Q&A: with Vince Crochunis

<B><i>JM:</i></B> <i> Vince, the season looms on the horizon…it's an exciting time at Pitt right now. How do you feel about this club coming into camp?</i>

VC: One thing we want to do is we want to make amends for last year. A lot of guys feel like we could have done much better than we did. We still had a good season at 8-5, but we want more, and even though we lost a lot of guys, there's a lot of young guys who've come in and they're ready to step up. It's a pretty exciting time right now.

JM: It's interesting you mention that. I talked to Rutherford and Fitzgerald right after the season ended, and there was a disappointment there because they felt that the opportunity was there and they let an opportunity slip away, so I guess that's a motivating factor for this team.
VC: Absolutely. Two years ago, when we finished our season against Oregon State in the Insight Bowl, we went into the locker room, it was so exciting, everyone was so excited and happy that we won the game, and last year after losing the game, falling short in the Big East championship game against Miami, we had a sour taste in our mouth. We want to get rid of that and capitalize on what we've learned through those games and improve this year, and do better than what people think we're capable of this year.

JM: Defense had been a staple at Pitt for a couple years, and Coach Harris mentioned in the briefing with the media before we came in here that he felt last year was an aberration. Do you feel that?
VC: Yeah. It's just hard to explain what really happened last year. I mean, we weren't accountable. From the defensive line to the defensive backs, we didn't play as well as Pittsburgh football plays on defense. We weren't as successful at tackling, getting our assignments done correctly, things of that sort, and that's one of those things we kept trying to correct that we were doing wrong, but it just never came to the surface, we never figured out what was really wrong, and in the off-season, looking at a lot of game tape, we figured out a number of things: we weren't tackling correctly, guys weren't setting up certain defensive plays correctly, and for our part on the defensive line, we weren't getting enough pressure or pass rush, and we weren't helping them out enough in the run game, stopping the run.

JM: Coach Harris mentioned when he was talking to the media, too, that games in college football are won on both lines of scrimmage, on the offensive side, on the defensive side. He said he's hoping that Pitt is going to be more physical on both sides of the ball. He said that's a little bit of a mindset, too. Is that correct?
VC: I think so. In the off-season, we've worked on being more physical. You look across the board, all of our offensive linemen and defensive linemen have all gained weight in the off-season, we all gained substantial strides in our strength, our squat and bench and that sort of stuff, but I think, just today when we were hitting with no pads, you could feel that guys were just really wanting to take each others' heads off, and hopefully when the pads come on, we'll see who wants to play. I really think you're going to see Pittsburgh football come back with more of a physical attitude this year.

JM: Vince, I really appreciate it.
VC: Hey, no problem.

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