Earlier today, I gave you some of what Pitt head coach Paul Chryst had to say regarding players on the 2014 football team. Chryst was also asked extensively about recruiting at the event at a discussion where SB Nation's Bud Elliott was, and I thought that some of his answers were worth throwing out there.
Chryst touched on quite a bit and I'm not going to cover everything he said. But two key things he talked about were the impact being in the ACC had on Pitt's recruiting and also the importance of five-star players.
Chryst really seemed to place a lot of value on being in the ACC. When asked specifically about reaching down into the southern states more for recruiting, the coach said that the Panthers' (relatively) new conference has played a hand in things.
"There’s an opportunity maybe that wasn’t there because of the conference affiliation. But I also think that if you went back to the past ten years or so, more schools are recruiting outside of your area. I really believe that good recruiting is finding guys that fit your program."
Chryst added, "There is an interest (down south) in the ACC. Kids knew about Aaron Donald probably because of the ACC and may not have known about him if he were in the Big East or another conference."
Not knowing about Aaron Donald seems like a bit of a stretch. ACC, Big East, B1G - whatever. I think that his year was so huge that it wouldn't have necessarily mattered where the Panthers played. Another counter-argument is that Pitt had some success recruiting in Florida under Dave Wannstedt in the Big East days. So really, I don't think the ACC is the thing that's going to open up all the doors.
That said, I really agree with Chryst here for the most part. One thing many kids want to be able to do is play in front of their friends and family, and in the ACC, there's more of a chance to do that for southern recruits with road games against the likes of Miami, Florida State, and Georgia Tech. And playing those teams in general just gives Pitt more exposure down south. There's little doubt that the ACC certainly helps Pitt to be able to pull in more kids from talent-rich southern states like Florida.
Still, getting five-star kids isn't the be all end all for Chryst. While he no doubt would prefer highly-touted guys in most cases, he made it pretty clear that there's often value to be found in lower-rated kids.
"Truthfully in the past I’ve been around more five-star guys that never played a down than walk-ons that are all-conference. You know, Wisconsin, we’d get a couple. Been fortunate to get a couple highly-ranked kids at Pitt. That’s just my own experience. It’s not an end all be all."
The other thing Chryst really emphasized along those lines was his desire to find kids that are good fits. He spoke of not simply pursuing every kid just because they were a top 100 guy. I'm paraphrasing a bit here, but the easy part, to him, was identifying the best players. The more challenging aspect was finding kids that were good players and good fits for the University.
One thing I won't forget in hearing the audio of Chryst's discussion was that he spoke of things such as academics. Finding kids that may be interested in engineering and medicine since those are areas where Pitt excels. Really, it was all about finding strong fits for the program.
Pitt will no doubt continue pursuing the five-star kids - I mean, that's not even a question. But even if more on-field success comes along, the thing I took away from everything he said is that you can still expect that Pitt will always pursue some of the three-star guys that might not stand out as much simply because he deems them to be good fits.
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