Paul Chryst addressed the media this week. For the first time in a few weeks, he actually did so on the heels of a win. Here are the top ten quotes as I see them. Again, all quotes courtesy of Pitt's athletics department.
10. (On the status of senior linebacker Manny Williams): "Not sure. It’ll be a little bit of time, so right now we won’t have Manny."
That's a blow, obviously, but with Dan Mason looking so good last weekend, Pitt has been able to offset the injury a bit. It's funny, but I remember reading articles in the offseason about how Dan Mason might play, but he wouldn't be able to contribute much. Just goes to show that no matter how much stuff is analyzed or how many opinions are out there, you can never get this stuff 100% right.
9. (On how Temple has been able to assimilate back in to the Big East without much trouble): "I’m not surprised by it. They’re a good football team. They were a good football team last year and have been for a number of years now. I’m not surprised one bit by it."
I'm not sure how you could look at the Big East and not think Temple is having a very good season. I'm aware that the Owls have had some good seasons in the MAC, but to come in and win their first two Big East games (not to mention holding a 10-0 halftime lead over a ranked undefeated Rutgers team), they're clearly holding their own. Temple may never be able to win a conference title, but they're clearly competitive in the Big East.
8. (On why tight ends have not been catching a lot of passes of late): "Combination (of factors), I think. J.P. (Holtz) has also been helping on special teams and he’s getting a lot of snaps. The last couple of weeks we’ve used some different personnel groupings. Haven’t lost confidence in them or anything like that, but just trying to make sure that the snaps we’re getting out of guys that we’re using them wisely.
7. (Senior wide receiver Mike) Shanahan is taking on another role of helping us since we’ve been banged up with tight ends.
Yeah - that and, well, Pitt is missing their starting tight end, Hubie Graham. But to get back to Chryst's point about Shanahan, he's really helped offset the lack of a tight end passing game. Shanahan is on pace to break his season record for catches and his 564 yards are only 25 short of a career high. And when you mix in Devin Street's pace for career highs in both catches and yardage, the passing game has still flourished, even without using the tight ends much.
6. (On the status of senior tight end Hubie Graham and if he’s getting closer to return): "I hope so. He did a little bit at the end of last week and certainly we’ll find out more. Hopefully he and Drew (Carswell) are getting more healthy."
Speaking of those tight ends ...
Despite the fact that the passing game has been very good, that doesn't mean it wouldn't be nice to get Graham back. The flip side is that J.P. Holtz is getting some good experience playing as a true freshman.
5. (On how he running game has progressed this season): "I think it’s been inconsistent. There have been times where it’s been good and times where it kind of rolled a bit... I think we’ve been inconsistent in running the football."
The running game was supposed to be the bread and butter of the offense. But while they've been good, the passing game has really exceeded expectations and been far more consistent. Both Ray Graham and Rushel Shell have looked good at times, but they've also been shut down by opposing defenses as well. We can, of course, pin some of that on the offensive line, but it's puzzling that they've performed very well one week and struggled to get out of the backfield the next.
4. (On how developing younger players who don’t see playing time during the games): "Certainly in practice and a lot of those young guys end up being the ‘look’ (scout) teams, so they’re running some plays. Then we’ll also do Thursdays and Sundays, we’ll devote time to the young guys where they’re running our stuff and hopefully helping them grow. ... Our goal is that everybody is going to play on the weekend — if you didn’t play a lot on Saturday, you’ll play on Sunday (in a practice scrimmage)."
I'd never known something like this existed, but it makes sense. It's a good way to not only get guys some experience as Chryst alludes to, but it also has to keep guys fresh in game day situations since it's a scrimmage. If more teams aren't doing this, I'd be interested to know why.
3. "I thought all of our specialists, they all had a moment…Whether it’s (David) Murphy snapping or (Matt) Yoklic punting or Kevin on his kickoffs. ..Certainly, (Murphy) in the conditions facilitated those two things to go. Every one of the guys that are working and throwing it out there, you appreciate."
I'd forgotten all about the fact that Pitt was using a backup longsnapper. That's a far cry from the Louisville game when a botched snap hurt the team. The bottom line is that if the snapping doesn't cross our mind during the game, that's a good thing.
2. On senior kicker Kevin Harper moving past recent struggles and converting two field goals at Buffalo: "He did just what you said. That’s the great thing about sports…you’ve got to produce. We talked about it last week. When things aren’t going 100 percent your way, you’ve just got to work though it."
Harper definitely helped his cause by kicking a couple of field goals this weekend and while it'd be foolish to state he's consistent all of a sudden, it's a step in the right direction.
1. (On the play of junior safety Jason Hendricks): "I think Jason has been playing pretty good and he has been opportunistic. Turnovers are such a big change in momentum, so when you can get them (it is a positive), and Jason is getting his hands on them, and also been doing a good job tackling. Certainly he has been opportunistic and I think we need to get that way — this team needs that."
I don't know what kind of recognition Hendricks will get for postseason awards, but he's playing out of his mind. It's easy to look at the interceptions as a safety and think that some of that is dependent upon just being a bit lucky. But you've got to not only be in position, but actually catch the ball. And the four takeaways he's had have definitely helped Pitt's defense in a big way and he ranks 1st in the Big East in interceptions and is tied for 4th in the nation. He's also registered double-digits in tackles the past two games.