Monday Notebook: Savage Cleared

Though the two teams met last year, the starting lineups will be very different--particularly on offense. Logan Thomas is off to a great start for the Hokies, leading them to a 5-1 start, and a No. 24 ranking in this week's AP poll.

Paul Chryst started his Monday press conference by saying that he expects to be at full strength for Saturday's game with Virginia Tech.

Senior middle linebacker Shane Gordon was out, as was junior defensive end Bryan Murphy. Murphy has been out the last two weeks, with sophomore Ejuan Price starting in his place.

Tom Savage left the Virginia contest with concussion-like symptoms. He has been cleared, and is expected to start Saturday in Blacksburg.

"[Tom Savage] has been cleared," Chryst said. "Shane is going to try and see where he's at. Murphy missed the last couple games; we think he is going to go. Particularly with Murphy and Shane, we don't know how they'll feel. They both did some running and other things last week, so we'll see. We had them doing some stuff, but no contact. But for the most part, we're as healthy as we've been in a while."

When Pitt defeated Virginia Tech last September, of the 22 personnel who started that day for the Hokies, nine projected starters (three on offense, six on defense) for this Saturday's game started in last year's contest.

While Chryst said he's familiar with those returning personnel, particularly on defense, there's very little he can compare from last year's Virginia Tech team to this year.

"There are a lot of the same guys, but I think they're a little bit different," Chryst said. "I think they're doing things a little different this year. You can use last year as a reference point, but you certainly have to concentrate this year. There are a lot of similarities personnel-wise. They're playing fast in the back end and aggressive up front. They're physical when they run the ball, and they can create havoc, turnovers and sacks. I think they're playing really confident, and they should be."

By comparison, Pitt will have ten starters for this Saturday's game (three on offense, seven on defense) who started in last year's 35-17 win.

There will be a lot of distractions this week, as Pitt gets down to preparing for this game. One, simply coming off the bye week. How does Pitt get back in game mode after an off week. Then, there's the idea of playing in a hostile environment in Blacksburg. Also the idea players will get in winning another conference game which will help in the standings, along with the hope of knocking off a ranked opponent.

How does Chryst keep his players focused away from all these distractions?

"Right now, we need to live in the here and now," Chryst said. "It's Monday of Virginia Tech week. Tomorrow we'll focus on Tuesday of Virginia Tech week. It's OK to see the big picture, but that's the beautiful thing about sports: you focus on the now."

One player who exemplifies that focus is defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Donal is coming off a Virginia game that garnered him Bednarik National Defensive Player of the Week honors. Donald also enters this game as college football's active leader in career sacks--ahead of Jadeveon Clowney--with 24.5.

When asked of how he spent his bye week, Chryst said he did not watch any college football. He attended a Saturday morning high school game between Central Catholic and Pine-Richland. His son Daniel Chryst is a junior for Pine-Richland.

In addition to that, Chryst said it's all about the Pittsburgh Pirates, in a National League Divisional series with the St. Louis Cardinals.

"Talking about a team, the best thing about watching them is they just keep playing even when their backs are against the wall," Chryst said. "It's fun to watch. It's pretty exciting."

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