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Pitt Football Recruiting: Paul Chryst goes all in with offensive line

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Since he's been on campus, Paul Chryst has struggled to win the Pitt fanbase over. Really, when you think about it, it's been pretty unfair. Chryst walked into a mess of a program without quality depth at several positions. Despite salvaging two seasons and getting Pitt to bowls, he's often been the subject of criticism - some fair (playcalling), some unfair (recruiting).

When it comes to recruiting, Chryst has done more than a fair job given the circumstances. He's failed to land some of the bigger kids he's targeted, but when you consider that Pitt came off of a 6-6 year when he came in and has only been 6-6 the past two seasons, the recruiting the Panthers have done hasn't been bad at all. Perfect? No, of course not. But to expect Chryst to land Top 25 classes as a new head coach with a program that's been stagnant the past few years is unrealistic.

You can call Chryst out on several things, but what you can't accuse him of is not having a plan.

Chryst's plan is pretty simple - recruit to kill on the offensive line. Part of it is that the team was pretty thin there when he came on board, but the other part is that Chryst's goal is to build a strong line capable of not only protecting the quarterback, but one that can open up holes for running backs so that, presumably, he can build a run-first offense.

That's not to say that he won't use playmakers such as Tyler Boyd, and another thing we know is that Chryst loves him some tight ends. But his success in the past as an offensive coordinator has largely been due to a strong rushing attack and if you watch what Chryst has done on the line and with running backs, it's clear he wants to make that a strength at Pitt.

Looking at the line specifically, Chryst brought in five offensive linemen last year - the most Pitt has had since 2003. He hasn't stopped there, though. so far for the Class of 2014, Chryst has added several more that have committed verbally, including big time talent Alex Bookser who was said to commit on Wednesday. To bring in five in one year is one thing, but to bring several more in back to back seasons clearly shows that Chryst knows the way to get this thing turned around is through the line. Five more are in for 2014, but a few of those guys are likely headed to the defensive line.

It's not just quantity that Chryst is going for, either. The offensive line could turn into the best unit on the team in a few years as there are some talented guys on board and slated to join the team next year. Chryst already had four-star tackle Adam Bisnowaty in the fold from the 2012 class. In 2013, he picked up five-star tackle Dorian Johnson. For the 2014 class, he's got the four-star Bookser on board and he previously secured a commitment from four-star tackle Michael Grimm for next year as well. All of that isn't even mentioning the other guys, where you'd expect at least a couple would pan out.

Can you build teams in other ways? Sure. But Pitt isn't in a position to land the top skill players right now - at least not enough of them. The program has been faltering and there's just too much competition out there for the best speed guys and top quarterbacks. Chryst's best bet at success in the near future is through sound, smashmouth football and dominating the line of scrimmage.

And that's the route he's taking.

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