The season's not technically over with the BBVA Compass Bowl still to come, but with the regular season concluded, I got to thinking - how did Paul Chryst do in his first season?
A month or so ago, I came the conclusion in the comments section of one of our posts that I'd give Paul Chryst a C-. The reasoning, as I stated then, was that Chryst was having a below average season. Not a horrible one, but below average for sure.
When I look at everything now that the regular season is finished, though, I'm willing to bump him up to a C.
It really didn't get much worse than Chryst's opening-season loss to FCS program Youngstown State. Sure, we weren't sure how the Panthers would respond with yet another new offense to learn. And after several players were suspended the night before, that didn't help matters. But safe to say, I don't know anyone that predicted the disaster that would follow. The team wasn't only not ready to play, but they were handled pretty easily by the Penguins.
There were also the losses to UConn, and to a lesser degree, Syracuse. The Panthers were flat in both games and the one against the Huskies was particularly disappointing. Pitt had just gone toe to toe with what is now the No. 1 team in the land, Notre Dame, and they followed that up by a lackluster effort against one of the worst teams in the conference. Pitt wasn't ready to play in that one and that falls a bit on Chryst.
There were also playcalling gaffes. I remember scratching my head several times during the season, but the two that stick out were the team going for it on 4th down near the end of first halves against Louisville and Notre Dame and failing each time. Against the Cardinals, it cost Pitt three points and some momentum. The Irish weren't able to capitalize, missing a field goal, but they were both examples when Chryst should have clearly punted the ball away. The part that was difficult to understand was Chryst going for it against Notre Dame after the failed attempt earlier in the year against Louisville.
Pitt had to rebound several times this year to keep the season from going off track and Chryst helped the team do that. After starting out 0-2, Pitt came back to beat Virginia Tech and Gardner-Webb. After two more losses, they again came back beating Buffalo and Temple. And with a bowl game on the line after two more losses, Pitt beat up on ranked Rutgers and South Florida. Chryst did an excellent job of ensuring the team didn't give up on the season even after some rocky stretches.
Chryst also got more than anyone could have possibly expected out of Tino Sunseri. Sunseri, who struggled wildly the year before, turned into an All-Conference candidate and to throw only two interceptions all season is an incredible feat. Throwing for more than 3,100 yards, Sunseri really had an unbelievable year.
Then there were the off-field contributions via recruiting. Chryst is quietly putting together what could be an excellent recruiting year in landing top lineman Dorian Johnson and four-star quarterback Tra'Von Chapman. He also has several other big fish still in play and could approach a top 25 class if he lands both Robert Foster and Tyler Boyd. And to be fair, you can also give Chryst credit for keeping Pitt's 2012 class together including stars Rushel Shell and Chad Voytik after the unexpected departure of Todd Graham. So far, Chryst has done a good job on the recruiting front.
When you add it all up, to me it's a bit of a mixed bag. He's had his good moments and his bad and it's really pretty even. I'd like to give him a higher grade, but 6-6 in the Big East just isn't a very good year, all things considered. Chryst has work to do, but the good thing is, I'm sure he knows it.