It won’t take long for Pitt fans to be saying how lucky they and their beloved program were when Todd Graham decided to sneak out of the Steel City in the darkness of night with nary a word. Paul Chryst will have the Panther faithful believing again quicker than Pitt’s no-huddle offense was last year.
Chryst brings with him a resume more closely linked to what Pitt has currently in terms of player personnel. Prior to Graham’s arrival, the Panthers were a pro-style offense that wanted to run first, pass second. For the past six seasons as the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, Chryst loved to run the ball and did so effectively.
In 2010, Wisconsin almost became the first team in NCAA history to have three 1000-yard rushers, with Montee Ball missing the mark by four yards. Chryst also groomed three of the most celebrated quarterbacks in school history in terms of completion percentage, touchdowns, passing efficiency and career yardage.
Graham was noted for his spread-type offense that played an up-tempo pace at Tulsa. He wanted to snap an offensive play every 17 seconds. Pitt wasn’t designed to run this offense. Graham wanted a stable of thoroughbreds, but the barn was filled with workhorses. The results from this past season speak for themselves.
So far Chryst has said all the right things and has made all the right moves. It’s what he hasn’t said that makes him more likeable than his predecessor. He hasn’t made any bold claims, isn't grandstanding and just wants to work and let the result speak for itself.
Graham spoke early in his tenure about retooling Pitt football from the ground up and did just that. His confidence bordered on arrogance. When the offense struggled, it wasn’t his system that was at fault, it was quarterback Tino Sunseri’s inability to run it.
He also made significant changes to the practice facilities the Panthers share with the Steelers. This did not sit well with the Steeler organization. No one was sad to see him leave.
Home Grown Talent
Chryst has made it a priority to reconnect and recruit from Pittsburgh’s traditional base. That includes locally in the WPIAL, east to Philadelphia and New Jersey, and west to Ohio. Don’t be surprised if Wisconsin starts sending some of its talent east to Pitt. Also, Chryst named former Mt. Lebanon (PA) Head Coach Chris Haering as one of his first assistants.
Graham was looking to Texas to strike it rich. Although fertile in talent, it was a stretch for more than one or two players to give Pitt a serious look when they could play in their back yard. Graham did nothing to endear himself to local coaches.