January 9, 2012

We are all pretending the BBVA didn’t happen. Probably for the best.

On Saturday, Pitt and head coach Paul Chryst officially announced six hires. The trinity from Wisconsin which everyone already knew: Bob Bostad,  Offensive Coordinator/O-line; Dave Huxtable, Defensive Coordinator; and Joe “Booger” Rudolph, assistant Head Coach/QB Coach.

Also confirmed, former Mt. Lebanon HS head coach Chris Haering, to handle the linebackers.

The new ones, though, are Jim Hueber to coach the tight ends and Todd Rice for strength and conditioning.

The reaction from Wisconsin fans are mixed. Not that it was surprising that Bostad left. Or even that Huxtable took the opportunity to be a DC once more. It is more the volume that left with Chryst. Especially Rudolph since he was one of, if not their best, recruiters.

When Chryst and Bostad left, they were wished well. Well-earned promotions, plus while excellent X-and-O coaches, they never had much of a reputation as recruiters.

Rudolph is a more frustrating loss for Wisconsin. They had already lost 3 assistants. Another (WR Coach DelVaughn Alexander) is heading to Arizona State — though whispers suggest that Alexander was encouraged to look elsewhere. With Rudolph gone they are down to one offensive assistant left on staff. And 3 weeks to National Signing Day. Despite Wisconsin’s success and back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances, there are a couple questions. This, despite the seeming logic of each coach’s individual decision.

The first four hires, generally have been well-received on the Pitt end. Quality coaches. Good reasons for optimism.

As for the other two to this point. Maybe more of a mixed bag.

Hueber definitely brings experience, and there is little doubt that he will make sure the tight ends know how to block.

Hueber most recently served five seasons with the Minnesota Vikings (2006-10) working with the offensive line. He spent 33 years coaching college football, including an exceptional tenure under Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin (1992-2005), where he helped the Badgers evolve into a national power. He spent his initial three years in Madison coaching the running backs before moving his positional focus to the offensive line.

Chris Dokish is unimpressed by the hiring of Hueber from a recruiting standpoint because Hueber is over 60. The flip side is that Hueber can sell the whole NFL experience aspect. The recruiting side, though, is valid. After Rudolph, there isn’t a hire to this point that I can point to who has an excellent recruiting reputation. X-and-Os look fantastic with this group to date. The talent, though, is still needed.

The common thread to these hires, though, is that Chryst knows and is familiar with them from the past.

Chryst, who was formally the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, obviously worked with Bostad, Huxtable and Rudolph at Wisconsin, Hueber worked at Wisconsin with Chryst before he went to the Vikings, Haering and Chryst were graduate assistants at West Virginia under Don Nehlen together and Rice played for Chryst’s dad, who was the long-time coach at Wisconsin-Platteville.

Finally there is Strength & Conditioning Coach Todd Rice. He has been Notorious TOB’s (Tom O’Brien) S&C coach for the past 10 years at both Boston College and NC State.

The other issue will be winter conditioning for the returning players, but Chryst said he plans on giving them some time off since they have already missed the first few days of classes while preparing for this bowl game.

“It has been a long stretch for them,” Chryst said. “Todd [Rice] is one of the best at complete training.”

Outside of a few S&C coaches, most seem fairly interchangeable. Their philosophies may be different, but unless they have some sort of outsized personality or really connect with the players, you barely notice them.

The NC State fans don’t seem to have taken too much notice or concern about Rice leaving. Why? Probably because he left his job (fired?) there in December. That said, I’m a little nervous about the Rice hire. A BC guy I do know, sent me this message regarding Rice:

Your new S&C coach is going to drive fans nuts. He did at BC and NC St. All about stretching. Meanwhile your guys will seem flabby and slow.

How will we notice the change? We will see. The claim is that Rice is not rigid in his style of strength and conditioning — yet specific.

Even Rice comes to Pitt with no rigid way of training players.

“He has a very specific program that is about trying to help guys be the best athletes they can be,” he said. “Strength is a big part of it, but it’s flexibility and it’s nutrition. He is one of the best in just complete training.”

Several more spots to fill. Hopefully Chryst ventures a little bit out of his comfort zone.

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[…] was already a little worried about Rice. This sort of story doesn’t […]

[…] coach, Todd Rice, and WR Coach Bobby Engram. But even then, there is a rather familial connection. Rice played for Chryst’s father in college. Engram was an offensive assistant on the 49ers last season — where Chryst’s […]

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