Between the new coaches, position swithces and the eligible transfers, there’s a lot to re-learn.
Yesterday, Coach Paul Chryst did the pre-Spring Practice press conference. He sort of said every position was open — and not really.
On if any jobs are wide open:
“Eleven on offense and 11 of defense. The great thing about sports and in football is that in every game you have to prove yourself and every year you have to prove yourself. We can all make a pretty good bet on some spots and who should start. The great thing is they still have to go out and do it. There is nothing more important than this team and Pitt football and I talked to the group about that. If you’re true to that then your best 11 players shouldn’t sit out. Your best linemen will play, your best skill guys will play and your best defensive backs will play so I think they really are all open.”
Read into or don’t read anything into that.
I really have no sense of what to expect from this spring or even the upcoming season. So much upheaval and turmoil over the last three years has me less sure of anything. Apparently, I’m not the only one.
Players may be unsure what to expect after experiencing distinctively different styles under former coaches Dave Wannstedt and Todd Graham, and Chryst is equally eager to answer some questions of his own.
“There is that feeling-out period,” he said. “We need to know what this group can do and what its strengths and weaknesses are.”
My goal this spring is not to take the easy Tino Sunseri cheapshot until after the first scrimmage. Please don’t tempt me like this.
Coach Chryst is upfront, but still a coach and he is not going to say anything too out there or much beyond basic coachspeak.
On getting to know the players and the team as a whole:
“What I have learned about this group is that they are a lot like the other guys I have been around. Their names are different, their backgrounds are a little bit different, and their stories are a little bit different but what they want are very similar things and that is energizing for me. We are not coming in here and saying we are going to do it our way, but I can’t wait to bring in our guys. I asked to come here and I am fortunate enough to be here. I knew the guys that were on the roster and I’m excited to be with them, and for the senior group there is some urgency in this because we need to make this year the best year it can be. There’s a great group and the numbers and the quality of players and the start of football on the field has already begun. This is the start of maximizing this season and I’m looking forward to being with this group of seniors.”
On current players stepping into a leadership role for this season:
“There are guys who have stepped up. As a coach you help players get there and we will and we will have leaders. I think there are some natural leaders in this group and even in some of the underclassmen. It’s a work in progress but that doesn’t mean that it’s not going to be a positive thing.”
On the players learning a new system:
“I think getting to know the system, us getting to know them, and them improving as players more than anything is important now. We don’t have a game fortunately for a while and it’s about improving individually. Certainly the quarterback is no different than anyone else in learning the system. The players get to go out and play ball again and it’s a great time of year.”
So… yeah… football.
Even before the start of today’s practice, several players are switching positions. All, stressed Coach Chryst, asked the coaches for the moves.
A number of players will switch positions but Chryst said all of them were at the player’s request, not the coaching staff’s.
He said he doesn’t know the personnel well enough, so he wants to give every player the opportunity to prove himself before adjusting the lineup.
“There were guys who came to me and said they wanted to change positions and my approach on that was, I didn’t know enough to tell them they should stay [in their old position],” Chryst said. “My personal opinion, if a guy wants to be somewhere else, he is not going to do as well at the spot he is playing, so to give themselves a chance they have to be all-in.
“Some will prove this was the right move and others will say ‘at least I can say I tried it’ and then they go back and go from there.”
Here are the players and their new (at least for spring) positions.
Anthony Gonzalez ——- Quarterback
E.J. Banks —————- Quarterback
Justin Virbitsky ———- Offensive line
Brandon Ifill ————– Wide receiver
Adam Lazenga ———— Fullback
Devin Cook ————— Defensive line
LaQuentin Smith ——– Defensive line
Jason Frimpong ——— Linebacker
Steve Williams ———– Defensive back
Gonzalez was essentially open knowledge. Banks had been rumored, but I’m not sure about that one. Some make more sense. Virbitsky played tight end, and the odds are he may never get on the field at this rate. Pitt has a crying need for O-linemen. Steve Williams could definitely be a help in the secondary more than he could being buried on the running back depth chart. The rest, I am taking a wait and see what happens view.