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July 15, 2014

Slow Build

Filed under: Chryst,Coaches,Football — Chas @ 6:49 am

In Year 3 of Chryst, I don’t think there is yet a settled answer on Coach Paul Chryst. Some may have made up their mind about him one way or another, but I am definitely not one of them. There’s plenty I do like about him: the way he runs the program, the actual coaching, the message, the way he is building the team from the lines out. And there’s plenty that — to be kind — that I question. His hiring practices and recruiting being the biggest.

I think that unless Chryst had stayed at Wisconsin and taken over directly from Brett Bielema, he was going to be doing a full rebuild no matter what program he took over. He would have been determined to make the program the way he wanted. Even if it meant tearing some aspects down. That just seems to be the kind of coach he is. Given the state of Pitt when he arrived, that was fine.

The piece in the P-G today was a very positive one on the way he has been building the team and relations back for Pitt football. We all know the story by now. The coaching chaos. The lost recruiting classes. The mass transfers.

Chryst has done a solid job of rebuilding relations with WPIAL coaches who were still butthurt over Dave Wannstedt being fired.

Like most local coaches, Shady Side Academy’s Dave Havern was a fan of former Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt and was put off by the smooth-talking Graham in his one-year tenure.

It didn’t take long, though, for Chryst to win him over.

“I’m probably not real ready to welcome the new guy with open arms,” Havern, who played at Pitt in the late 1960s and early 1970s, said. “So you take that into consideration, not that I’m anything special, but he had to impress the hell out of me because of what the other guys had done. That speaks more for Paul that he came in and, at least in my case, I just felt eminently comfortable with him and his staff.”

For Woodland Hills coach George Novak, one telling moment came a few weeks back when he invited Chryst to speak at a football camp for young adults with Down syndrome. Not only did Chryst come, but he also stuck around for hours playing catch with the campers.

“I think he’s doing things the right way,” Novak said. “I think what he’s done with the high schools is good.”

The repairing of relationships has helped land good talent locally. At the same time, there were some notable misses. The aftermath back from January led to this Kevin Gorman column that pointed out that good relationships with the local coaches does not necessarily translate into getting their players.

After watching Aliquippa cornerback Dravon Henry pick West Virginia last week, the past two days have done nothing to alleviate that fear.

On Thursday, Pitt lost Gateway safety Montae Nicholson to Michigan State. On Friday, the Panthers lost Washington tailback Shai McKenzie to Virginia Tech.

“I think, perceptually, it’s not good,” national recruiting director Mike Farrell said. “It’s not like the kids are doing it on national television, but it sends a message that they can’t keep the kids home. I think they’ve done a pretty good job keeping kids home for the most part, but those definitely sting. People have the right to freak out.”

“The two best guys in Western Pennsylvania,” Farrell said, “are Dravon Henry and (Thomas Jefferson linebacker) Chase Winovich.”

Both are from pipeline programs. Neither picked Pitt.

That’s not just bad for perception but also reality. Pitt must own its backyard every year.

Many of Pitt’s best players of the past decade, from Tyler Palko and Darrelle Revis to Scott McKillop and Dorin Dickerson to Jon Baldwin and Aaron Donald, are Western Pennsylvania products.

In the cases of Dravon Henry and Shai McKenzie, losing them was annoying. But the real anger came from comments directed at Pitt by them or family members.

The article fairly pointed out the very good local signings. It was simply overshadowed by big misses late in the recruiting cycle. After the season, when the only football discussion centers around recruiting.

Most sports writers start out covering high school sports. In Pittsburgh, most of the media has local ties so they are especially biased to the local players and love seeing the local players do well. They have longer, better relationships with them. It makes getting the story easier; and whether they admit it or not, they are biased towards them because of it.

As a result, there is a bit of overstating the local player importance. We all know the demographics of the region at this point. Pitt can be a good team if they focus only locally. But they need to be wider in their recruiting if they expect to compete at a higher level.

As I stated at the beginning. There really should be no true judgment on Chryst — yet. That is changing. He’s got a lot more of his players in place. The coaching staff has shifted, and he has made all the calls. The team may be young, but it is definitely his at this point.

Fair or not, though, year 3 is when the opinions will start to harden.

Oh, PSU v Central Florida is not a misprint.

8:30 am, playing in Dublin, Ireland.

Hopefully can see them get beat over some eggs and coffee!!

Would be nice to start out their year!!

Comment by Dan 07.16.14 @ 12:32 pm

WVU looks to get beat bad. PSU could lose in the heat at UCF.

Comment by Frank MD 07.16.14 @ 12:35 pm

My mistake. PSU plays in Dublin but maybe …

Comment by Frank MD 07.16.14 @ 12:38 pm

We played over there one year didn’t we??

Rutgers or Temple in the mist??

Comment by Dan 07.16.14 @ 12:47 pm

UCF lost its star QB .. but still has O’Leary at coach. Good coach, bad resume.

