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December 30, 2013

Wanting To Be Positive

Filed under: Chryst,Coaches,Football — Chas @ 8:03 am

Ending the season with a win in a bowl game — regardless of the level of the bowl — provides a certain level of positive energy. Heck, just finishing with a big win even without a bowl helps (13-9 being the ultimate proof).

Next season may be 9 months away. Training camp, 8 months from now. Spring practices aren’t until March. Signing day is about six weeks out.

But right now, it is a good feeling. Finishing the year 7-6 feels a lot better than 6-7. A 3-5 record in the ACC has more positives than a 3-4 record from the final year of the Big East. They aren’t huge steps forward, but there is some sense that there is improvement.

How much of that is the lingering positive energy of the win and how much is reality remains to be seen. You don’t have to be a blind follower to feel good right now about the team, the coach and the possibilities. You also don’t have have to be a complete hater to see the problems, the holes, the gaping questions that are all over. Both aspects are there. Both aspects are true.

“For the younger guys, for next year, it gives you something to build off of,” said Donald after Pitt’s 30-27 victory against MAC champion Bowling Green. “To know that the program is going to be back on top with coach Chryst. That’s a guarantee.”

Sorry, there are no guarantees in sports.

“Each year is a different year,” Chryst said.

For all the euphoria and smiles from players and coaches after an exhilarating victory, Chryst is a .500 coach (13-13) in his first two Pitt seasons. The team that beat Bowling Green lost four of its final six regular-season games. It also struggled on the local recruiting trail this year.

Still, the 2013 season marked a culture change for Pitt that Chryst should — but won’t — take credit for generating. No longer do players sit around feeling sorry for themselves, waiting for something bad to happen. Their coach won’t tolerate those who worry about matters out of their control.

Pitt played the bowl game without three starting offensive linemen, senior wide receiver Devin Street and junior Bryan Murphy, the team’s best defensive end. No problem. It totaled 487 yards of offense and a season-high seven quarterback sacks, most of it by underclassmen.

Four freshmen — quarterback Chad Voytik (a redshirt), wide receiver Tyler Boyd, running back James Conner and Blewitt — made the decisive plays.

“You definitely feel like the future is bright,” Conner said.

The culture change is important, and underrated. Not with the cleaning out of malcontents and holdovers of other coaches. It is much more about the mindset.

During the last year of Wannstedt’s reign, I remember Paul Zeise writing during a chat session or two — and I’m paraphrasing/working from memory — that the biggest problem with the Pitt team often seemed between the ears. That they were too easy to let something go wrong and snowball. Zeise was of the opinion that until those players were out of the program, there would be problems for this team.

I know many of you will want to default to the perpetual whipping boy (and often deserved and continually unsympathetic) Tino Sunseri. It’s easy to think that. He’s gone and suddenly Pitt had second-half comebacks that were not then given back. He was part of it, no question. But that was more than just the quarterback. The defense had similar issues. It was something the prior coaches couldn’t seem to change.

There has been a large amount of churn in the past year. Kids moving out of the program either by graduation or deciding/being pushed to finish their playing days elsewhere.

This is where I’m taking a leap of faith with Coach Chryst. I want to believe he and the staff has made a big change with that intangible. The “culture” around the team. That there is a perceptible change to the mindset among the players in how they approach the games. The practices. The conditioning. The film room.

Will the mindset make a difference in talent difference? Of course not. But we’ve seen all too often in the Big East that Pitt’s supposed better talent failed at key points. Both are needed to get beyond mediocrity.





… and oh yea, we likely would have Henry and/or Nicholsen as commits

Comment by wbb 12.31.13 @ 9:42 am

And we would have our OCS in 5 years and our Pitt script back. I can dream can’t I? 🙂

Comment by TX Panther 12.31.13 @ 9:51 am

It would be great to bring in the greats. Imagine having Ditka working with the tight ends for a week, Grimm and May working with the O-line, Doleman and Sheard working the Ends, Green and Jackson working with the linebackers, Dorsett, Shady, and Lewis, etc. Fitz, Revis …

Then recognize them at the game.

