BARBECUE OR COOKOUT
Pitt receiver Devin Street summed it up best, drawing laughter from several reporters, when asked if his team was day for the ACC.
Somehow, the question of now being an ACC school translating into understanding the difference between a barbecue and a cookout. A barbecue, refers to a certain style of grilling your meat of choice. The cookout is defined simply by a gathering. It was really, a nice way of welcoming him to the ACC.
"We've been to Birmingham, Alabama," Street said. "We know the difference (between a cookout and a barbecue). We definitely understand that. That's been harped a lot around here. We understand that."
Interesting that barbecue, or cookouts, would be such a hot topic at a football media day, but it does have a lot of tie ins; some symbolic, some literal.
The cookouts have been a big part of the Pitt offseason, particularly the summer. Street said that head coach Paul Chryst has invited the entire team of to his house for two 'cookouts,'--as Street clarified.
It was more than just about good food. It was about building a better team chemistry.
"Him having us over for barbecues, has been amazing," Street said. "Twice, not just one time. Everyone comes out. It's not like everyone's dreading it, either. It's, 'lets go out to Coach's house, swim, play ping-ping, play some basketball, have some fun.'"
And Street clarified, it is indeed a cookout.
"It's a cookout," Street said. "He has tons of food, you're more than welcome to take home anything you want."
Of course, the bigger plan of what Chryst is trying to do, is to try and build some chemistry or create a family-type atmosphere going into the season. Donald, who's been on the field all three of his previous years, says it's the best it's been since he's been here.
For him, he says there has always been the opportunity to know his teammates. There's not always the opportunity to know something more about them, or maybe learn something about them he didn't know.
"It's been great, it's a whole lot different," Donald said. "We're together a lot more, spending more time together as a team. You're spending more time with a player that you might not, on the field. It's more of like a family. A lot of teams say they're a family, but they don't really mean it because they're just saying it. We're more like a family now. We'e bonding a lot. At the end of the day, I think it's going to happen on the field."
"My last two years, there's been good relationships with players, but I feel like we bonded a lot more. It's bringing a lot of trust. You need to trust the players that you're going to battle with, and that's going to be a plus."
"Just the younger guys, the freshmen," Donald said. "The last couple years, the freshmen, you know them, but you don't get to bond with them and spend time with them. Just to be able to sit there and talk with them, and learn more about them. It's going to help us."
With the team set to begin training camp in a couple weeks, Street feels this is one of many plans implemented by Chryst to build team chemistry, to build better leaders.
"I think I'm working in the right direction, to become a leader. I feel like he's made me a leader, because he's such a great leader. Talking to Aaron as well,Marin is becoming a better leader because of Coach Chryst--just what he stands for, his values."
OTHER TOPICS OF DISCUSSION
One of the bigger offseason topics was the status of Rushel Shell.
Shell initially left the program in April. It was his intent to transfer to UCLA. The transfer did not go through. Shell, reportedly, was interested in coming back to Pitt. Instead, he is looking at West Virginia and Kentucky.
As an older member of the team, Street said he talked with Shell a couple times, even prior to him leaving the team.
"I did get to talk to Rushel, Rushel is one of my friends," Street said. "He was a great teammate. He parted ways, and I wish him the best of luck.
"I was the older guy. We'll deal with it. He'll thrive, whatever he does. He was a guy in the locker room, one of our brothers. We just have to trust in Coach (Chryst). Whatever he says, goes. We're not going to second guess it, or question. Whatever he says, goes."
As for the rest of the offense, Street says he's excited to work with Tom Savage--giving us an indication that Savage will be the starter on September 2, even though Paul Chryst has given no indication one way or the other.
"Tom Savage, I think everyone is going to be surprised by him," Street said. "He was a Freshman All-American (at Rutgers). He's 6-5, 230. Tom's been working his tail off all summer long. He has a big-league arm.
"Tom is just a great guy, genuinely. Sometimes, you hear receivers taking about quarterbacks, saying nice things. He's a great guy, a great guy to work with."
Despite the loss of Shell, Street is also confident in the stable of running backs.
One the other side of the ball, it's been well-documented what Aaron Donald can do on the field. He was quick to credit the guys around him--specifically defensive tackle Tyrone Ezell. He feels the two of them will make a great combination up front this year.
"I feel like everybody on our defense is a playmaker," Donald said. "Without Ty next to me, I might not be able to make that tackle for a loss. It's a team work. Each player out there is helping me improve my game, and I help them improve their game. It's a great feeling, knowing that I have all these playmakers around me.
"Ty is a handful. I'm more excited to watch him this year.
FROM THE OTHER SIDE
There is obviously a lot of excitement for the opener with Florida State for many reasons--the sole fact that it's the opener, the fact that it's Florida State, the fact that it's the first game in the ACC, and the fact it's a Monday night nationally-televised game.
But it's not just Pitt that's eager for this opener.
"It's a challenge," Florida State receiver Rashad Greene said. "That second half of camp, we're learning what (Pitt) is doing. We're eating, breathing Pitt. We need to know everything we can do, to be prepared for that game. That's our main focus.
"That's a great way to set the tone. This first game will carry us all the way throughout our season."
Safety Lamarcus Joyner, who was a first-team All-ACC selection a year ago, also isn't looking past Pitt.
"We're really amped up," Joyner said. "Every season, we've been (opening the season) against I-AA schools. Now, we get to go on that national stage and welcome Pitt to the ACC. That's a championship game of itself. Those guys are coming, going to approach this game as 'we're playing against Florida State, supposedly one of the big shots in the ACC.' They're going to be licking their chops. We're going to show them that this is a good conference where you play good football, and why everybody talks about us the way they talk about us. That alone, that's a fight. It's going to be a great game. It's going to be a great game to watch.