it unfolds.
So going into spring, is Sunseri No. 1 on the depth chart, or is it officially even between him and Bostick?
DW: We have a walk-on kid, Andrew Janocko, who's been here three years. All three of them will get work. We'll split the work early with Tino and Bostick, but I think they'll both have to go and show what they can do, and we'll give them each a chance to go out and prove themselves.
Do you anticipate the competition going into fall camp like last year?
DW: I don't think so. I think it will be cleared up pretty good this spring. But you never know. I'm anticipating that it will.
You don't have a ton of question marks heading into 2010, but one of them appears to be cornerback. How is that position shaping up?
DW: We signed a kid out of junior college named Saheed Imoru. He was a qualifier out of high school from Houston and he had an appointment to the Air Force Academy, but he wanted to get an opportunity to play Division I football at a little bit higher level. So he went to junior college and he's been here now since January. I watched him play -- his team went to the national championship game -- and I think this kid has a chance to really be a good player.
We have Ricky Gary coming back from last year. Antwuan Reed is a junior who played as a freshman a little bit and is from the same high school as LaRod Stephens-Howling. He's got a lot of ability. Then we moved Aundre Wright from receiver to corner. Jarred Holley was recruited here to play corner, and we moved him to safety when Andrew Taglianetti got hurt. He ended up being really good at safety. We'll keep him at safety to start off, but we could move him to corner if we had to.
Will Taglianetti be ready for spring?
DW: He'll be back for spring, but he'll be limited. We've got Taglianetti, a redshirt freshman named Jason Hendricks from New Jersey who we really like. Kolby Gray has moved from quarterback to safety. Then we've got Dom DeCicco back, too.