Pittsburgh Football: Why Paul Chryst Is the Right Fit for the Panthers
After being hired as the head football coach in January, Paul Chryst was greeted with a mixed reaction from Pitt fans. Some were hoping for someone else, others were indifferent and the rest liked what Chryst brings to the table.
Six months later, it's time to look back at what Paul Chryst has done to prove that he is the right man for the job.
Chryst Understands Western Pennsylvania Football
Just like the man he is following, Paul Chryst is an offensive-minded coach. Unlike Todd Graham, Chryst isn't going to make drastic changes to try to make a spread offense work without the right players for it.
Chryst realizes that to win at Pitt, he has to play Western Pennsylvania football. That means that he will be using a pro-style offense that will run often and make use of the tight ends and H-backs.
In an old-school area like Pittsburgh, this is what will make the locals and high school football coaches happy.
Chryst Did Something About the Quarterback Situation
After taking over as head coach at Pitt, Todd Graham did more to harm the quarterback position than to help. In his first recruiting class, he missed out on top target Michael Eubank, though Graham did land a prized quarterback in Chad Voytik in the 2012 class.
Graham also took an inconsistent but fairly efficient pro-style quarterback in Tino Sunseri and messed him up. Not only did Graham unsuccessfully try to turn Sunseri into a spread quarterback, but when he struggled, Graham was quick to pull him in favor of true freshman walk-on Trey Anderson.
This only helped to destroy Sunseri's confidence and caused his 2011 numbers to drop off from what he posted in 2010.
Chryst, on the other hand, is going to help the quarterback situation. The first move he made was to return to the pro-style offense, which should benefit Sunseri. Chryst has also added a transfer, former Rutgers starter Tom Savage, and a top recruit, Tra'Von Chapman from Ohio.
While there is no guarantee that Sunseri will be the answer this year, the extra talent that Chryst has helped to reel in should help to stabilize the quarterback position.
Chryst Has Added Quality Depth at Running Back
Heading into this season, Pitt has as many talented running backs as any team in the country. All-American candidate Ray Graham is coming back after blowing out a knee last year, but he's hardly the Panthers' only option. In fact, it was because of the injury to Graham that Pitt looks so strong.
True freshman Isaac Bennett ran for 237 yards and a pair of touchdowns on just 58 carries last year, and had 14 catches for 88 yards and another touchdown. Bennett followed that by being one of the stars of the spring. Bennett looked so good at times that he may be able to take some carries away from a healthy Graham.
Then the Panthers add in local star Rushel Shell, a top recruit who turned down Alabama and Ohio State following a record-setting high school career. Shell is the type of player capable of being a feature back. He has both power and speed.
This doesn't even factor in true sophomore Corey Davis, who was set to redshirt last year but ended up being forced into action by injuries, or talented redshirt freshman Malcolm Crockett. This group is quietly one of the best in the nation, but doesn't get a ton of attention.
Paul Chryst hasn't sat back in recruiting this season. In fact, he has landed a talented back from New Jersey in Corey Clement. As a bigger back who runs well between the tackles and can help in pass protection, Clement is a good fit for Chryst's offense.
Just remember the success that Chryst had at Wisconsin in 2010 when the offensive coordinator had three backs finish just short of 1,000 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. That was followed this year by Montee Ball having such a strong year that he was picked by some as the guy who should have won the Heisman.
The Staff Can Recruit
One worry about Paul Chryst at the time of the hire was that he didn't have the personality of a head coach. People of that opinion figured that it would keep Chryst from having success on the recruiting trail, as they thought a head coach needed a large and outgoing personality.
Since I haven't met Chryst personally I can't make any comments on his personality, but I can point out his level of success in recruiting.
He came into a tough spot to finish out the last class, being the sixth coach at Pitt (including interim coaches) in just over a year. Still he was able to get commitments from JP Holtz, Bam Bradley and Deaysean Rippy. Sure some point out that he lost out on some of his targets, but keeping the core of a class featuring Chad Voytik, Rushel Shell and Adam Bisnowaty intact is much more important.
Chryst came back this year and has picked up a talented quarterback transfer in Tom Savage as well as 4-star prospects in quarterback Tra'Von Chapman and running back Corey Clement. That doesn't even get into talented 3-star prospects like Scott Orndoff, Jaymar Parrish and Shakir Soto.
Chryst hasn't been perfect in recruiting, but overall he is recruiting at a strong level for Pitt. That's actually a tougher job that some people would think considering the instability in coaching at the school in the last few seasons and the fact that Chryst hasn't coached a single game at Pitt yet.