Paul Chryst doesn't mix words, nor does he feel the need to constantly praise his players.
Therefore, if he singles out a pair of players for their work ethic in the offseason, or in the previous season, he must mean it. If those two players happen to be players who were suspended for the entire 2013 season, there's reason to be optimistic for a lot of reason.
Juniors Khaynin Mosley-Smith and Ronald Jones--key contributors in their first two years in the program--were both suspended for the 2013 season. Chryst not only feels that they've learned from their mistakes, but he feels they've become even harder workers through the process.
After sitting out, both enter the 2014 spring session looking at their redshirt junior years, looking to make even more significant contributions, hopefully a much-needed leadership role.
Mosley-Smith was detained in a house off campus just one week after the 2013 spring game. Two former players with him, Drew Carswell and Eric Williams, were kicked off the team. Mosley-Smith was suspended indefinitely, pending the investigation. He was eventually suspended for the 2013 season, remaining with the program.
Mosley-Smith says he has learned from his experience, and grateful to be back on the field this spring, looking for a chance to contribute in 2014.
"It was an experience, fighting my way back," Mosley-Smith said. "I have a lot of people counting on me, a lot of people who believe in me. It's in the past, and I'm moving forward from that."
Mosley-Smith's return is a baptism by fire, of sorts, for Pitt. It's arduous to ask a defensive tackle to replace and do exactly what Aaron Donald did last year. However, having a fourth-year player in Mosley-Smith helps ease that loss a little. Prior to his suspension, he did play in all 26 games of his Pitt career. Prior to that, he spent a year at Milford Academy--that after spending a full year in Pitt training camp in 2010, after the NCAA declined a cyber course from high school.
Pitt has a void at defensive tackle. They also need some leadership at that position, plus an experienced one. The position may not be able to replicate what Donald did last year. If they can get some production from Mosley-Smith and junior Darryl Render--who has played in 24 career games and two starts in his career--there's some experience. After these two, there's a significant dropoff in experience. There is senior LaQuentin Smith and sophomore Tyrique Jarrett, next in line. Smith did play in 11 games last year, mostly on special teams. Jarrett played in two. Behind them, redshirt freshmen Justin Moody and Jeremiah Taleni.
Therefore, there's an excellent opportunity for Mosley-Smith. Not only does the position need someone with his experience. It also needs someone who feels something to prove, without trying to be another Donald.
If anything, in relating to Donald, Mosley-Smith says he was the one person who gave him words of encouragement through his suspension.
"A lot of people helped me through it, my family was behind me," Mosley-Smith said. "The one person on the team who kept me going was Aaron Donald; telling me how bright my future was, keep doing what I would do."
Pitt is almost in a similar position at receiver. While Tyler Boyd returns, Pitt needs to replace all the catches that Devin Street had. While the tight ends figure to play a role in that, so will fourth-year receiver Ronald Jones.
Like Mosley-Smith, Jones was suspended for the 2013 season, in his first two years with the program, he played a total of 23 games with four career starts.
Jones has a great opportunity, too. He's got the experience factor, which should help. And, he's coming at a position of need, like defensive tackle.
"I feel like I'm ready to take over the slot position, and contribute to the team, help the team in any way," Jones said.
As Pitt looks for big-time replacements after the careers of Donald and Street at their respective positions, they first look to a pair of players looking for a second chance. If Mosley-Smith and Jones can continue to work, the way Paul Chryst says they have since their suspensions, the fire they bring is just what these two voids happen to need.