Thursday, December 22, 2011
Pitt gets what it needs -- no nonsense
By Andrea Adelson
The time has come for Pitt to move on from the debacle of the past year, and really, there is no better person to do that than Paul Chryst.
He is no-nonsense, a man who does not yabber on and on like a certain somebody Pitt fans want to forget. A man who has proved he can coach and can mold his players from good to great. A man who proved -- most especially this year -- he can coach both a smashmouth style and a pretty passing style, too.
Chryst may have been passed over for the job a year ago because he was not "high-octane," but that is a word that no longer fits in the Pitt vocabulary. The Panthers need solid coaching and no drama, and that is what Chryst should be able to provide.
Because the biggest mess that has to be fixed on this team is the offense. Quarterback was a disaster position in 2011, and not all of the blame belongs to Tino Sunseri. He simply was not a good fit for the spread. Seeing how Chryst was able to work with Russell Wilson this season and tailor the offense to his strengths has to make the Panthers believe he can do the same with Sunseri or whoever wins the starting job.
Ray Graham has the potential to go from being great to entering the Montee Ball stratosphere. Graham is coming off a knee injury, and this hire should encourage him to stay in school for one more season. He already was the best player on the offense, and if he returns, he should have a real opportunity to reach 1,500 yards next season.
The Panthers hope Paul Chryst, right, can improve Tino Sunseri's game the way he did with Wisconsin's Russell Wilson, left.
But what about the offensive line, you ask? Pitt does not have 300-pound behemoths like Wisconsin. That is quite true. Pitt was bad in pass protection, though mostly because of strange blocking schemes that none of the players fully endorsed. Sunseri held on to the ball way too long, too. Let's face it -- neither Sunseri nor his offensive linemen ever fully grasped the timing concept that is the heart of the Graham offense.
Pitt should be better up front with Chryst in charge. Should Chris Jacobson receive a sixth year of eligibility, the offensive line will have an anchor to help lead the way. As for the receivers, there is plenty of talent here as well, from Devin Street and Mike Shanahan to Ronald Jones and Cameron Saddler. There is no reason they cannot develop further under a coach who should be able to maximize their talents.
What Chryst did as offensive coordinator speaks for all the possibilities. Over the past three seasons, Wisconsin has averaged 39.3 points a game. This season, Ball became a first-team All-American and Heisman Trophy finalist, leading the nation in total rushing yards (1,759) and scoring (38 touchdowns). Wilson completed 73 percent of his passes for 2,879 yards with 31 touchdowns to just three interceptions.
Those stats perfectly illustrate how Chryst adapts to his personnel. Wilson shattered the Wisconsin single-season passing touchdown mark. John Stocco held the old mark of 21 set in 2005. They are the only two quarterbacks to throw more than 20 touchdowns in Wisconsin history.
Then there is the coaching up part, too. According the ESPN Stats & Information, Wilson immensely improved his accuracy on passes longer than 15 yards. That has been one of the biggest areas of weakness for Sunseri. Wilson completed 52.4 percent of his passes longer than 15 yards this season, with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. Last season at NC State, Wilson completed 33.6 percent of his passes longer than 15 yards, with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Chryst also has started to win over his new players. Street, one of the most outspoken on Twitter when Todd Graham bolted for Arizona State, tweeted two separate messages: "Just met the new head man ! Ready to rock" and "Said its not what he says its his actions !!! Perfect."
All of these are signs of hope. Now all the Panthers need is for Chryst to stay on the job for more than 11 months.