With the opener against Buffalo three days away, Pitt head coach Todd Graham announced the team's captains for the 2011 season on Wednesday.
Pitt's offensive captains are Tino Sunseri, Mike Shanahan, and Chris Jacobson; the defensive captains are Myles Caragein, Antwuan Reed, and Jarred Holley; the special teams captain is Andrew Taglianetti.
"We have seven captains, and they were pretty much unanimous," Graham said on Wednesday. "Shanahan, Jacobson, and Myles were all unanimous.
"Now those guys have to lead the football team. We're going to get everything we can get out of them, but to win a championship they're going to have to have great leadership from amongst them."
The selection process for Pitt's captains was rather atypical and based on a model Graham used at Tulsa. Rather than have the entire team vote, Graham polled "people that have merit," a group that included coaches, managers, trainers, and a portion of the players.
Perhaps the two most notable selections were Sunseri and Reed. Despite being the team's starting quarterback, Sunseri wasn't on the short list of favorites to be named a captain, but Graham said that perception changed over the summer and through training camp.
"I told Tino today that if we had voted on that in the spring, I don't think it would have happened," Graham said. "He's made great strides. That means he has the respect of this team, and that's exciting for me. I think he has done a phenomenal job.
"I think you have to be genuine in who you are. A lot of guys grow up and think a leader is breaking down the group and giving a speech. I think what Tino has done is not said a word. He has just become one of the hardest-working guys out there. He's the first guy sprinting on the field, he's the last guy sprinting off the field. He sprints to every drill, he comes in and studies more film than anybody, and he has just kept his mouth shut and worked. And I think that's what a leader is. That is what people follow.
"With Tino, the thing that excites me is that his peers respect him, and that's big. I think that's really big at quarterback. I'm not going to make anybody captain that doesn't earn it from his peers."
Reed was Pitt's starter at cornerback in 2010, but he sat out spring camp due to injury. In Reed's absence, Buddy Jackson emerged as the team's most improved defensive player and the front-runner for a first-team cornerback job.
But over the summer Reed bounced back in a way that caught his teammates' attention.
"I was pretty excited for Antwuan; that was big," Graham said. "I've been pleasantly surprised. The summer that he had was phenomenal. I mean, phenomenal. I know he was a good player last year, but over the summer and when he reported to camp and what he's done to this point, he has really put himself in position to take his game to a different level.
"He has a very special rapport with his teammates, and you can tell that."
Graham also said 12 players would serve as co-captains on Pitt's leadership council. Lucas Nix, Jordan Gibbs, and Ray Graham represent the offense; Chas Alecxih, Max Gruder, Jason Hendricks, and Brandon Lindsey represent the defense; K'Waun Williams and Devin Street represent the sophomores; and Nicholas Grigsby, Juan Price, and Lafayette Pitts represent the freshmen.
Freshmen voted for the freshman representatives on the leadership council, but they did not vote for team captains.