One of the most intriguing things with a new coach is embracing a new recruiting style. Paul Chryst talked on Tuesday about what he plans to do about whether or not he'll be hosting any junior days, what he looks for in an offensive lineman, and his view on getting early pledges for the 2013 class.
One thing that might look like an early setback would be two losses from his initial Pitt coaching staff—Eddie Faulkner to Wisconsin and Bob Bostad to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He said that Faulkner hadn't figured in too much with the 2012 class, and that Bostad was a big factor in one of the commits. Outside of that, their early departures won't harm 2013 efforts too much.
"I think that Eddie, not at all," Bostad said. "I think that Bob was involved, and I think was a major part with Gabe Roberts. I think Jim (Hueber) could have been the same if it was his spot. Rushel (Shell) was set. We kind of honed in on positions, with the late start. Bob was involved. We were kind of all involved in going forward. I feel pretty good."
He said that Bostad being linked to NFL jobs is something he was expecting to deal with anyway. Reports came out in January that Bostad would be heading to the Chicago Bears to serve as their line coach. He said those reports—even though Bostad ended up in the NFL—were false. Even when those rumors were swirling around, he said it didn't negatively affect recruiting.
"There was only one guy who was still alive in the recruiting, and we had known him for a long time," Chryst said. "(The Bears rumors) wasn't the factor. There really wasn't any truth to that one, either. You knew where it was coming from. That was a long time that one was brought up, which is why you knew where it was coming from."
As for those junior days, he could host one next year. In recent years, a junior day has coincided with a big home basketball game. Chryst hosted several official visitors during the weekend of the Pitt-Louisville basketball game which included eventual signees such as Ryan Lewis, Roberts and transfer David Durham. Chryst said the focus this year will be bringing in a handful of juniors at a time. Some of those prospects have included five-star receiver Robert Foster and local prospect Scott Orndoff—who committed to Wisconsin over the summer.
"We've been working on it," Chryst said. "Right now, we don't have a big junior day planned, but we're having days for juniors."
There are some schools that have already secured verbal commitments for 2013; Michigan with 11, Ohio State with 4 and Rutgers out of the Big East with 1. Chryst doesn't place a lot of emphasis on whether he gets a commitment now. Though he's not allowed to mention specific names, it does sound like he has a good idea of some players he's focused on.
"You want every good player; you want to get them," Chryst said. "I think all that's pretty good; it sorts it out. I've been in a couple places we weren't going to lead with the early commits. Some of your best players are guys that commit early. Some of your best players are your latest. It's become a season within a season, or its own season. People do get anxious. I feel confident with who we're on--the right guys that fit. I'm not nervous by any means."
When it comes to that talent base, he didn't specifically list states or regions that he's targeting hard. On the day he was hired, he said his staff will start closest to western Pennsylvania and branch out. While at Wisconsin, the Badgers saw an increased presence in western Pennsylvania by following that same philosophy. This time, he will branch out starting in western Pennsylvania. The end result should be recruiting players in similar areas—Pennsylvania, Ohio and to the Midwest.
"It's a new pool, but there's some carryover in the names that you recognize from different areas," Chryst said. "The way it's going now, it's pretty much a national thing. You kind of have a beat on who are the top players. I'd say that the further you get away from an area, there's some guys flying under the radar that will be good players and highly recruited. That's where you're a little bit more in-tuned to your traditional recruiting areas."
From a local standpoint, he's felt pretty welcome among the local high school coaches.
"It's been good, it always is," Chryst said. "Early on, whether it's coaches or prospects, it's positive. Guys certainly feel welcome. At this point, I'd say it's positive."
Chryst also said Tuesday that the numbers might not be there this spring for his offensive line. He's also looking forward to moving players around in order to find the right fit for each player on the line. He expanded on what he's looking for when recruiting future linemen.
"You have to have size, feet; just being big, you can't do it," Chryst said. "You have to have enough athletic movement. You have to be tough. You see the size, and you get a better feel for how they move. In the spring, we'll see who the top ones are. We'll enjoy spring ball a lot more than anyone else, just to get a feel for it."
One thing that will be seen early on in the spring, going forward with some of the new recruits as well as with whoever some of the 2013 commits will be, is how the players react to his new system. Some players who were committed to Pitt before Chryst got here. He doesn't sound too concerned for how they'll immerse themselves into the new system when they get here.
"We've had guys that have come in with a short period of time, that have done well," Chryst said. "Those guys have stuff to them. Rushel is experienced. I'd like to think that we can teach it, and the system is such that guys can play. You never want the system to be the thing that prevents you from playing well. If you want to learn it, you can learn it--absolutely--in a short time."
He'll obviously get a much sooner look at the returning players this spring and how they'll be adjusting. He feels the pain of some—recruited here for one offense under Dave Wannstedt, going to Todd Graham's system and now back to a similar system as Wannstedt's. Then there are others that were recruited for Graham's system, and now have to make a change.
"I think it's kind of interesting that there's some guys that didn't learn the one offense; how in-depth were they," Chryst said. "I think terminology, that's the hardest thing. I think there's a lot of concepts the guys are doing that will carry over. I think there's some similarities to what we're going to do to what was done with Coach Wannstedt's tenure.
"I think guys are still learning football. People have to learn a different language, which is hard initially. Once you do that, you can still build. A guy that's been here for four years, he can still build on the things that he's learned. There is no getting around it. You are learning a new foreign language. I do think that's our job to teach them. It gives us enough time to rep it. I think it's very much real. You'd much rather be in the same system for five years."
As he's met with some players individually to this point, he's putting a focus on just getting to know them as people. He's eager to see how they start playing and reacting to his system.
"You don't know exactly what they're thinking (about the new system)," Chryst said. "We'll find out. It's all new right now. Sometimes I think that everyone else is doing more in-depth thinking. We know the big picture is where we have to go with it. Really, they're kind of excited to get going here. Some of the guys, it's similar to what they thought they were getting (when they came here). I think there will be some of that."