FSU v Ok St pretty good opening game. Wisc v LSU also good as is Clemson v UGA.

Boise v Ole Miss on Thurs may be interesting

Comment by wbb 07.16.14 @ 1:57 pm

Comment by Pitt Dad 07.16.14 @ 2:01 pm

link is to the story on Ejuan Price

Comment by Pitt Dad 07.16.14 @ 2:01 pm

we better play good ball control

Comment by wbb 07.16.14 @ 2:23 pm

Actually looking forward to this football season. Feel like they could surprise a few people.

As for hoops, just going into the season with 2 guys who have bodies somewhat built to play center is a big improvement. Even if neither is expected to do much, they can eat up space and fouls, hopefully get some rebounds, and let the more talented offensive players do their thing.

And, hopefully, as the season progresses, at least one might be able to make some truly meaningful contributions. Given how things have played out, I’d be happy with that result.

Comment by Carmen 07.16.14 @ 3:05 pm

Best of luck to Ejuan. Had hoped for big things for and from him. This might be the final straw. Hope he gets one more chance.

One more reason they better recruit some D-ends and linebackers. Lack of any pass rush (other than Donald) was a huge deficiency and it looks like that may continue. Hope that Chris James is the second coming of Dion Lewis so that Conner can help at end. (apologies to Reed) Soto and Durham are not nearly enough. Really makes you wonder why Murphy quit, wonder what kind of shape he is in?

Comment by gc 07.16.14 @ 3:24 pm

wbb, Wanny’s best skill was recruiting D-Ends, maybe they could hire him as a consultant.

Comment by gc 07.16.14 @ 3:26 pm

wanny also moved Pinkston and Malecki from DL to OL (both in NFL) as will probably a 3rd wanny DL recruit — TJ Clemmmings

PC may have to reciprocate by bringing a couple of his OL recruits over to the DL

Comment by wbb 07.16.14 @ 6:15 pm

– looking forward to both FB and BB this year and am expecting good years for both (possibly really good in BB)

– don’t forget that in addition to James and Bennett (decent 3rd down back), they also have Ibrahim, who I think could be a real sleeper

– DeJuan Blair soon to become a Washington Wizard

Comment by wbb 07.16.14 @ 6:19 pm

Fraud and Franklin have something in common.

Comment by gdodson 07.16.14 @ 6:44 pm

Comment by gdodson 07.16.14 @ 6:45 pm

Politicians, salesmen and good recruiters — tell the kids what they want to hear

Comment by wbb 07.17.14 @ 6:35 am

Would appreciate any comments from last night’s ProAm. Anybody see the game? Did Uchebo play?

I don’t have a good feel for this year’s team, but I atleast feel good that Uchebo has improved a lot physically, as evidenced by the ProAm observations to date. This gives us 2 legit Centers this year if Uchebo stays healthy, versus none last year (Zanna did a great job playing out of position, especially offensively), and this may be helpful on the defensive end when we meet up with a team that has a strong Center. All of this presumes Haughton plays, but he’s listed on the official site as someone else pointed out, so that’s good enough for me.

Comment by 1618mt 07.17.14 @ 7:52 am


Got to see Robinson for the 1st time last night. He has lost a lot of weight too.
In general:
Young looks active, quick and much more confident.
Jeter finishes above the rim, has great size for a SF and rebounds well. He plays a great two man game with Lance.
Jones moves well without the ball, can hit shots, looks to rebound and shows good athleticism (hops).
Believe it or not, Wright shows a much better stroke. His form is improved with better ball rotation (unlike the knuckle balls he shot last year).
Newkirk is going to be hard to keep off of the floor. He is showing that he wants to get to the rim.
Uchebo was up against Darius Lewis (6’11”, 255#) for most of his game last night. He played all but a few minutes, did not shy away from contact, and was very active on the boards. He can change directions and jump much more fluidly, but he does not finish well, yet.
Randall (who I think will start a center) was finishing above the rim, showing a nice touch with his right (off) hand and fighting for rebounds. He also stepped out for jumpers, with mixed results. His stroke is much improved and looks like he is having fun.

It seems to me there is depth at every position. And several players have real versatility and can create match-up problems.

Comment by xfmrman 07.17.14 @ 10:22 am

xfmrman – great summary, really appreciate it.

Few thoughts: If Jamie goes small for spurts with Young at Center and Jeter at PF, it really helps that Jeter seems to be a natural rebounder. Also, hopefully finishing improves, but I must say it’s encouraging hearing yet another positive report concerning Uchebo’s mobility & physicality.

Comment by 1618mt 07.17.14 @ 11:01 am

Don’t get me wrong, Uchebo still shows a limp. He looks better in short bursts and quick moves than when running end to end.

Comment by xfmrman 07.17.14 @ 11:08 am

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