The logistics would be tough but what an experience for the players and coaches.

Comment by gc 12.31.13 @ 9:53 am

wanny would be a great AD the asst could do the paper work.
and wanny could so the big things like raiseing mony makeing football and basketball great and fireing house.

Comment by Frankcan 12.31.13 @ 9:53 am

Probably NCAA rules forbids it

Comment by gc 12.31.13 @ 9:55 am

Let’s not canonize Wanny, he missed on plenty of recruits, Pryor comes to mind.

If the stars didn’t align with Shady and Bostick and RichRod leaving, he would have gone without 13-9.

He lost all the big games including the biggest to Cinci on his own turf.

Hell, he played Tino over Bostick and sealed his own fate.

He inherited a decent team from Harris and had crap results, much worse than Chryst.

His last team made the cover of SI and in the worst possible way.

Revisionist History, Give me a break.

Comment by gc 12.31.13 @ 10:03 am

An AD has to raise money and have the respect of former players, fans and boosters. He then has to make hiring decisions on head coaches and have the department break even. The only good thing about our current AD is that he can stay out of the red. He does this by being cheap.

Comment by TX Panther 12.31.13 @ 10:34 am

This sites constant gush over everything Wannstead baffles me. His record wasn’t any better than what we have and his players couldn’t stay out of jail. Suggesting him as an AD seems crazy to me. Sure he would be loyal to the football team but the guy was no braniac, and his tenure yielded one great win and not much else. Other than the fact that anything would be an improvement over Smilin’ Steve I don’t understand the attraction.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.31.13 @ 10:47 am

GC, I would like to see a more agressive defense as well. I thought Wanny was too conservative in that regard during his tenure at Pitt. With Dick Lebeau right next door, House doesn’t have too far to get the program.

Comment by Justinian 12.31.13 @ 10:51 am

To some of the Doubters and Haters who LOVE to jump CHRYST on his mistakes.

I challenge you to identify an IN-GAME mistake made by Chryst that compares to the MAJOR BLUNDER by Toddy GRAHAM in the midst of the BEAT-DOWN his team took against Texas Tech last night.

In case some are unaware… with time running down in the first half and THIRD DOWN and GOAL from around the seven… GRAHAM, in all of his “GENIUS”… rushed the field goal team out in a frantic state to put three points on the board before time expired. The kick went WIDE LEFT!

Amazingly, it did not occur to GRAHAM to have his Quarterback take another shot at the End Zone or simply Clock the ball to stop the clock and allow plenty of time for the field goal attempt.

It was SO BAD, SO AMATEURISH… that it drew the scorn of not one but all of the ESPN Hosts at Half Time including Mark May.

Who here believes Chryst, on his WORST DAY… would ever be guilty of such a Coaching BLUNDER?

The fact is… few Coaches ever would.

This should put to rest once and for all the RIDICULOUS NOTION put forth by some of the Chryst Doubters and Haters that somehow GRAHAM was the FOOTBALL GENIUS that got away.

Comment by PittofDreams 12.31.13 @ 10:56 am

Wanny was/is a diehard Pitt guy who has a deep love for the University. That’s his strong point, but if you’re looking for a former coach to take the reigns of the Pitt AD job, I’d be allover Mike Ditka to take the job. Talk about a former Pitt guy that would have the respect of the wider college football community!

I think that Ditka’s no nonsense attiudes could get things done also, although in contrast, he may have to refine his smoozing skill set to keep the traditional Pitt highroller contributors and others happy too.

Comment by Dr. Tom 12.31.13 @ 11:02 am

Questionable playcalling, disciplinary issues leading to a renegade program, inept evaluation and coaching of THE MOST IMPORTANT POSITION ON THE TEAM, and using nepotism TO FILL THAT SAME POSITION. And yet yinzers still want to see Wannstedt back? He shouldn’t even be coaching high-school football!

Comment by Joshua 12.31.13 @ 11:12 am

Joshua, then is Graham and Chryst guilty of the same nepotism? Cut me a break!

