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April 24, 2014

After all the spring practices are in the books. As the long 3 month stretch of nothing but conference and NCAA rules debates, police blotters, recruiting and mindless predictions as the only news in college football stare us in the face, the ACC tosses us one last nugget. A conference call with the coaches to talk about spring practices.

You can listen to the nearly 2 1/2 hours of coaches talking vaguely about spring practices here. Coach Paul Chryst is on at roughly 2 hours into it.

Coach Chryst was asked about Tom Savage’s rise in the draft boards.

“You never know what to expect so if you said you’re surprised or not surprised you’d be wrong,” Chryst said. “He certainly has a lot of the talents and physical attributes. The biggest thing Tom hasn’t done is just play a lot of football.”

Savage transferred twice before ending up at Pitt, which Chryst said limited his visibility to NFL teams. Once they got a chance to look at the tape, they apparently liked what they saw.

“I think a lot of the buzz that comes before he wasn’t as much a part of because he hadn’t played for two years,” Chryst said. “I think what he did in the season, the combine, individual workouts, it’s been great to see. Hopefully everyone is right and his stock is rising.”

In Chryst’s seven-year tenure as Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator, the Badgers had 27 players drafted into the NFL. In two years as Pitt’s coach, he has yet to have a player taken. That will change this year, with Savage, defensive tackle Aaron Donald and wide receiver Devin Street each likely to hear their names called.

“I think for the program, it’s good,” Chryst said. “But most important you’re happy for those individuals. That’s what really makes it special.”

Or, dare we say, “neat.”

There were questions for all the coaches about general topics. The issue of unions for college football players was mentioned. Right now that whole issue is limited to just private colleges. And the vote by Northwestern players really doesn’t matter. It is not going to be known while Northwestern appeals the ruling to the full NLRB. All it does, along with the O’Bannon court case is put pressure on the NCAA and the member institutions to decide when they are done playing chicken with all of this and actually come up with a real plan.

The ACC-specific topic of discussion is whether the conference should stay at 8 games or go to 9.

David Cutliffe of Duke claims that the coaches want to stay at 8 games. Though he was later contradicted by Miami’s Al Golden and VT’s Frank Beamer. The ACC had previously planned to go to 9 games, but backed off because of the ND deal and pressure from Clemson, FSU and GT. Those three schools have annual rivalry games with their in-state SEC foe and did not want to be down to only 2 non-con games they could control.

With the move to a college football playoff and emphasis on strength of schedule, the issue is being revisited. Couple that with the fact that the Big 10 is going to 9 games. And the SEC is likely to as well after this year, that would leave only the ACC with an 8-game schedule.

The reality is that it will happen at some point. The ACC is planning its own network, and 9 games becomes more important from an inventory standpoint. Even with the rotating ND games for all the schools.

Even if Pitt gets to put the PSU game back on as an annual thing. Or sets it up to rotate with WVU down the road, I still favor the ACC going to 9 games. It makes the schedule more appealing and provides more games against all the teams in the conference slightly more frequently.


Anyone know the time table for an ACC network? Any recent articles on it?

Comment by notrocketscience 04.24.14 @ 7:46 am

I vote for 9 games. Most non-com are a waste of time anyway. Especially since fans won’t show up for weak teams.

Basketball ought to consider home and away with everyone and forget the non-com. What a great season that would be.

Comment by gc 04.24.14 @ 8:54 am

Couldn’t agree more gc.

They’d never do it, but for hoops, could you imagine. Everyone home and home.

What do we play, 30 games? Play 28 conference games and have a cupcake or two if you want. Or go to one pre-season tourney.

I mean, what are ya gonna lose, those thrillers with Savannah State and Gannon??

As for football. All for the 9 games. Play more of the conference more often.

Only thing is, as it stands and in the future schedules, kind of 8 league games, 2 cream puffs, two BCS conference team games.

I would not want 9 games, 2 cream puffs and 1 BCS team.

i.e. In a year or two, we’re gonna have Penn State and Oklahoma State on the schedule, with two cream puffs.

