We're baaack. With another season comes another version of our top ten quotes from head coach Paul Chryst's press conference. Coachspeak seemed to be too widely used a term, so we've even got a new name - Chrystal Clear. Does it suck? Maybe.
Onto the quotes:
10. "I do believe games like this are why guys want to come to Pittsburgh. When guys think of college football, they think of games like these"
There was another quote in the presser where Chryst acknowledged that all season openers aren't equal. I like that Chryst was pretty honest here in acknowledging it's a big game. The standard answer for many coaches when asked about different opponents is that 'they're all big.' That's not true, though - the fans know it and so do the coaches.
And as Chryst says - not only is this big for this season, but these types of games are what can allure big time recruits who desire the spotlight.
9. "We’d like to play a number of different guys"
One of the things we've focused on a lot is that I think we'll see a lot of players being used against Florida State. That was one of the things defensive coordinator Matt House mentioned after he was hired and I think it will be particularly helpful against a team like the Seminoles with so much speed. We get so hung up on the starters, but Pitt has some real depth at a few positions and the second teamers should get a lot of work.
8. (On Tyler Boyd) “I give Tyler a lot of credit for the way he’s come in from day one and has had a great approach. He sees himself on a big stage, and he’s going to get that. I’ve also learned never to be surprised by Tyler. I’m anxious to see him and a lot of the guys who this will be their first time playing, but I think he’ll rise up.”
I'm really excited to see what Pitt gets out of Tyler Boyd in the opener. He's coming in a bit under the radar and with his ability to make big plays, I don't think it would surprise to many if he made a big catch on Monday. Many of us looked at the wide receivers as a bit thin, but with Street on one side and a top recruit on the other, that could be a dangerous combo. There could be a big dropoff after that, but as a starting duo, my guess is they'll be one of the better pairs in the conference.
7. (On who will return kicks) “We’ll see on that one. It depends on the flow of the game. We really like Lafayette [Pitts] and thought he did some good things back there for us last year. We think Jason [Hendricks] is a good returner for us, and we like K’Waun [Williams] catching punts for us. We do have other guys we can use. We know every time a guy is out there, there’s a risk for injury, but I don’t have any concerns.”
This is always a big area of concern for me as I've never been particularly comfortable with most of Pitt's recent return men. I like that those guys bring a lot of potential to the unit, but I'm not sure I want either of our starting corners back there fielding kicks. Chryst may not be concerned about an injury occurring but I don't see how he couldn't be. The secondary is the strength of the team and I'm not sure it should be risked for maybe one or two more big plays over the course of a season.
With so many scholarships for each team, my wish has always been that Pitt would go out and recruit a player solely for the purpose of returning kicks and punts.
6. "We want to make their quarterback uncomfortable — that’s the goal"
Hard to argue here. Florida State may limit what Jameis Winston does in his first game, but make no mistake - if Pitt is going to win they have to keep him under pressure and hold him in check. If he starts breaking off 10- and 15-yard running plays to boost his confidence, Pitt should be very concerned.
5. (On the system) “The coach’s job is to help players play. I love the game of football because they’re the only ones between the lines — it’s their game. Coaching is preparing them and putting them in situations that they can have success or have a better chance at having success. Our job is to adjust to the strengths of our players and keep developing guys and forcing them out of their comfort zones so they can grow. In the end, our job is to play to the strengths of our players and to do the best we can within the system, which does have to be flexible to play to their strengths.”
This is really the refreshing thing about Chryst. As last year proved, he's not always going to make the right calls. However, this philosophy of making the system fit with the players is a far cry from Emperor Todd Graham and his desire to make a square peg fit into a round hole.
4. (On kicker Chris Blewitt) “Right now, I think Chris will be ready to go. If not, we’ll just put out another freshman kicker.” (laughs)
Well, great. Pitt's kicking game was already enough of a question mark with a true freshman, but most fans concede that as long as he's got the talent, we'll all live. Blewitt missing the game would be a big deal, though. The kicker, if you'll remember was in a boot on the last day of camp. It didn't sound too serious, but any talk of him missing the game would be big. Pitt's other two options looked pretty bad in the spring and could have some real difficulties if they had to line up in the game. If the Panthers are going to win, it will be a close game and Pitt needs all the points they can muster.
3. (On if the team could be too pumped up) “I think that’s a fair question, but I don’t anticipate that"
Really? Because minutes earlier, Chryst acknowledged on two occasions that it was a big game. Chryst also said that they players have been in big games before. While that's true, I'm not sure any has been any bigger under his watch. Playing at Notre Dame was huge last season, but Pitt's year was already spiraling out of control. That game surely meant a lot at the time, but there's no question that this is a bigger one. Win, and Pitt is off to an unbelievably good start in the ACC. A loss isn't a disaster, but I have a hard time believing we won't see a couple of times when Pitt is too amped up for their own good. Chryst's point about prior big games is well taken but playing so many younger guys will likely result in trying to do too much at times.
2. (On starting running back Isaac Bennett) “He did some stuff yesterday in practice. He obviously missed quite a bit of time, so it’s too early to tell if he’ll be ready. But he was able to go through some things yesterday. We’ll see how he comes back today.”
(On backup running back James Conner) “He practiced some yesterday, so we’ll see where he’s at during practice today.”
This is where it will be interesting, folks. Pitt's run game is already a big question and with some injury concerns to both the starter and his expected backup, things don't look too good. Also telling was that Malcolm Crockett was listed second on the depth chart despite Conner impressing in training camp. Regardless of how everything shapes up, it's not looking like the Panthers' backs will be at full strength - and that will hurt quarterback Tom Savage.
1. "Right now those three [Bam Bradley, Shane Gordon and Anthony Gonzalez] are going to get the majority of the reps. There’s also some other guys we feel good about and once we get a feel for how Florida State is attacking us, we can see. But I certainly feel good about those three getting the majority of the reps this week for preparation.”
This was really the biggest development (other than maybe the running backs situation) for me. Todd Thomas, who left then rejoined the team didn't even get a mention here. He could still play, but there's a chance that Chryst isn't done punishing the expected starter just yet. Interestingly enough, Chryst also referenced Thomas earlier in the presser as having a 'big role' ... so go figure. Those three guys should hold down the fort, but we're fooling ourselves if we don't think Thomas is a top three linebacker. How much he plays on Monday is going to be interesting.
BONUS: “I think one of the neat things about defense is it’s team defense"
.... he said neat.