Two weeks since Pitt's spring game, Paul Chryst has had some time to look at a little film, and hold some team meetings awaiting the next phase.
Chryst said Thursday, his first appearance on an ACC teleconference, that it's simply on to the next phase. He breaks it down into winter conditioning, the spring session the team just completed. The next goal is getting the players set for sumer conditioning before training camp starts in August.
The first summer session of classes begins May 13, at which time the summer conditioing session will begin. Then, the team will have its 2013 signees enrolled for the second session, which will start on June 24.
" I really liked the way the guys approached the spring," Chryst said. "We've got more guys slotted in some different positions. Coming out of spring, there is an opportunity for guys to grab roles for this team. We have to have a great summer. We have a lot of work to do, but we're appreciative of what the guys have done so far."
One theme that will play heavily in determining what kind of seton to expect, will be the leadership of this team. There is certainly open spots for several individuals to step up as team leaders. Chryst admitted he hasn't seen that yet, or hasn't identified those players yet. However, he also feels that's the sort of thing you won't start seeing until the summer conditioning--going along the lines of him wanting to have a 'great summer.'
"Not really, and that's not a negative thing," Chryst said about the question at leadership. We've had discussions about being ready to take ownership of it. I feel good about that. I like the way the guys are starting to think, wanting to have those roles, understanding the value of that work. It's nervous for me, about not being able to be around players, but it does give them a great chance to have ownership. We need our seniors to play their best football."
Perhaps defense is one area to expect some sort of leadership, just based on the number of starters returning. On paper, this spring, there were eight players who started last year, working with the first group on defense (Bryan Murphy, Tyrone Ezell, Aaron Donald, Todd Thomas, K'Waun Williams, Lafayette Pitts, Ray Vinopal, Eric Williams). Vinopal started the opener against Youngstown State.
The only visible challenge of that group is Eric Willims moving from starting linebacker, to potentially starting at safety. Throw in the return of safety Jason Hendricks, who was held from spring drills for precautionary as well as linebacker Shane Gordon, the defense suddenly has nine returning starters.
The only question marks, in terms of new starters, appear to have been answered. David Durham takes over at defensive end, and Anthony Gonzlaez moves from safety to linebacker. Both players look like they have a strong hold on their respective position.
It also sounds, according to Chryst, that we could have a better idea on some of this leadership, when Hendricks and Gordon--both seniors--return. Chryst added that Gordon, who was out this spring recovering from a neck injury, is good to be able to start summer conditioning in a couple weeks.
"I like the way they worked this spring," Chryst said. "Jason Hendricks was out, Eric Williams took advantage. He's got to keep growing, because he has a chance to play ts year. Shane Gordon missed all spring, but Mike Caprara got a ton of reps. Shane is feeling better now and is good to go. If we can build some depth, or create competitions, it makes players better, and we can be better as a team."
On the other side of the ball, he feels the quarterbacks and receivers are in a good rhythm. Most noticeably, he says the receivers have done a good job on their routes, which helps in the area of timing. If there's one impact that this offensive staff has had as a whole, it's getting this receiver group--a group that lost three seniors to graduation last year--to run better routes, during this tenure.
Running back, however, is a bit of a different story. Chryst isn't concerned, but admits the position is unsettled.
"I think it's a little bit unsettled right now," Chryst added. "Isaac Bennett and Malcolm Crockett did some good things. They need to keep working, keep growing. James Conner will come and join us in the summer. I like some of the things we're doing right now, but we're not where we want to be."
Of the 14 coaches who spoke today, only three are new to the conference this year. In addition to Chryst, Steve Addazio takes over at Boston College and Scott Shafer takes over at fellow first-year member Syracuse.
"Program wise, we're appreciative of some stability, and proud to be a part of a great conference," Chryst said. "When the schedule came out, it's not just good teams, but programs that have won for long periods of time. Our guys understand that. We've been getting ready to work, and we have to understand that if we want to compete."
Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher added that he is looking forward to opening at Pitt on September 2.
"I think it’s going to be crazy," Fisher said. "I grew up in West Virginia. I know Pitt football. I know the passion people have."