Chryst Weighs In

The first of a series to be run this week, Paul Chryst talks about how some of the injured players are shaping up, the quarterback situation, and what it's been like through two months on the job.

We're just a few weeks away from the start of spring practices; the first spring for Pitt under new head coach Paul Chryst. Chryst spent some time Tuesday talking with reporters. On the football side of it, Chryst said it's been hard to single out one player or a group of players that stand out in terms of players that meet with him regularly.

Chryst has a system. He is in the process of meeting with each individual; a way of just getting to know the person and the football player. The plan is to spend about 15 to 20 minutes with each player.

As for some of the positions, Chryst talked a little bit about the quarterback position. He didn't go too in depth with what he's talked about with returning starter Tino Sunseri. He also cited that quarterback--and every position on the field for that matter--will be open competition. In other words, while being a starter on the 2011 team may be a leading factor in a player also being a starter in 2012, it's also not a guarantee. He wants to remain open-minded as possible evaluating players in the spring, and in training camp.

"I've watched enough of Tino to get a feel for him a little bit," Chryst said. " I didn't want to spend too much time. I didn't want to make too many formed opinions either.

"I got a sense (of Tino), but I wouldn't share it right now. I like it. I think he likes the game. There's nothing I see, and, ‘Oh, there's a red flag.' I'm looking forward to working with him."

At that quarterback position, Chryst will have a number of players to work with. Mark Myers and Trey Anderson--two players who saw the field in a reserve role last year--will be back at the position. Anthony Gonzalez, who moved over to receiver last year, is back at quarterback. E.J. Banks--who transferred in from Notre Dame--will also get a look at quarterback. Banks spent most of the 2011 season as a scout team quarterback.

"We're going to take a look at it," Chryst said. "Kind of curious. There's a lot (of quarterbacks) there for spring to get good reps. It's going to have to sort itself out a little bit.

"I think (competition) is always open, truthfully. You have guys that are well established. They shouldn't get beat out, but I think you're always competing. Every player competes against himself to be the best that he can be. You're competing against teammates for playing time, and you're competing against your opponents. There's always competition. The headlines shouldn't read, ‘Open Competition.' That's not what I'm saying, but I think you're always competing. The great thing about sports is what happens between the lines is what matters. Production matters, and playing the game well. The best players should be playing. If you were a starter, and if you are getting better, then you probably should still be a starter. It's always open competition."

One position he did express some concern with, is offensive line. Part of that concern is numbers. The other part is figuring out which guys can play guard or tackle--whatever position fits them best.

"The good news and bad news is that it's not a real deep group right now, numbers wise," Chryst said. "They'll get a lot of work. We should get a real good evaluation. Clearly, there aren't many springs you go into where you're not saying the same thing. We have to solidify--not necessarily who the starters are--but who to draw from. Then, we'll get to figuring out what guys can do. Can inside guys play guard and center? Can you get a swing tackle, so that you can get to where you get to playing your best five linemen, and are they capable of shuffling the deck a little bit?"

Chryst did say that Chris Jacobson--who was recently given his sixth year of eligibility after missing the final ten games due to a knee injury--is one that's impressed him. He also said that Jacobson will likely be out for the spring, or at least be limited. He didn't want to officially declare players out, other than to say Jacobson, Ray Graham, Mike Shanahan and Jarred Holley are players who will be limited.

"I've enjoyed getting to know him, and obviously think he's a good player too; that was good news," Chryst said of Jacobson. "He might be able to do some work (in the spring). (Trainer) Rob (Blanc) came up the other day, and I was kind of relieved. It was a small list. That was for some workouts now. It wasn't a big list. I'm anxious to see, we have a couple weeks, and it might even be smaller. Mike Shanahan, I think he'll be definitely limited. Jarred Holley will be limited. For the most part, I was pretty pleased the list wasn't a big list. Todd Thomas stayed out."

Graham is likely out for the spring, though Chryst is optimistic about Graham's health. He didn't give a specific target date for Graham's return, only saying that the senior running back is on schedule.

"Each injury and guy is so unique," Chryst said of Graham. "I asked Ray, ‘How's it going?' It feels good, on schedule. I asked (trainer) Rob (Blanc). He's on schedule. Everything they tell you, it's going well. For me to say something in February, I don't know what I'd gain. I wouldn't be giving anybody any knowledge because no one knows. Everything that you hear, it's good. There's been no setbacks."

Chryst also said it's too early to say if there would be anyone making a position switch. That will be determined right at the start of spring practice. In some cases, there may be a few players filling in temporarily just to give numbers at certain positions.

"We haven't done anything football-wise," Chryst added. "I think there will be. There usually is some that goes on. I think that's one of the things you're always trying to keep tabs on; nothing that is locked in where you're ready to announce it."

At that quarterback position, Chryst will have a number of players to work with. Mark Myers and Trey Anderson--two players who saw the field in a reserve role last year--will be back at the position. Anthony Gonzalez, who moved over to receiver last year, is back at quarterback. E.J. Banks--who transferred in from Notre Dame--will also get a look at quarterback. Banks spent most of the 2011 season as a scout team quarterback.

"We're going to take a look at it," Chryst said. "Kind of curious. There's a lot (of quarterbacks) there for spring to get good reps. It's going to have to sort itself out a little bit."

One issue Chryst has already had to deal with is the loss of two assistants. Eddie Faulkner--initially slated to be Pitt's running backs coach--went back to Wisconsin to take over as tight ends coach. Bob Bostad, offensive line coach, left to join the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Chryst said he expected Bostad to jump for an NFL job at some point says it might be good to get over the loss of Bostad now, rather than have to face it as an annual issue.

"I knew with Bob, where he wanted to go, the big picture," Chryst said. "I didn't know when it would be. When you know someone well, you know their intentions. He had an opportunity. I was fortunate enough to have (Jim Hueber) on staff, and Joe (Rudolph).

Chryst expects to have a replacement for Faulkner by the end of the week, though declined to name any candidates. Jim Hueber--initially tight ends coach--will move over to coach the offensive line.

"Obviously, that opened up some things," Chryst said. "I do think we're close to finalizing, and anxious to do that. I think it's one of those situations where a lot of people can win on it. I'm looking forward to getting that done, though. This week, we'll kind of wrap it up.

"You know when you have good guys. I believe all of them are good coaches. You kind of know where they're at professionally. You knew at some point Bob was going to have some opportunities. We wanted to work with those guys as long as we could. I think it was pretty unique how it all came about. Especially, you have guys who can coach different spots, it helps."


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