Comment by wbb 12.31.13 @ 11:19 am

Well, they tried replacing him (Trey Anderson come to mind?), but realized that Wanny left them with NOTHING!

Comment by Joshua 12.31.13 @ 11:20 am

Wanny was also accused of unnecessary timeouts and punting on the plus side of the field … things that Graham did inspaeds while he was here. In fact, wasn’t the nepotistic QB the leading punter for a while?

Comment by wbb 12.31.13 @ 11:21 am

Miami has a top 5 recruiting class. I think it will be a while fore we compete with them.

Comment by DocJLK 12.31.13 @ 11:23 am

There were 3 4-star QBs on the roster when Wanny left, and none of them were Tino. They all became alienated with the new regime

Comment by wbb 12.31.13 @ 11:24 am

@wbb, that Cardiac Hill article was good, but he left out a lot of true Freshmen in his article that should have been mentioned. Rachid Abrahim, came through, at just the right critical times, big in a couple games and you can’t discount the contributions that Matt Galambos and Shakir Soto made this year on a team thin at DE and LB depth.

Last but not least, Chris Blewitt, IMO, was stellar this season as our kicker. Now I think that he still has a way to go to be a great one, not enough kickoffs into the endzone for touchbacks and too many low, driving kicks when not needed begging for blocks. However, overall significant proficiency from a true Freshman. Not being on the radar for comments sometimes is a sincere compliment regarding a kicker’s effort though. They tend to be invisible until they miss! Then everbody is screaming about how he Blewitt!(pun intended) Didn’t hear that bad pun much this season.

Yes the future looks promising but I’m still not sold on this recruiting class as it currently stands. An additional DL or LB recruit would have been nice and we have a critical need to land either Kamara or Jennings at the WR position.

If we get just one of those two and it upgrades this class significantly IMO. We get both and I’d consider that a homerun in the WR department! If we miss on both, then I’m concerned, because we dearly need a second premier star WR to compliment Boyd. I don’t see that guy on our current roster or in this recruiting class so far. It has to be a “get” this year too, because unless Boyd loses a year to injury, he goes to the NFL without a doubt after his junior year, just two short years, so we need to develop that complimenting WR next season.

Come on Pitt, sell these guys on the opportunity to play early opposite a future legend and probable Biletnikoff Award winner while you can!

Comment by Dr. Tom 12.31.13 @ 11:25 am

Doesn’t change the fact that Graham tried replacing Sunseri multiple times and Chryst was limited by Wanny’s recruiting miscues, mistakes, and outright crimes against football to Sunseri and a true freshman in Voytik, who was redshirted. Heck, why do you think Chryst had to bring in a guy who was transferring to his third school in five years?!

Comment by Joshua 12.31.13 @ 11:25 am

Dr Tom, You are often a voice of reason here. Sometimes you have a way of presenting sensible ideas that give us food for thought. Then every once in awhile you suggest something really boneheaded. The Ditka post strikes me as category 3. Not only would Mike Ditka have no interest in the job but he has no qualifications to do it. If you add Wanny and Ditka and Smilin’ Steve’s brains together you are still a few lobes short of smart, and that is what the job requires.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.31.13 @ 11:26 am

Who, the RS freshmen Mark Myers and Anthony Gonzalez? What have they turned into? Haven’t exactly been Joe Flaccos!

Comment by Joshua 12.31.13 @ 11:27 am

I agree that having a Pitt alum as AD would be most desireable but I don’t think we want re-tread coaches in that position. Here are a few off the top of my head Pitt alums (or former Pitt students who may not have graduated) I think would be great in the job even though most might not want it:

Mark Cuban
Billy Knight
Curtis Martin
Marty Schottenheimer
Susan Arnold
Orrin Hatch
Chip Yablonsky

Comment by Pitt Dad 12.31.13 @ 11:32 am

Joshua, Graham tried to replace Sunseri because he wasn’t fit to run Grahm’s system … nor was any other QB on the roster (aside from Andrson) recruited for that style … are you that dense???

