…What about recruiting?
Another recruiting weekend came and went. They took in a basketball game.
Pitt football coach Paul Chryst took in the game along with 13 recruits and got a standing ovation from the crowd when he was shown on the video board.
Here’s a list of about half of the attending recruits. Ooohhhh. Some offensive linemen. Need. Depth. Need. Talent.
Coach Chryst also spoke with the announcing crew during the game. Reaching tens of people not fans of Pitt on ESPN3.com. The interview was fine, notable for managing to go entirely without a single mention of Wisconsin.
Among those attending, Clairton WR Tyler Boyd — who just happened to cancel his official visit to West Virginia on the same weekend. Several in attendance like Scott Orndoff have already committed.
On a week where Chryst ended up reaffirming (or had it reaffirmed for him — depending on your POV) his commitment as Pitt head coach, I know I was hoping it would close the deal for a couple more recruits. It didn’t happen, but everyone seems optimistic that Pitt will close strong with several more players they really want.
For those that wonder about the style of Chryst’s recruiting. A safe way to call it would be the anti-Graham.
“To me, getting guys to buy in means you’re trying to sell something, and we’re not trying to sell anything,” Chryst said. “We’re in a process of creating a culture and we’re here to help players be the best players they can be and to represent this University with the best football team it can (be) and do it the right way. But I never felt like we had to sell anything or get them to buy in.”
For Chryst, the key to affecting real change in the players is not through convincing them or persuading them; it comes from a personal choice made by the players. The players have to decide for themselves, Chryst believes, if they are truly going to commit to an ideal.
“Guys can see [that he's not selling], and that’s where the respect comes from,” redshirt junior receiver Devin Street said. “We know his heart’s in it, and he definitely just wants to teach and coach, and he’s definitely not selling anything. He comes in and tells what we need to do and we go to work. Guys will see it if you are a salesman, and I don’t think guys see him in that way.”
Chryst’s non-sell isn’t limited to the players on the current team. He also follows that approach in recruiting. It’s not a “soft sell” or a passive approach; rather, Chryst believes a coach should provide express his interest in a recruit, provide information about the school, and let the prospect make his own decision. Only then, in Chryst’s opinion, is a recruit truly committed to a school when he makes a decision.
“I think your job as a recruiter is to identify and then inform,” Chryst told Panther-Lair.com. “They should pick the best place for them, and I’ve never thought that coaches should tell someone what’s best for them. Our job is to inform, paint an accurate picture of who we are, how do you fit in; I think there’s that. But I think it truly is, you have to inform them of who you are and what you are, and they need to know who you are and what you’re about, and I think they then pick.
“I don’t want to say that’s the purest way, but I think it’s done right when people are picking it because it’s the best fit for them. Our job is to let them know everything, who and what is Pitt.”
I don’t know. I’m cynical. I think of everything a college coach does, ultimately has a significant element of salesmanship in it. Whether you call it that or not. Whether it is a hard-sell, soft-sell or informed consent. Coach Chryst may not want to call it selling, but that is what it is. You are trying to make a case to a player why they should attend Pitt. You can call it educating them on options, but if you are leading them down the road to the conclusion that they should play at Pitt — it’s still a sales job. It just comes down to how do you want to be sold?
I think Chryst would be hideous as a hard-seller. It isn’t in his approach and delivery. Have you every seen or heard someone who isn’t geared towards hard sales try to do it. It never ends well. It may make fans anxious. May convince them that it is bad for recruiting, but Chryst is probably recruiting in the way that suits and feels most natural.
That’s what leaves an impression with the recruits. Did it feel like he was being genuine?
“He said he’s really confident in Pitt and the coaching staff, but you have to do what’s right for you,” Hytchye said. “So he said if I have to take more visits, then go ahead and do what’s right for me. But he wants me to come to Pitt.”
“He wants me to make the best decision for me,” Kemp said. “He wants me to visit the other schools so that when I pick them, I do it because I want to do it, not because they forced me.”
Whether that approach is effective with Hytchye and Kemp remains to be seen. So far, Chryst has pulled in 19 commitments for the class of 2013, including four-star quarterback Tra’von Chapman, who appreciated the Pitt head coach’s style during an unofficial visit last June.
“We talked for a long time, and he wasn’t pushing me at all,” Chapman told Panther-Lair.com after that visit. “He was saying that he wants the best decision for me. He’s not the kind of guy to say I had to commit right then; what he said was, ‘You’re the key; if you come here, other guys can join in.’ That meant a lot to me, but I didn’t feel pressure at all.”
And Chapman is coming here. Along with Orndoff and two other 2013 recruits, they will be enrolling for January classes and participating in the spring practices.
“I just figured this is something I really wanted,” he said. “This is something I really dedicated myself to. Why should I sit around and wait? I should go get it.”
Chapman, who will be eligible for Pitt’s spring drills, may have to watch and learn behind quarterbacks Tom Savage, Chad Voytik and Trey Anderson, but he does make one promise about his freshman season:
“No one is going to outwork me,” he said. “I’ll be patient, but I’ll still grind hard. If I am third string or fourth string, I’m still going to work the hardest.”
This decision was already made, but it probably doesn’t hurt that he has only been at this high school for two years. Not to mention the fact that with Darrell Hazell leaving Kent State for Purdue, Chapman’s dad (KSU WR Coach Thad Jemison) could be on the move soon. So hanging around for that final semester probably doesn’t hold great appeal.
Back to the weekend. Cornerback Jaleel Hytchye enjoyed his visit. But at the same time, does not appear to be in any hurry to make a decision (Insider subs).
“They can see how good they’re going to be in about two or three years,” Hytchye said. “They can see everyone has a vision and they got a lot of younger players on the team. They said you just got to come in and grind and maybe I can take their position. I was like ‘Yeah, I will be.’ ”
Hytchye spent much of Saturday and Sunday in meetings with the coaches and academic counselors, but Saturday night the recruits made it to the Pitt basketball game. Hytchye liked the attention the Pitt fans were showing him and the other recruits.
The visit helped Pitt as Hytchye got to see what he needed to and had an opportunity to build a relationship with the staff and players. He said the Panthers remain in his top group, which also includes Arizona State, Kentucky, Northwestern with Louisville and Penn State hanging around.
He will receive an in-home visit from Northwestern on Monday, and he will officially visit the Wildcats the weekend of Jan. 11. Pitt assistants Joe Rudolph and Matt House are coming Thursday. Louisville will be in Wednesday.
The Cardinals are making a late run at Hytchye after lightly recruiting him the last several months.
“While I was on the [Pitt] visit, they gave me a call and wanted to jump in. The cornerbacks coach is looking for playmakers at the corner position, some ball-hawking people,” Hytchye said. “… And they said the defensive coordinator [Vance Bedford] coached Joe Haden and some other guys, too, and said he’d hope to get a chance meet me and come for a visit.”
Hytchye is considered a 3 or 4-star recruit from the Cinci area.