If you could tell me they’ll drop one of the cream puffs, I’d be all for it.

If they insisted on the two cream puffs, then I might want to stay at 8, so we could play 2 BCS teams.

I know this year it’s only 3 and 1, with Iowa being the BCS team.

Next year it’s Iowa and Notre Dame, then the following two years, it’s Penn St. and Ok. St.

Would not want to sacrifice games like that.

Comment by Dan 04.24.14 @ 10:16 am

I also don’t believe beating Jacksonville State and Delaware State by 25 points does anything to improve the basketball team, other than sorting some things out for the coach.

Comment by Dan 04.24.14 @ 10:17 am

Sounds like HCPC is as shocked as anyone that Savages stock is rising

Comment by Steve h 04.24.14 @ 11:08 am

9 games, PSU every year, rotate WVU, ND, Other random team every 3 years. No more cream puffs as the final 12th game.

Season tickets every year from this guy from then on out.

Comment by Benzene 04.24.14 @ 11:32 am

Totally agree with the nine ACC games per year. Would prefer playing PSU every year but do not see them agreeing to that since they get to pound on Rutgers and Merryland every year. Miss Notre Dame being a yearly opponent.

Comment by John In South Carolina 04.24.14 @ 11:47 am

I would prefer eight games if the OOC schedule were better, but that’s unlikely so nine it is. At least with nine, you’ll only have to wait six years instead of 12 to see FSU again in Pittsburgh.

Comment by Iron Duke 04.24.14 @ 12:00 pm

Comment by notrocketscience 04.24.14 @ 1:52 pm

If all these other power conferences are going to 9 conference games, the ACC has to follow suit.

And I would think that might mean just going to 13 regular season games. As you have that 2-4 week ‘down’ time from the last regular season game until the first meaningless bowl game sponsored by some company you never heard of.

Comment by Emel 04.24.14 @ 3:45 pm

Is anybody else, other than me, finding it ironic that Todd Thomas is listed as one of the Ed Conway Most Improved Player Award winners on special teams?
Isn’t this the same guy that, just last year, felt entitled to be a lock for 1st string linebacker?

So coach Chris says, “show me”. Thomas then takes offense and feels dissed, quit the team and then realizes he’s in some deep doodoo from there on out.

Now, a single year later, Mr Thomas is becoming A solid leader of this Pitt Panthers team. This gives a lot of credence to coach Chryst’s concept of personal responsibility.

I’m liking this team more everyday

Comment by Dr. tom 04.24.14 @ 5:39 pm

FWIW, Khem Birch just announced he’s turning pro ….. no doubt another decision influenced by his trusted ‘handlers’

Comment by wbb 04.24.14 @ 5:45 pm

@ Doc Tom

While I like the notion, team spirit and all that.
My concern is on a defense which is losing quite a few really good players, like Donald, Hendricks, Ezell and another starter in Murphy and is kind of thin at LB.

Why on Earth are you playing Todd Thomas on Special Teams… the Spring ?

Comment by Emel 04.24.14 @ 6:01 pm

Speaking of the Defense.

Here’s the predicted Fall Depth Chart:

link to

Comment by Emel 04.24.14 @ 6:15 pm

No mention at all of Cullen Christian. Is he still on team ?

Comment by Emel 04.24.14 @ 6:20 pm

Pretty sure he transferred. I like our new DB coach! Seems to have more of an attack style which I think will suit our guys well! Especially Pitts who needs a big year!

Comment by Sweet Caroline 04.24.14 @ 10:43 pm

Emel, Coach Chryst admitted the obvious that special teams play had to improve dramatically. Therefore the best players are going to need to be “all in” for special-teams, to get that improvement that is so dearly required.

Of course, it would be nice to have a solid recruiting class that could step right into that role without having any let downs. Unfortunately, Pitt’s roster is not nearly deep enough with that kind of talent to get the job done without playing at least some of your first stringers.

