Paul Chryst did little to talk about himself or talk about what a tough task it was over the last month, putting the finishing touches on this 2012 recruiting class. A month ago today, Chryst was calling his final game as offensive coordinator for Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Today, he introduced his first recruiting class as head coach at Pitt.
For starters, Chryst downplayed any kind of shock value. Waiting by the fax machine on signing day, waiting for the letters to trickle in is no different, he says. It's the same anticipation whether you're an offensive coordinator recruiting these players, or in your first head coaching job.
"Honestly, I think if you're doing the right way, everyone's got so much ownership in it," Chryst said. "It wasn't a defining moment. It was crazy, the way we were doing it this year. That's not to minimize how proud you are. There's as much ownership across the board. That's what was fun about this."
Chryst spent the bulk of his signing day press conference going down the list and talking about each player. Of the 16 players, 9 were players already committed to Pitt when Chryst took over. Over the course of three official visit weekends, Chryst either shored up a couple of local prospects, offered a new prospect or built upon existing relationships he had from his previous stop at Wisconsin. Between the time he was hired, and up until today, a total of 4 prospects committed—Mike Caprara, Ryan Lewis, J.P. Holtz and Gabe Roberts. Each, in addition to the previous commits, with their own story—something Chryst alluded to a few times in his signing day press conference.
"It's a group of guys where the situation presented itself, they chose Pitt because it was right for him," Chryst said. "To sum it up, guys who love football, and play a lot of different positions. We talk a lot about fits. We certainly knew a lot of the names (of the committed prospects). It was a unique situation.
"To me, recruiting is all about finding a fit—who are guys we think can be a great fit at Pitt. Our approach isn't to sell, it's to offer. We're offering a chance to go to a school like Pitt."
Another three, of course, picked Pitt today—Deaysean Rippy, Bam Bradley and Terrell Jackson—all in that order, in a span of an hour and a half. Those three are perfect examples of what Chryst means when he talks about fits. Rippy had an existing relationship with bit—one that needed some repair when Chryst came in. Bradley did too, but had interest based on a relationship with Tony Dews who was here before. Jackson was a player Chryst and his staff would have loved to have offered at Wisconsin, but could not because of a numbers crunch. They all had different stories in why they ended up at Pitt,but the bottom line according to Chryst, is they all fit.
Chryst credited football administrator Bob Junko for aiding in Rippy's recruitment and some others. He credited assistant coach Joe Rudolph for building on the relationship with Jackson.
"We were really fired up when we got word on this one," Chryst said referring to Bradley's letter coming through the fax machine today. "We were excited when we found out about Deaysean. Coach Junko did an amazing job. Terrell, Coach Rudolph had been tracking for a couple years. We knew we had a good feeling when he came on campus (for an official visit)."
Another thing Chryst took note of, was the chemistry that existed within the class. He commented on that, and credited a few key members of the class with holding this class in check.
"I think it was critical," Chryst said. "They wanted to be at Pitt. They kept working. There's a pretty unique bond with this group. It's been fun for me to see. They stay in contact; Chad, Biz, the Davis twins, Rushel. They reached out to each other. It was pretty cool."
Now that they're officially on the roster, there are already a few players heading for different positions. For example Trenton Coles, listed as a receiver in the Scout database, will be a defensive back—though Chryst did not specify whether he would be at corner or safety. At 6-3, it's safe to assume he'll be at safety, knowing there aren't too many 6-3 corners floating around. He also called Terrell Jackson a defensive end—which is interesting based on his 6-3, 285 pounds. Darryl Render, though it's no real surprise, will be on the defensive line which is where he played in high school. Render could have translated well as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, but had a productive high school career as a 4-3 defensive end. He should have a fairly smooth transition. The real interesting ones are Bam Bradley and Deaysean Rippy—clearly listed as safeties on the official signing day roster by Pitt. Rippy was a high school linebacker, but showed great athleticism as a high school prospect as did Bradley. With the graduations of Andrew Taglianetti, Jason Hendricks and Jarred Holley looming, these two will be given an opportunity to compete early.
One player Chryst would not rule out as a possible position change later would be J.P. Holtz. He went back to his speech on fits, and how Holtz simply fits as a football player.
"JP, he fits everything we like in a tight end, as well as two or three other positions," Chryst said. "There's a lot of guys like that. That's what you want to recruit, and they'll find a home. Bodies change, there's the level of experience, different backgrounds. To me that's a positive, that they're football players."