Yet, when PC came in and returned to the pro style, Sunseri had >3000 yds (more than Savage) with 21 Tds and 3 Ints. He wasn’t a great QB by no means but much better than what he was put through the previous season.

Comment by wbb 12.31.13 @ 11:33 am

I meant re-tread Pitt coaches not re-tread coaches in general.

Comment by Pitt Dad 12.31.13 @ 11:34 am

SofS22 you fully understand my point! I’ll qualify my suggestion by referring you to my previous quote, “if you’re looking for a former coach”.

I don’t think that Wanny has any qaulifications for the AD job either, but if that is the premise for selecting an AD, who is a Pitt guy who has been a head coach, who would you prefer, Ditka or Wanny? That was my point. I’d take Ditka any day of the week.

Comment by Dr. Tom 12.31.13 @ 11:36 am

Yeah, there’s a phrase for what Tino did. It’s called “binging on bad teams”. He also got sacked a lot, which tells me his pocket awareness was garbage.

link to espn.go.com

Comment by Joshua 12.31.13 @ 11:41 am

Joshua, binging on bad teams, huh? Here are his numbers against the BEST 5 teams they played last year (all bowl teams):

09/15/12 Virginia Tech
W 35-17 28 19 67.9 3 1 180.98
10/05/12 @ Syracuse
L 13-14 33 25 75.8 0 0 156.96
10/13/12 13 Louisville
L 35-45 37 28 75.7 2 0 158.68
11/03/12 @ 4 Notre Dame
L 26-29 29 19 65.5 1 0 124.40
11/24/12 Rutgers
W 27-6 39 21 53.8 2 0 119.67

Comment by wbb 12.31.13 @ 11:50 am

The last figure is the QB rating … so, Joshua, just quit with your stigmas because they are all overblown

Bottom line, you see the actual data above … and

Wanny had the best 3 year run that Pitt has had in 3 decades

Comment by wbb 12.31.13 @ 11:54 am

wbb…that he did, but it took him 4 years to have a winning record, and had 2 good years, followed by a not so good 7-5 record which got him fired.

Pittsburgh Panthers (Big East Conference) (2005–2010)
2005 Pittsburgh 5–6 4–3 T–3rd
2006 Pittsburgh 6–6 2–5 6th
2007 Pittsburgh 5–7 3–4 T–3rd
2008 Pittsburgh 9–4 5–2 T–2nd L Sun
2009 Pittsburgh 10–3 5–2 T–2nd W Meineke Car Care 15 15
2010 Pittsburgh 7–5 5–2 T–1st BBVA Compass BowlA
Pittsburgh: 42–31 24–18

Comment by markp 12.31.13 @ 12:04 pm

But his last 3 years inlcudng the 7-5 was part of the best 3 year run.

He also, in his first 3 years, had the circumstance of facing WVU, Lousiville and Rutgers … all who had the best 3year run in the history of their programs. And also, Cincy did the very same from 07-09.

But don’t believe me …. LOOK IT UP!!

Comment by wbb 12.31.13 @ 12:10 pm

Listen, I’m not saying Wanny was God’s gift to coaching, or that Sunseri was the same to QBing … all I have been saying for the past few years is that all of the stigmas against these 2 are ludicrous

Comment by wbb 12.31.13 @ 12:18 pm

@wbb “the best 3 year run at in the last 3 decades” That is like being crowned king of the winged monkeys.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.31.13 @ 12:18 pm

and until proven differently, I contend that Wanny’s firing wasa big mistake.

Coincidentally, the Plain Dealer headlines today are “Browns are finding that hiring a coach is much harder than firing a coach”

something our AD should have learned while at Nebraska

Comment by wbb 12.31.13 @ 12:23 pm

VT was a fluke, and you know it. Tino had zero TDs against Syracuse, meaning his stats were empty in that game. Louisville and Notre Dame were choke jobs. And the rest of the Big East was the definition of a mediocre conference last year, especially when looking at their bowl records (Cinci was neck-and-neck with Duke until the end and probably would have lost had Renfree been completely healthy. Syracuse played against Geno Smith, which should say everything about that game. Louisville had an overrated UF team to play. Rutgers losing to VT and Pitt wetting the bed completely against Ole Miss tell me more about the conference than the three wins. 16-32 against OLE F’N MISS isn’t going to cut it). Had Sunseri been playing against the ACC last season, his stats would have been closer to the Ole Miss game. Why do you think he’s stuck in Saskatchewan after his “record-setting” season?

