If you've not been reading Paul Zeise's daily reports from Pitt's spring football practices, you should be. He's not only informed, but offers good opinions and insight. For partially that reason, I haven't done a ton of spring stuff so far. There's no need to play the part of a chimpanzee and regurgitate what you can find out there elsewhere. My focus is generally on providing opinions to the reports and in reading Zeise's last report, I've got some thoughts on Paul Chryst.
First, Zeise's take:
One thing that is clear about Paul Chryst - he is being embraced by the high school coaches in Western Pennsyvlania and the reason is - he is open to them and he wants them to know he values them and values what they mean to Pitt. I've seen more high school coaches at these few spring practices than I did all of last year and all of them have said the same thing - they really like and respect Chryst because as one guy put it "he's a football coach, not a publicity hound" That should help Pitt recruiting locally, though, ultimately Chryst has to win for Pitt to have a chance to win some of these local battles.
That's clearly welcome news. Here are some thoughts -
There was always a disconnect with Graham and the local high school coaches. I think even his strongest supporters would agree with that. Those of us who felt that way probably hoped that his personality would be able to win said coaches over ... as he won over the fans with his dynamic press conference. We won't know how it would have turned out since Graham was only around for a season, but quotes like the one in Zeise's piece indicate he was pretty far off from coming across as genuine.
Enter Chryst. Being on the outside looking in, it's difficult to tell how 'real' he is, but I've got a much better feeling about him and his relationship with the area coaches. And here's the thing - that's not only important for recruiting in western PA, but in other places.
High school football coaches talk. Like anything else, it's a fraternity. Coaches in Pittsburgh know coaches out west. Coaches in the midwest know coaches in the south. These guys regularly communicate with coaches around the country and when a kid from, say, Florida, becomes interested in Pitt, you can bet that word reaches his coach from other coaches that he may know in the area about the program, Chryst, etc.
Chryst isn't known to be a great recruiter and that's why it's all the more important for him to develop relationships with the local coaches.
And here's another thing I found interesting. With the announcement that Pitt will hold their Blue/Gold game at North Hills High School, Pitt is again making another effort to reach out. The Panthers actually did this several years ago under Dave Wannstedt in his first season and I believe it got him off to a good start. Now with Chryst doing it, it begs the question: Why didn't Todd Graham try this approach? He was only here for a season, but it would have been a good way to get off on the right foot. It's pretty interesting that both Wannstedt and Chryst did it in their first season while the carpetbagging Graham did not.
All of this isn't to say that Chryst will be a great coach. We're a long way off to even seeing how he does in his first season. But I'm pretty encouraged by the sound of things so far.