Paul Zeise: Welcome to the Pitt chat - start firing questions now. Thanks for participating.
Spanky: What's your take on the staff Chryst has brought over so far?
Paul Zeise: Well, the key to me is the two coordinators and I think given that Chryst is an offensive guy and first-time head coach, I'd have to believe he will have a large hand in coordinating the offense even though he is bringing over at least one or two guys to be the offensive coordinators. The defensive coordinator - Huxtable - he has a good pedigree, he has coordinated very good defenses in the past, so that seems to be a very good start to a good staff. I think the key now is he fills in the rest of the staff with guys who can recruit - he needs to find one guy like a Greg Gattuso, Bob Junko, Jeff Hafley, Charlie Partridge - guys who were excellent recruiters from the staffs of the past. He needs to get at least one, if not two, of those guys on his staff and if he does, I think Pitt fans will be very happy with the way it shapes up.
guest: Do you think that the Panthers are going to be ready to play?
Paul Zeise: Based on what I've seen, yes. This group has had two practices down here so far and both have been crisp, the team seems focused and they also seem to want to prove a point - that they weren't as bad as they looked this year and that the collection of players was better than the guy who coached them. That's really something a few of them have said - they are angry about the old coach and want to show him they don't need him. So I think this group will be ready to go and play a good game. Will it be good enough? Who knows, but I don't think if they lose it will be because they aren't ready to play.
Ziggy: What did you make of Alecxih's comments about Todd Graham?
Paul Zeise: Well like I said - they view him as a liar, they think he lied to them and then he made it worse by lying - in their minds - about wanting to come back and talk to them. Alecxih basically said all of Todd Graham's preaching about being a man, about integrity, character -- all of that was total BS because of the way he acted when he left. But that is how the team feels and frankly it isn't hard to understand why they feel that way.
Guest: Paul any current news on the arrival of Chryst? Also any staff updates since last night.
Paul Zeise: Yes, I think Chryst is supposed to be in Pittsburgh today and then I think he is coming to Birmingham tomorrow (or maybe Saturday morning) for the game. As for some of the changes - Todd Dodge said he has a few opportunities to go back to coach high school in Texas (he is like a legendary high school coach), i think Randolph and Leftwhich are likely headed for Arizona State and Patterson is headed for Arkansas State. That leaves McCray who has had his name in there for a few different opportunities but not sure which direction he is headed. I think Chryst's staff, now that the coordinators are in place, will come together rather quickly.
Frank: How will the playcalling change under Todd Dodge?
Paul Zeise: If you listen to Todd talk I think the biggest three differences will be this:
1) The play calling will be more quarterback friendly than perhaps we've seen and that's because he knows what Tino Sunseri's strengths and weaknesses are. So we will see the plays that Sunseri has had success with and that should lead to a better overall performance by him.
2) They are going to slow some things down, possess the ball a little more and try to play some field position if needed. They won't try to snap it every 15 seconds and whatnot,, they are going to let some clock burn and try to be more efficient.
3) we will see the big play receivers get vertical more, especially since SMU's defense will give them a lot of one-on-one looks. This seems to be a point of emphasis - getting the ball down the field.
Benjamin: ESPN seemed pretty sure WVU will be in the Big 12 next year. What does that mean for Pitt's chances of going to the ACC in 2012 and the future of the BYB?
Paul Zeise: It means nothing. Honestly. Pitt is in the Big East next year unless something dramatic - and I can't even think of what - happens. The school has accepted this, the administration has accepted this. They have accepted the fact that the best they can hope for is that John Marrinatto comes to his senses and they can get out of it by 2013. West Virginia's case is different than Pitt's case. West Virginia is claiming that the conference was weakened by the defections of Syracuse, Pitt and TCU. Obviously Pitt cannot make that claim. I don't know if WVU is going to get out of it or not, it sounds to me like both sides are digging in and preparing for a war about it and at the end of the day, WVU may just leave regardless of what the Big East says, so this could be fun to watch. But it means nothing for Pitt, nothing at all.
Joe: Word out of Wisconsin is that Rudolph was named run game coordinator for the Badgers and won't be coming to Pitt. Can you confirm?
