With Pitt's first game of the season on Sunday against Delaware, head coach Paul Chryst took to the microphone for his weekly press conference. As usual, we'll be bringing you the highlights and with (what I think are) the top ten quotes/developments.
Chryst's quotes are in bold with my 'analysis' following.
10. (On if quarterback Adam Bertke would see time with or without an injury occurring) "Probably injury-related."
No mystery here and Chryst confirms what most of us thought in that true freshman quarterback Adam Bertke will likely be redshirting barring an injury. Bertke as the third-string really isn't all that far from playing, obviously. If Chad Voytik or Trey Anderson suffers an injury, he automatically becomes the backup guy. But the plan is to sit him if it can be helped and there's really no reason to give him even a few snaps and burn his redshirt. He could, of course, redshirt later, but the idea is to get that year out of the way as soon as possible so that any playing time he gets comes when he's more experienced.
9. (On the progression of quarterback Chad Voytik) "I think he has certainly worked at it, and I think he has gotten more comfortable timing it up."
8. "Not everything is a perfect camp, he has learned from those and I am excited to see him play."
More talk about Voytik 'working'. I brought this up at some other point in training camp but all the talk about Voytik seems to be about him working hard and not so much about his specific talent or playing well. That combined with the inconsistent training camp (which he even alludes to in the second quote) is enough to make you a little concerned.
7. (On James Conner’s defensive role and if he will have a predetermined number of snaps at defensive end)
"Not a set number of snaps. Certainly he is in on packages and the way the game goes will also determine it. What we are doing offensively, what we are doing defensively, et cetera, so not a set number."
Not a huge surprise here as Chryst has pretty much said the same thing all along. The only thing in terms of the number of plays Conner gets is that the staff is going to limit him (at least at first) as Chryst referenced having a 'pitch count' for him.
6. (On what freshman running back has done to impress in camp) "He is a different kind of back than James [Conner], Isaac [Bennett] and Rachid [Ibrahim]. Both he and Qadree came in with real intentions of diving in and both have done that. Chris just gives us a little different style of back with Isaac and James."
Will get to this a little later, but of the true freshmen, James appears to be the one who will get on the field first.
5. (On leadership coming from the 11 seniors) "If we are going to have any success, the seniors are going to be a big part of it. We will have contributions from every class but for the seniors it’s huge."
That's certainly true to a degree, but you can argue that there might be just as much leadership from the young guys as well. The team's best player, Tyler Boyd, is an underclassman. The starting running back and quarterback are both underclassmen. Underclassmen have big roles in the secondary, offensive line, etc. I don't doubt that guys like Todd Thomas, Ray Vinopal (who went to ACC media day with Boyd), T.J. Clemmings, and others provide leadership. The true success of the team, however, is going to be come from what a lot of the younger guys provide.
4. (On Reggie Mitchell’s versatility in the secondary) "Certainly his focus right now is at corner and the nickel spot. But, if something was to happen and he had to move back to safety, he could."
The Mitchell thing is going to be interesting to watch. If he does indeed move back to safety, it's because another guy steps up and outplays him. True freshman Avonte Maddox had his work cut out for him in trying to start right away, but someone like that stepping up and getting starts later in the season wouldn't be a huge surprise.
One of the things of note that secondary coach Troy Douglas said at the scrimmage I attended was that there's versatility in the secondary with guys able to play both corner and safety. That's a great thing to have and the younger guys may take some time before they get settled into a firm position.
3. (On making sure young players know about the YSU loss in 2012) "I don’t think you even reference it. It’s not like ‘Hey guys, two years ago we got beat by Youngstown State.’ I think it is bigger than that—it is how you approach the game, and the respect and preparation it takes each and every week."
Wait, what? Look, to be fair, I see Chryst's point. He's essentially saying that the team needs to be ready for whoever they play. But the Youngstown State game is the kind of game that coaches use or motivation. And the fact is that even the guys who weren't on the team know about it. To not reference it as an example of what can happen if you don't show up ready to play just seems a bit silly, to be honest.
2. (On running back depth allowing Conner to play more defense) "I think it is quite possible. It would be something as the season evolved, but right now all of our thoughts are with him primarily playing offense and then getting some work on defense. Certainly, as the season unfolds, be it injury or performance, it can change. We worked on it in the spring and fall, more as a situational package, but we do have some depth at running back and hope that it will play out that way. Right now we have a plan that he has worked on and hope to stay with it."
This one's interesting. Chryst mentioning Conner's workload possibly changing with other things factoring in such as injuries is actually a contradiction of sorts from what he said after the Ejuan Price injury. Granted, he said at the time that Price's injury wasn't likely to affect his playing time, so it's not exactly the same here. But in this instance, Chryst seems to indicate that other injuries could mean Conner plays more on defense.
Whatever the case, I think the biggest determining factor will be how effective he is on defense compared to offense. If he's tearing it up on offense, I'm not sure how much work he'll get at defensive end. Conversely, if he's a unstoppable on D, it's really hard to see them not utilizing him all that much.
1. "I know everyone has been asking about the freshmen. Avonte Maddox is going to play, Patrick Amara is going to play, Quintin Wirginis is going to play and will play. We have a handful of guys we are going to make sure are ready that’ll have a little bit of a wait-and-see. That is Qadree Ollison, Alex Bookser, Adam Bertke and Adonis Jennings."
Chryst also said Rori Blair will play in a separate question. I already covered this yesterday so check out that post for my thoughts. But the Jennings thing is probably the most interesting nugget here since I fully expected him to play this season.
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