Here are the top ten developments/quotes (as I see them) from Paul Chryst's press conference this week in advance of the Virginia Tech game.
10. (On what he did during the open week) "I saw Central Catholic play Pine-Richland in a JV game. It was a stellar performance. (laughs) I went to a couple recruiting games, but I didn’t watch a ton of college football. It’s ‘Buctober’, so you have to focus on the Bucs. And the Penguins started."
9. (On the Pittsburgh Pirates) "Talking about a team, the best thing about watching them is they just keep playing even when their backs are against the wall. It’s fun to watch. It’s pretty exciting."
8. (On James Conner earning more carries than Isaac Bennett) "We want to go with whoever is playing the best. Both have done some good things, and both have areas that they’ve got to get better at. That’s part of the reason why both are in there — the good and the bad. We’ve got to keep helping each of them grow and be more consistent. The playing time will work itself out then."
This really seems to be a weekly thing, so whatever - I'll play along. Chryst is going to continue to use both unless one of them really plays their way out of the rotation. The one thing we could see more of is Rachid Ibrahim, who had that big clinching run at the end of the Virginia game. But yeah, Bennett's carries have been on the decline (he had five for a meager five yards last week), so I expect Conner to continue handling the bulk of the load until he struggles.
7. (On preparing for an away game in a hostile environment like Virginia Tech) "You can try to do a lot of things. With my past experiences, obviously when you go on the road and are on offense, crowd noise is going to be a factor."
Yeah, this game is going to be a step up from the sole road game that Pitt has had so far in the Duke game. That was a road game, but this will be more of a true road atmosphere complete with hostile environment and all. It helps that the game is at noon instead of a night kickoff, but still - will be a stiff challenge.
6. (On if he talks to the team about big-picture goals this season) "No, not really. We talk about being the best you can be. We talk about playing good football. Winning is a byproduct of doing all of the little things right. ..It’s OK to see the big picture, but that’s the beautiful thing about sports: you focus on the now."
That's really a bit ridiculous in a way. Obviously, the team has a goal to reach the ACC title game. It might not be particularly realistic, but you play for titles. And if Chryst isn't sure if the team needs to have goals or not, he should revisit Dave Wannstedt's tenure. But I get his point and even why, to a degree, that he refuses to acknowledge them in public. Just know that it's, well, ridiculous. All teams have goals.
5. (On if he is surprised by the contributions of true freshmen) "It all started in camp, and we were hoping to get production out of them...I don’t know if you’re surprised because they’re in those roles and you’re hoping to get some production out of them"
I can actually buy Chryst saying this since he's constantly around the team and more aware of their capabilities, but I think it's safe to say that most of us are pretty impressed with how they've played so far. Regardless of what insane predictions you may have made about Tyler Boyd before the season, he's been better than advertised. Same goes for James Conner, Scott Orndoff, and even Matt Galambos, who got a start in Shane Gordon's absence. Kicker Chris Blewitt hasn't been great, but has also made some kicks, too. There's no doubt that the true freshmen have been surprising to me.
4. (On how he works to keep the team grounded during their current winning streak) "We just throw the [game] tape on again."
3. (On the confidence of his team) "I like being around this group, but you would have to ask them as far as what they really feel. I don’t go around and ask them if they’re confident. But I think they’re confident, and I think they’re gaining confidence. I believe they like being around each other as a group and that they like to play football."
If this team has any swelled heads at all, that would really be incredible. Pitt is pretty fortunate to be sitting at 3-1 and could easily be 2-2 after the collapses by the defense and special teams at Duke. Pitt did well to close out that game and the one against Virginia, but it's still safe to say questions surround this team about just how good they are.
2. (On the availability of quarterback Tom Savage and other injured players) Shane [Gordon] is going to try and see where he’s at. [Bryan] Murphy missed the last couple games; we think he is going to go. Particularly with Murphy and Shane, we don’t know how they’ll feel. They both did some running and other things last week, so we’ll see. We had them doing some stuff, but no contact. But for the most part, we’re as healthy as we’ve been in a while."
1. "[Tom Savage] has been cleared."
Tom Savage getting cleared is obviously the big news, but getting Murphy and Gordon back would be huge and give the defense a little more depth. Good to see the team relatively healthy heading into this game.