Created on Thursday, 07 February 2013 05:01 Written by RJ Sepich / Sports Editor
Paul Chryst stepped up to the podium with a huge grin on his face.
“I’d like to say it’s good to see everyone again,” the Pitt football head coach joked, “but it’s been a nice respite.”
Appearing before the media for the first time since his first season in charge of the Panthers ended with a defeat against Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl, Chryst seemed excited about Pitt’s 2013 recruiting class — and rightfully so.
Chryst and his staff were happy to announce on Wednesday afternoon that 23 recruits had faxed in their National Letters of Intent and committed to play football at the University of Pittsburgh. The additions complete an unusually large 27-man recruiting class that will add talent and depth to the Pitt roster.
“Today is an exciting day,” Chryst said. “As a coach, the greatest thing about today is adding players to your team, and there’s nothing more important than the team. I am extremely excited about this group of 27 guys who believe Pitt is a great fit for them.”
According to Rivals.com, Pitt’s recruiting class ranks 33rd in the country.
It’s unlikely that Chryst would’ve been smiling if not for the confirmation earlier in the day that highly touted wide receiver Tyler Boyd from Clairton, Pa., had signed for Pitt.
“Tyler’s gotten a lot of attention,” Chryst said. “He is a tremendous guy and a competitor. We think he can impact our offense in a number of ways.”
Despite speculation in the past couple weeks that Boyd was wavering from his verbal commitment to Pitt in favor of playing at West Virginia or Tennessee, Coach Chryst said he wasn’t worried “at all” that the talented wide receiver’s fax would come through.
“There was good dialogue [with Boyd],” Chryst said. “We don’t get caught up in a lot of the buzz. I always felt good about [his commitment]. We’re really excited to have him.”
Joining Boyd will be two of his fellow Clairton teammates, receiver Terrish Webb and defensive back Titus Howard.
Chryst was also happy to talk about the chances that Dorian Johnson, the other big-name recruit that officially joined the Panthers on Wednesday, might see the field as early as next season.
“He’s going to get an opportunity [to play],” Chryst said. “He’s a special player.”
The 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive lineman from Belle Vernon, Pa., was ranked as one of the best 50 high school seniors in the nation by both ESPN and Rivals.com.
Of the 27 recruits, four have already enrolled early at Pitt — quarterback Tra’Von Chapman, defensive lineman Tyrique Jarrett, tight end Scott Orndoff and defensive lineman Shakir Soto.
Throughout the press conference, Chryst emphasized that his staff’s main goal in recruiting players this year was to “get bigger,” and the numbers suggest they succeeded. All but two of the recruits are listed as taller than six feet, and nine of the newcomers weight at least 250 pounds.
After discussing each of the new Panthers, Chryst announced that the Pitt football spring game will be played at Bethel Park High School on Friday, April 12.
“In less than a month, we’re starting spring ball,” Chryst said. “And we’re going to finish our spring ball at Bethel Park. We’re pretty excited about that. We’re playing at a nice high school — a beautiful facility.”
The four players who enrolled early will have the advantage of participating in those spring practices, while the other 23 members of the 2013 Pitt recruiting class will have to wait until the summer to join their new coaches and teammates.