February 9, 2012

One Month In

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Players,Recruiting — Reed @ 9:14 am

It’s been a month since Paul Chryst has been hired by PITT to be the Head Coach of the football program and the dust from that decision has pretty much settled.  His hiring came after a tumulus 13 month period in which we saw a six year HC fired, his replacement arrested and fired after a few weeks on the job and a third and divisive HC hired just to do a disappearing act after 10 months.

After Haywood imploded his career and Graham thumbed his nose at us what PITT needed in its next HC was a stabilizing and more conservative man to get the football program back on an even keel. I think we found that in Chryst. Just as with any head coaching search the fans weighed in with their favorites and inevitably some were disappointed with PITT’s choice and others were made very happy.

Now, after his first month, it appears that there is a contingent of fans who just feel the need to criticize everything Chryst did or is rumored to have done.  There is a laundry list of negative issues that these fans hold onto, mostly with no firm facts to support them.  Here are a few of the complaints about Chryst and staff from before he was hired to the present.

1.  Chryst had no head coaching experience.  Neither did Jackie Sherrill and we seem pretty satisfied with his work at PITT, don’t we?  This was a valid concern as inexperience in being the Top Dog can come back and bite the program sometimes.  But Chryst had been an OC with a Pac-10 and then a Big Ten school and had done well at that.  Leadership is a quality one develops in many ways and everyone who assumes the prime position has had to gather those qualities along his professional path. Chryst was heartily endorsed for the position by his AD Barry Alvarez who is well familiar with PITT and WPA football.  This is a ‘wait and see’ issue but there is no foundation to think he’ll not be able to assume the mantle and succeed.

2.   Chryst can’t or won’t recruit because he doesn’t like it.  This one cracks me up.  Even though his last boss, Wisconsin HC Brett Bielema, clearly stated that Chryst wasn’t tasked with geographical recruiting and that Chryst was the QB recruiter and the “Closer” for other high value recruits.  Still, some PITT fans weren’t, and even now aren’t, convinced that Chryst can recruit well enough to win at PITT.

We just finished out the 2012 recruiting class which Chryst came into working on with one month to finish before LOI day.  At last count PITT was ranked 30th, 39th and 46th by the three major recruiting sites. Basically we ended up in the top third of all D1 football schools. In addition, Chryst not only held onto the core quality recruits who had verballed under Graham but was able to get four more highly sought after recruits to come on board.  This was with a program that had been in chaos for 14 months.  As Chas stated in a previous post – it was a good class even without the specter of the coaching changes.  Of course the true measure of a recruiter is how he does in his first full year with a season of play under his belt.

3.  Chryst isn’t personable enough to be in the big spotlight.  It amazes me up that some PITT fans are still bitching about this.  I read just yesterday that Chryst had fallen down on the job because he didn’t call a press conference to 1) announce the final recruiting class and 2) to break the news about Jacobson be awarded a sixth year of eligibility.  Really, that was written more than once on different websites.  This is along with the general bitch about his ‘wooden’ personality.

Of course, the fact that Chryst himself said at his initial press conference that he would let his actions speak for themselves in place of hollow shouting from the mountain top is lost on some people.  As is the fact that PITT held a LOI Day event, attended by about 1,000 people and in addition held a press conference before that to discuss the recruiting class with the media.

Honestly, it would be ludicrous to hold a press conference to comment on one personnel issue.  Talk about getting into the weeds.  Chryst just doesn’t demand the spotlight as Graham did.

Last but not least there is my favorite…

4.     Chryst can’t hire quality coaches, took too long to fill his staff and then can’t hold onto the coaches he has hired.  This is an issue that can’t be measured at this point in any way at all.  But I’ll say this, to get Bob Bostad (more on him later) as OC, Dave Huxtable as DC and Joe Rudolph as QB & recruiting coordinator, hired away from a very successful Big Ten program ain’t chopped liver.  Getting a PA state legend and long time NFL star in Bobby Engram to coach the WRs, a position in real need of tutelage, was a great move also.  Still the fans point to his other staff as examples of dropping the ball according to PITT’s need.

I’ll admit hiring Inoke Breckterfield away from Oregon State is a strange move but perhaps there is method in Chryst’s madness.  It never hurts to have at least one crazy Hawai’ian around if only to be the heavy hand of discipline when the players start drifting toward Perdition.  They don’t hesitate to throw the first punch.  I know, I lived there and experienced it firsthand… but you should see the other guy.