And one more thing: college QB rating means nothing to me. I’m frankly surprised that the metric being used isn’t the same as the pro QB rating.

As it is, doesn’t matter, because the main reason Wanny isn’t Pitt’s coach is because his players couldn’t stop getting arrested. Just ask Jovani Chappel, who nearly ran me over on the sidewalk on Meyran with his car. Don’t believe me? Just look at his arrest record from April 2010, which includes assault on a parking-enforcement officer.

Comment by Joshua 12.31.13 @ 12:27 pm

When Wanny refused to suspend Jabaal Sheard, that was a fireable offense.

Comment by Joshua 12.31.13 @ 12:29 pm

And before you get on me about “double secret probation”, sorry, doesn’t count.

Comment by Joshua 12.31.13 @ 12:30 pm

Addendum to Chappel comment: I was witness to the assault. His crime against me was “reckless driving without regard to life”.

Comment by Joshua 12.31.13 @ 12:33 pm

wbb – his 2005 team was one year removed from the Fiesta Bowl – and it took him 4 seasons to produce a winner. HCPC 1st year had back-to-back coaching changes yet was .500 and was against 4 ranked opponents, and was a winner his second year with his 1st real recruiting class…I liked DW but he proved time and time again he wasn’t cut out to be a head coach.

Comment by markp 12.31.13 @ 12:38 pm

So Louisville was fluke even though they dominated in a BCS bowl game.
Same for Syracuse which had it best team in years, and dominated Geno, Steamandand Tavon in its bowl
ND last year beat Oklahoma, Stanford, USC, Mich and Mich St
And last year’s Ole Miss would have beaten this year’s Bowling Green by at least 3 TDs … not even close

If you want to make the case that wanny should have been fired because of the off-the-field problems, fine! (I believe he should have been given a year to clean it up) But regardless, don’t throw those stigmas at me when he was more successful that anyother coach we had since the 80s … not to mention his loyalty.

Comment by wbb 12.31.13 @ 12:40 pm

Jabaal Sheard was just nominated as the Browns’ Walter Payron Man of the Year. He served no jail time despite throwing a guy thru a glass door in front of 2 policemen … so you tell me who the protagonist was in that incident!!!

markp, in 05, Pitt was forced to start natural freshmen on both the OL and DL in the very first game (Davis and Mustakas) .. doesn’t sound too stocked up to me. And that ‘BCS” 04 team won a 4-team tiebreaker in a 7-team league, which had 2 doormats (and first year D1 UConn wasn’t even one of thedoormats.) That 04 Pitt team was not good; the 06 team which had to compete with 4 ranked BE teams, 3 of which finished in the Top 12, was better than the 04 team

Comment by wbb 12.31.13 @ 12:48 pm

@wbb, His record didn’t get him fired although it was nothing special. The kids were out of control. The problem was what they replaced him with.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.31.13 @ 12:53 pm

exactly .. if you’re going to fire a coach who had the best 3 year run decades, you better darn replace him with a pretty good coach.

Comment by wbb 12.31.13 @ 12:55 pm

wbb – let it go – he’s gone – he had his shot (and Blewit!)…HCPC is the head coach – support him and Pitt!

