When asked about his recruiting philosophy, new Pitt head coach Paul Chryst shared a straight-up and simple answer to what he looks for in a prospect, and what areas he wants to focus on.
We've posed the exact same question now to three different Pitt head coaches in the last year:
What is your philosophy on recruiting, and what geographical areas would you like to focus on?
Last December, on the day that Michael Haywood was hired, it appeared that he wanted to make a splash in mentioning multiple geographical areas that he wanted to recruit. Of course, he never got that chance after an alleged domestic abuse incident at a home in South Bend, Indiana.
"We're going to recruit Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, dab a little bit in Michigan and Illinois," Haywood said. "Then, we're going to go down south into Florida, Louisiana and Texas."
Then, a month later, we posed the question to Todd Graham.
"It is important for us that we start off recruiting today, that we start off in western PA, as our home base, and we make sure that we keep these young men at home," Graham said. "We'll go wherever (the recruits) are at. The great thing about Pitt is that it's a two-hour plane ride from anywhere. Kids now, they'll go (away from home). Kids from Florida, kids from Texas, they'll go."
In hindsight, you gain a better perspective of what each coach's geographical perception was.
Chryst's answer on Thursday was a little bit different and more realistic.
"You start close to home," Chryst said. "There's a great history, and a great football coaching in western Pennsylvania and certainly the Pittsburgh area and Ohio. Pennsylvania, the east coast, that's the guts of it; New York, Connecticut. That's what this place is."
According to Chryst, though, it branches out. He feels that you have to start locally, then branch out to the neighboring areas he refers to. You can also tell that Pitt joining the ACC in the near future has also crossed his mind. Not only does he feel that will be an attractive feature to Pitt down the road, but it will also go hand-in-hand as he and his staff continue their branching out plan. For now, though, the idea will be simple. They will target a select few in some of the southern states for the time being, and expect that number of targeted prospects to grow by the time Pitt is in the ACC.
"I think there's areas where you go in—especially going into the ACC—where you supplement," Chryst explained. "You cherry-pick, and you bring people up."
One thing Graham did was go after a lot of prospects in Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma where a lot of his connections are. Cryst says you won't see Pitt going after national recruits right away, unless they have a good connection in place somewhere. One idea where that would factor in is 2014 quarterback Keller Chryst—who happens to be his nephew. Obviously, there's a family connection he could use. He doesn't plan on offering every legitimate national prospect; instead focusing on the regional recruits first.
"Anywhere nationally that there's a fit; anywhere there's a connection or someone there," Chryst said. "Program-wise—what we do here, and what we do recruiting, you start close and you build out."
He also gave a brief synopsis of what he would look for in any prospect, once the geography passes through.
"I think what you look for is people that fit the place," Chryst said. "Guys that obviously have to have a certain talent level. Then, people that want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They have to have an unselfish component to them, but love the game."
For now, though, his biggest task is to keep the 2012 recruiting class in hand—something that doesn't appear to be too hard, based on some of the early reaction from some of the committed prospects and some of the 2013 and 2014 targeted prospects. For now, Chryst says his focus is on reaching out to those 2012 prospects.
"I'd like to start reaching out to those guys. It takes a little bit of time, but it gets to where you get to know them, get to know the people and introduce yourself. I think that's your main focus as far as recruiting."
If there's a secondary priority following his conversations with the current recruits, it's to connect with the local high school coaches—some of whom he knows because the Wisconsin roster has several former western PA recruits. He calls it a culture, and he hopes to become part of it.
"I'm looking forward to knowing all of the coaches in the area," Chryst added. "I know some, but just being a part of the football culture here and the landscape here in Pittsburgh."