Football: Chryst talks about new changes

By Lauren Kirschman

The Pitt football team spent last season shifting from from a methodical, pro-style offense to a… The Pitt football team spent last season shifting from a methodical, pro-style offense to a quick, no-huddle style of play. This year, the Panthers will have to adjust to another new system.

New head coach Paul Chryst — Pitt’s fourth head coach in just more than a year — said his system is similar to former Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt’s style of play. Chryst — the former offensive coordinator at Wisconsin — runs a pro-style offense, but has been known to adjust the system to his players.

“You never want the system to be the thing that prevents you from playing well,” Chryst said in a meeting with the media on Tuesday. “If you want to learn it, you can learn it absolutely in a fairly short time. I believe that, and I do believe that we can teach it.”

Chryst said that many of the concepts he uses carry over between systems, but there will be new terminology for the players to master.

“You are learning a new foreign language,” he said. “That’s our job, to teach it. It’s also our job to make sure we aren’t doing too much and that guys know what they’re doing.”

Chryst served as Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator for six seasons, and the Badgers accumulated a 60-18 record during that time. The Badgers averaged 44.1 points per game and 469.9 yards per game under Chryst last season. This season, Wisconsin broke the record for points per game previously held by the 2010 team — also coordinated by Chryst — that averaged 41.5 points per game.

Two months ago, Chryst took over for Todd Graham, who bolted for Arizona State with his high-octane offense after just one season as Pitt’s head coach. Since then, Chryst has been working to build relationships and trust with the Pitt players.

“Your actions have to match your words, and they have to do it consistently over time,” Chryst said. “You are just starting to build [relationships] right now. It’s not like there’s a five-minute conversation and there’s trust.”

Chryst said he’s finishing up meeting with each player one-on-one for about 20 minutes. The sessions aren’t used to talk about football, he said, but to get to know the players as people.

“These last couple of weeks I’ve enjoyed a lot because you get to be with the players and you get to be around them,” he said. “This building isn’t a lot of fun without the players … Each of these players has their own story and you start to get to know them and see where they’re coming from and what makes them unique.”

Chryst said he’ll use spring ball to determine the players’ capability on the field. He said he’s watched starting quarterback Tino Sunseri on tape enough to “get a feel for him,” but added that he didn’t want to form too many opinions yet about his play.

“You want to get a little sense of who your team is and who they are, but that’s what we’ve got spring ball for,” Chryst said.

He said there will be open competition at every position because the players are always competing, but he added that players who are well-established shouldn’t get beat out.

“The great thing about sports is what happens between the line matters. Production matters, and playing the game well matters,” Chryst said. “The best players should be playing. If you were a starter and you are getting better, then you probably still should be a starter.”

Chryst said he’ll hopefully fill the quarterbacks coach and running backs coach positions soon. Pitt lost offensive coordinator Bob Bostad to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and running backs coach Eddie Faulkner to Wisconsin.

Joe Rudolph, originally hired as the quarterbacks coach, was named the offensive coordinator and the tight ends coach. Previous tight ends coach Jim Hueber will now focus on the offensive line.

Chryst said he knew that Bostad “wanted to go big picture” but that he didn’t know when that chance would arise. Hueber and Rudolph served as a contingency plan in case Bostad received another offer.

“You knew that, at some point, Bob was going to have some opportunities,” Chryst said. “You do absolutely plan and have contingencies. You got good coaches that can coach different spots, that helps.”

He hasn’t made any decisions on which coach will call the offensive plays, although he said he’s planning on being involved and joked that there’s some plays he’ll always call: the good ones.


-Due to injury, running back Ray Graham is out for spring practice while offensive lineman Chris Jacobson, wide receiver Mike Shanahan, defensive back Jarred Holley and outside linebacker Todd Thomas will be limited.

-E.J. Banks and Anthony Gonzalez will work at quarterback in spring camp. Banks came to Pitt as a defensive back. Gonzalez originally started as quarterback before Graham used him as an H-back last year.

-Chryst said he hasn’t planned a “big Junior Day,” but is having days for high school juniors to come visit. Teams use Junior Day to bring a large number of the athletes they’re recruiting see the school and facilties as well as to meet the coaches.