You can have the best facilities. A world-class training staff. Everything you need or could possibly want. And injuries will still happen. Just ask Florida this year. Or just go back to the 2011 season.
Pitt had a couple early bye weeks in the first half of the season and has now played six straight games. It can’t be terribly surprising that injuries are starting to happen with what seems increasing frequency.
Cornerbacks Trenton Coles and Titus Howard were the latest to join that group this week, as Pitt has suffered through a rash of injuries over the past few weeks, costing them a number of starters and key contributors.
In addition to the two cornerbacks, starting left guard Cory King (hamstring) and left tackle Adam Bisnowaty (back) also missed a 34-27 loss Saturday against North Carolina. Backup tight end Scott Orndoff has missed the past two games and appeared on the field for warm-ups Saturday with a sizable brace on his left leg. Defensive end Ejuan Price has missed the past four games with a back injury.
Add in (hopefully) a minor ankle to Devin Street and knee injury to Tom Savage and everyone begins to wonder.
Chryst said Monday he wasn’t sure if there was a common theme among the injured players.
“You’re concerned about them and you don’t know what drove those,” he said. “They could’ve just happened. You want to know if it’s something we’re doing here and you go through it and try to answer it. “
I have some serious questions and doubts about Strength and Conditioning Coach Todd Rice. Hell, up until the past couple of games, where Pitt finally was playing better in the second half rather than the first, I was really questioning if the S&C program was lacking in building any stamina with the team. In no way, though, would I consider blaming his program for the various injuries.
Coles and Howard are out because of head injuries. Bisnowaty and Price had back injuries that you can never predict where, when or for how long they will last. Street and Savage were hurt on the field. Not really seeing much of a pattern.
Plus, while there are injuries, it isn’t a voluminous pile. It is merely amplified by happening in a small space and the overall lack of depth on the team. Especially on the O-line.
The O-line where the reduced depth means players having to be doing more. Less chance to help a younger player that is just starting at this level. That seems to be a major factor in why Dorian Johnson has struggled so badly the last couple of games. He’s not just filling in for an injured player — left tackle Bisnowaty. The left guard — King — is also out.
To me, that has as much to do with why Coach Chryst had to pull him to play senior Juantez Hollins. Hollins obviously doesn’t have the potential. He’s clearly remained in the doghouse. But he is experienced and can be trusted out there a little more at this point.
“At the time, I thought (Hollins) would give us a little better chance than what we were doing at the time,” Chryst said. “Dorian did some very good things, in many ways played better than Georgia Tech. I thought he made some progress from start one to start two.”
Lingering more after the loss was not the injuries, but two punt returns for touchdowns by UNC. The fact that Pitt does not designate a special teams coach on the staff has raised questions. That goes to the decisionmaking by Coach Chryst on how he organizes his staff and priorities.
That has Coach Chryst a tad defensive. In both his choices and protecting whatever coach was responsible for overseeing punt coverage.
Pitt doesn’t have a coach whose sole responsibility is special teams, but coach Paul Chryst said he will accept the blame for North Carolina’s two touchdowns on punt returns. “We have an individual coach in charge of each phase and, ultimately, I’m responsible for them all,” he said. “If (people) want to blame someone, they can blame me.” Pitt allowed North Carolina’s Ryan Switzer to average 42 yards on three returns, including the two decisive scores.
That’s neat of Coach Chryst to accept the blame. But, um, that really doesn’t answer the question of who the hell is the coach that has been handling punt coverage? Dammit, we need someone to blame.