Perhaps my favorite bit of fan panic along these lines was when the rumor of Bostad going to the NFL Bears as their OC was circulating.  The fear among the Great Pessimists was palatable and Bostad’s imminent departure was blamed for PITT not landing all of the HS Offensive Lineman east of the Mississippi.  Bostad’s continual denials that he was leaving was just a smoke screen of course, why stay at PITT when you could coach in the NFL?  Inferiority complexes run rampant I say.  So he stayed, which a reasonable mind would see as loyalty to both PITT and Chryst.

Apparently losing Eddie Faulkner was a devastating blow also and can only be remedied by rehiring DW’s RB coach David Walker who singly handedly molded McCoy, Lewis and Graham from the raw untalented clay that they were in HS.

But Wait!!  There is one more but not about Chryst.  One poster on another site has continually asserted that because Rushel Shell didn’t like to lift weights in HS he’ll be a bust in college… seriously.  Personally, I don’t care if Shell bangs his unhelmeted head against a brick wall 40 times before kickoff, something he’s doing has worked pretty well so far.

The bottom line with all of these complaints is that we fans won’t know the success or failures of them until there is actual and concrete evidence to point to and talk about.  Of course, that won’t stop the Nattering Nabobs of Negativity’s long running sideshow.

Emel, our new DL coach is himself Hawai’ian, that’s what I meant.

I’m ambivalent about the hire and it is rather head shaking but Chryst was an offensive coach at Oregon State when Breckterfield was playing DL there and obviously was impressed.

Breckterfield had a great career there:

link to

Comment by Reed 02.11.12 @ 8:11 am

One last comment about the infamous quote of Paul Chryst’s recruiting. Here is that actual quote from the press conference held before the PITT LOI Day event…

“Our approach isn’t to sell, it’s to offer,” Chryst said at a news conference Wednesday. “We’re offering the opportunity to be a part of our team and a university like Pitt.”

… and on the face of it it sounds pretty lukewarm but I do think those who are critical, or worried about, Chryst’s recruit style are taking that turn of phrase way too literally. He’s talking about PITT itself more than he is about actual recruiting strategies. Supporting that thought he said this about Rushel Shell:

“Everyone knows about Rushel Shell,” Chryst said. “The thing that I love about that is he knew Pitt was the place for him long before we were around.”

In context with his other remarks you can see that he’s inferring that both the football program and the University itself are attractive to prospects. He could have said the same about Voytik, Bisnowaty, and the others who didn’t decommit. The fact that they had no idea who they would be playing for means that they were sold on PITT instead of whoever the HC would be.

A few minutes later we had this quote…

Six WPIAL players signed with the Panthers. In addition to Bisnowaty, Rippy and Shell, J.P. Holtz (Shaler), Mike Caprara (Woodland Hills) and Trenton Coles (Clairton) will be on the Panthers roster next season.

“I think that’s everything,” Chryst said of holding on to local recruits. “That’s got to be the lifeblood. That meant a lot and that’s something that we will continue to put a lot of effort and certainly make that a priority.”

He also talked (on the video) about the hard work that Junko and LaSala did in laying the groundwork for a new coach to benefit from.

I understand that there are concerns about his recruiting but guys, he’s not stupid, he knows what level of effort it takes to have a successful recruiting program. He’s new to PITT and has, at every public opportunity, taken the moment to compliment the existing football program and the University itself. He did this at his LOI Day press conference and, IMO, his exact phrasing has been taken way too literally.

Comment by Reed 02.11.12 @ 8:32 am

PantherDann – I saw what you were referencing but if you have a chance to read that paragraph closely (sorry guys, Scouts pay-board article) you’ll see that it was SP saying that about the LOI Day event in his own press conference…

The only thing in that paragraph regarding Chryst was that he said “That was really fun”

Apparently SP borrowed that phrase from Chryst’s presser a week ago.

Comment by Reed 02.11.12 @ 9:05 am

1. Knew it was JoeD right away. He is the main reason I don’t bother reading Smizik anymore. “PA kids aren’t fast enough. My morals are better than anyone’s, I know everything there is to know about track and speed.” there, that is all you need to know about JoeD.
2. I took Chryst’s I don’t “recruit” comment as a backhand against Graham. “your last coach was all talk. We’ll let our actions speak as least as loud as our words” was the way I read it. you might be able to sell without a product in the short term, but in the long term you have to have something of value to sell.

Comment by StFan 02.12.12 @ 12:00 pm

StFan – I think you are correct with that and he’s done that more than once. I’m not sure he means it personally about Graham but he’s taken an opposition stance on just about every thing Graham did while he was at PITT.

Speaking of the most negative of fans – I looked back over the four or five most negative posters I could think of and everyone of them wanted Christobal rather than Chryst. We see that on the message boards and blogs a lot.

Comment by Reed 02.12.12 @ 6:29 pm

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