It’s a dangerous move because of the potential for injuries but it can have dramatic consequences. Putting Boyd back to handle kicks worked out pretty fine for the Panthers in our pizza bowl game now didn’t it?

Our horrendous special teams play last year cost us at least two ballgames. Now we have a coach to deal with special-teams and it appears we have the commitment to put the guys in there that can make a difference. I hope we see the improvement on the field this season, we certainly need to see it if we expect to keep improving our record.

Comment by Dr. Tom 04.25.14 @ 7:15 am

@Dr Tom

And, I hope Winslow can pin teams back with punts and place it out of bounds, when we want him to. We cannot afford to again this year surrender field position constantly due to poorly executed punts. The kid has the leg. Does he have the “skill” to go with it?


Comment by pmdH2P 04.25.14 @ 8:07 am

I really like this Winslow kid. He kicks like a mule, hang time of 4.5+ sec! Biggest concern I have with him is will he actually out kick his special team’s punt coverage? Nice problem to have though when you think about it.

Comment by Dr. Tom 04.25.14 @ 10:51 am

So, Doc, he kicks facing the other way? Love it!

Comment by steve1 04.25.14 @ 12:45 pm

You know what’s fascinating? KY has yet to officially name Slice an assistant coach.

Skeletons in his closet? maybe.

Comment by steve1 04.25.14 @ 1:08 pm

I like the way the defense is shaping up. Actually the whole team, but there are a lot of redshirt freshman on that two deep. I think that means we are a year or two away…

We’ll have a good team this year, but I wouldn’t get hung up on 8-4. We are still pretty thin in some areas.

That being said I am pulling for every one of these young guys to seize their opportunity and make the most of it. Looking very forward to watching this team grow.

Comment by Atlanta Panther 04.25.14 @ 2:39 pm

Since when does UK worry about skeletons in closets?

They would never hired you know who.

Comment by Emel 04.25.14 @ 4:36 pm

FWIW, Khem Birch just announced he’s turning pro ….. no doubt another decision influenced by his trusted ‘handlers’
Comment by wbb 04.24.14 @ 5:45 pm

Birch is projected to be picked in the 2nd round.
He’s showing up on several boards.

Comment by Emel 04.25.14 @ 4:37 pm

Agree with those advocating for a nine game conference schedule. Don’t see the Pitt-Penn State series continuing past the four scheduled games. Don’t see West Virginia ever coming back on the schedule anytime soon.

ESPN is promoting A&M and the SEC network with billboards in Houston and Galveston. Assume they will do the same with an ACC network in those markets.

Comment by TonyinHouston 04.25.14 @ 8:37 pm

Houston Chronicle showing Aaron Donald some love.
link to

Comment by TonyinHouston 04.25.14 @ 8:40 pm

In a plan for the Big Five conferences to exert more control over their affairs, athletic directors would gain power and control. Wonder how that would work out for Cornhole & Pitt?
link to

Comment by TonyinHouston 04.25.14 @ 8:45 pm

“You never know what to expect so if you said you’re surprised or not surprised you’d be wrong,” Chryst said…

This is why I hate listening to sports coaches talk about their business. Aside from Marv Levy and maybe Chuck Noll every other coach I can think of is as ambiguous as the worst politician or Pentagon Officer.

Much better had he just said ‘I have no damn idea if he’ll get drafted high or not.’

Comment by Reed 04.26.14 @ 3:53 pm

Reed, it was almost like PC was damning him with faint praise

Comment by wbb 04.27.14 @ 9:00 am

Speaking of damning with faint praise … incoming TE Brian O’Neill was just named player of the year in Delaware Actually, congrats Brian, it is a darn good honor!

Comment by wbb 04.27.14 @ 9:11 am

Notes: a large handful of FB & BB as well a other Pitt student athletes headed to Haiti for the annual charity work

Musapha Heron was in Pgh this weekend for JamFest, and confirms he is firm with Pitt (f course, still a ways to go)

Comment by wbb 04.27.14 @ 9:23 am


Thanks for the update on Heron.


Comment by pmdH2P 04.27.14 @ 1:26 pm

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