Comment by markp 12.31.13 @ 12:57 pm

trouble is that everyone here is expecting the next Saban, MajorsI or even Brian Kelly. Aint’ gonna happen! This is not Bama, Pitt of the 1970s, and you can see the trouble Kelly is now having (people seem to forget that he came to a Cincy program built up by Mark Dantonio)

Comment by wbb 12.31.13 @ 12:57 pm

I have a season ticket and have to travel 2.5 hrs one way to the game … don’t tell me I don’t support Pitt

Comment by wbb 12.31.13 @ 12:59 pm

We’d have to hire Keyshawn Johnson to keep Ditka awake: link to chicagonow.com

Comment by panther94 12.31.13 @ 1:05 pm

@WBB, I thought he deserved to get fired and his kids let him down with the criminal activity. The administration did a bad job replacing him in reaction to addressing the problem. They also did it on the cheap. Chryst has done well considering his experience level and situation he inherited. I am not questioning your support but I do agree it is time to let it go. Short of a radical change in the administration Pitt as a football power will happen only by miracle.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.31.13 @ 1:12 pm

Wannstedt was let go, not just because of the player arrests… but because he was a HORRIBLE In-Game Coach.

The one thing Wanny can be credited with is his relentless pursuit of LeSean McCoy after USC, Miami and the others backed off following the ankle injury his senior year in high school.

Take away McCoy… and there’s NO victory in South Bend… NO Upset in Morgantown… NO Contract Extension.

The fact is Wannstedt would have been out the door long before the Sports Illustrated Cover Story… if it weren’t for his good fortune in landing the current NFL Rushing Champ and a likely future first ballot Hall of Famer.

Comment by PittofDreams 12.31.13 @ 4:38 pm

Pittofdreams, for the umpteenth time, even though he may not be the best in-game coach

WHAT PART OF HE HAD THE BEST 3 YEAR RUN IN THE PAST 3 DECADES DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND?? (faults and all!)

Why is this so hard for people to comprehend – I don’t get it!!

Comment by wbb 12.31.13 @ 4:51 pm

Now as far as the job of Athletic Director goes… being the nice guy he is and his passion for Pitt and sports would make him an interesting candidate.

However, his involvement in the Player Arrests Scandal SADLY TRUMP any of the positives that might make him a viable choice… and that’s really a shame.

Comment by PittofDreams 12.31.13 @ 4:55 pm

Wbb i am with you they just dont get it and chryst is just as bad of a game day coach one the ball is kiced off .
he has not much better then wanny

Comment by Frankcan 12.31.13 @ 4:57 pm

Let’s support our AD. Smug is making sure Pitt follows his plan which will lead to mediocrity in all sports. The ACC needs a school that can be beaten with ease. However, I will credit him with picking up the phone when the ACC called and for saying HELL YES. Thanks BC.

Chryst does deserve our support. But he does need help and I’d be upset if no coaching changes occur. Let’s parlay this bowl win into better times to come.

Love Wanny and Ditka as ambassadors. Maybe as lead fundraisers for Pitt’s new OCS? 🙂

Comment by TX Panther 12.31.13 @ 4:58 pm

What? No votes for Matt Cavanaugh, LOL. Be realistic.

Comment by Notrocketscience 12.31.13 @ 5:04 pm

chryst had 2 players liveing with a drug dealer
and one who while not kicked off was suspened he had a player who choked a female and went to trail and jail. so this shit happens not juat to wanny .
kids get in fights kids get drunk in 1980 it was just covered up give me a brake

Comment by Frankcan 12.31.13 @ 5:05 pm

@spirit..spot on! Also, had no problem with Wanny being fired. Just a complete shit show following it. No real plan, and went cheap with Haywood.

Still have some reservations about Chryst and his staff, but we may have lucked out. Could have had some one or two win seasons through this nonsense.

If Chryst cannot get it done and is ultimately let go, we still might.

Happy New Year everyone and Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Pap76 12.31.13 @ 5:09 pm

Pitt alumn Gust Avrakotos

We could take scouting to a new level.

Comment by Notrocketscience 12.31.13 @ 5:12 pm

Happy New Year to all of my Pitt brethren. Now push back from that keyboard and start focusing on bringing in the new year with some spirit. Your pick,,,,,

Scotch, Wiskey, vodka etc! Drink to Pitt!

Comment by Dr. Tom 12.31.13 @ 5:23 pm

Good call Dr. Tom. #H2Pitt #HNY !!!!

Comment by CNorwoodAZ 12.31.13 @ 5:45 pm

vodka .

Comment by Frankcan 12.31.13 @ 6:05 pm

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