Pitt Football: Monday Notebook

A missed field goal, a blocked punt, concerns about coverage and an injure longsnapper are hampering Pitt's special teams units. Paul Chryst is obviously concerned, as he spent much of his allotted Big East teleconference time and his weekly Pitt news conference talking about them.

If there's one area that is on Paul Chryst's mind after the Louisville loss, its clearly special teams. It may have looked out of the norm, when of the summer Chryst took scholarship commitments from punter Ryan Winslow and kicker Chris Blewitt. In August, he put long snapper Kevin Barthelemy on scholarship.

Saturday, Pitt's special teams were a major factor in Saturday's loss. I both his Big East teleconference and weekly news conference, Chryst was visibly concerned about them.

"In order to make some plays, we have to do some things better," Chryst said. "Special teams, we have to get a lot better in a hurry."

For starters, Champ Lee blocked a punt that was part of a 21-point barrage for Louisville in the third quarter, that turned a halftime lead for Pitt into a loss. Certainly in terms of momentum, and turning points, Chryst summed it up best.

"On game day, we played one opponent and not two," Chryst said. "A lot of the things are factors in games, punt team, we can control. If we clean that area up, I think we can be better in that unit."

Then there was a missed 50-yard field goal by Kevin Harper right before half times--a scenario Pitt has seen before this year against Cincinnati. Faced with the decision to kick or go for it on fourth down, Chryst went for it and Cincinnati and failed. Saturday, he let Harper try from 50, and failed. While he defended his decision to try the field goal--he also says he still has confidence in Harper, who is now 2-5 this year in field goal tries of 50 yards or more.

"There will come a time, where we're going to need Kevin," Chryst said. "He's going to come through. No one wants to be better and make every field goal than Kevin. That's all you can ask of him."

But the real concern, is the punt unit.

"Certainly, in the coverage, Virginia Tech took one back on us," Chryst said. "Our protection had been very good. I would not have guessed the mistakes we had (against Louisville). We didn't see anything like that during the week. It's our job to make us they're focused inn, so on game day, they go out and execute it."

Chryst also said that longsnapper Barthelemy--who has been out the last two games--could be back by the Temple game, once he gets the stitches out for his injured hand.

Linebacker Shane Gordon has been limited by two separate injuries, according to Chryst, in these last two games. Gordon looked like he injured his shoulder at Syracuse, yet was able to still practice and play against Louisville. Then, it looked like his knee was slowing him down against Louisville.

"Last week wasn't related to the Syracuse game," Chryst said. "Talking to him yesterday, he felt like he was getting better."

On the subject of a K'Waun Williams, who has been banged up this year, recovering from a knee injury in the spring then a shoulder injury. Chryst says he gets the most information from the training staff, but when making a decision on letting someone like him play, it comes down to sitting and meeting with the player himself.

"I think I'm gaining insight into each guy," Chryst said. For the most part, guys are pretty accurate where they are healthwise. Trainers will tell you. I haven't been with K' for four years, but you do get to know these guys week after week."

No noticeable depth chart changes, but when asked if there was anyone close to unseating anyone for a starting spot, Chryst mentioned one name that's fairly obvious.

"I think Todd Thomas is certainly getting healthier," Chryst said. "We don't have enough practice (time on Todd), but last week, the last two weeks, he felt like he was in camp. He's the one guy you could say we know is a good player. It's a matter of getting him back (healthwise). That's the biggest thing."

Thomas has played in the last two games, and returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in the first quarter of Saturday's loss.

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