Paul Zeise: Have not heard that yet because I'm not in Wisconsin but it wouldn't shock me seeing as Bostad was the run game coordinator and is now gone.
Rack City: Scale of 1-10 how serious is the squad taking the experience down there?
Paul Zeise: Honestly, this group is about as focused of a group as I have seen at a bowl game. Part of that is because there isn't anything else to do down here and they'd be hard pressed to find trouble even if they went looking for it. Part of it is they want to win this game badly because they feel like everyone is counting them out. The three teams I thought did not prepare well since I've covered this team, all lost their bowl games. Last year it was all about business and winning for Wannstedt and it showed during the game. The Sun Bowl team acted like a team that was just happy to be back in a bowl game and it showed. In 2003, the team was very disappointed in heading to Charlotte as they had BCS aspirations and they played a lackluster game. And then the 2004 game was a disaster from start to finish, guys went to Arizona with an interim coach and partied like it was 1999 - and it showed on game time. This week, though, this team seems like it is motivated and ready to play a game so I'd expect a good performance.
WolfManSmells: Was there any consideration by Chryst, if you know, for Todd Orlando as DC?
Paul Zeise: Yes, he had a list of a few guys he ran past Pitt but I think Huxtable was his first choice because of his comfort level with him since he has worked with him for a number of years and because Huxtable also has some recruiting ties in Florida from his days at UCF.
WolfManSmells: Voytik aside, do you think Mark Meyers can end up being a starter as some point (based on what you have seen of him)?
Paul Zeise: If Mark Myers ever decides he really, really wants to be a Division I starting quarterback, I believe he has the talent to do so. I have yet to see much evidence that he really wants it, though. It isn't easy, it doesn't come easy, you have to fight and work your tail off every single day and be a grinder and improve and you have to love it, you have to want to be in the film room and you also have to make sure you take care of business in the classroom and everywhere else. It isn't always about talent - Tino Sunseri is a grinder, he wants it, he works for it, he goes after it, Pat Bostick did as well, Bill Stull did as well, Tyler Palko was the ultimate grinder. If you aren't willing to work for it, if you don't love it, your talent is only going to get you in the door but you will get eaten alive. Mark Myers has to decide how much he really wants it and then go get it. The ball is really in his court on this one.
Vinny Richiccis chins: Have you heard anything about Jared Holley transferring (since he graduated)? Also, is it true that you are wearing a red track suit and Adidas sans show laces?
Paul Zeise: No, he put his paperwork in to the NFL to see what his stock would be and that is always a possibility but from talking to him yesterday it sounds like he is going to be back. He has an internship at Pitt and some other opportunities so I would be surprised if he left unless the NFL told him he was going to be a really high draft pick.
Aaron: What do you expect the atmosphere in Legion Field to be like on Saturday?
Paul Zeise: I think SMU will bring some fans and the few Pitt fans who do come will be into the game so it will be OK. Last year I thought the atmosphere was surprisingly good for a nothing bowl in a bad time slot so I'd expect it to be pretty good this year as well.
Spanky: Chryst has shown he's not afraid to give the ball to several different RB's. Assuming Graham is healthy, do you think we'll see a 50-50 split with Shell next year? Or maybe another surprise RB steps up?
Paul Zeise: No, I would be surprised. If Graham is healthy he will be the guy and don't forget, Shell still has to beat out the two kids - Crockett and Bennett - who are here and they are both good players. This isn't just Shell walks in and everyone gets out of his way - Graham is one of the best running backs in the country. I'm sure that Chryst will use a few backs, but I'd be shocked if Graham is healthy if he isn't the featured back and gets the bulk of the carries.
Vinny Richiccis chins: Too bad the Big East didn't scoop up Temple ... football looking good ... hoops with a big win over Duke. Forget the script, Pitt needs to put a stripe down the middle of the helmet to match the stripe on the pants. Whats the deal? Also, if you had to pick the new PSU coahc, who you got?
Paul Zeise: Temple is too good for the Big East now. We're beyond that league......
atall64: How horrible was #pantherlair dressed last night and did he pick up your tab.........
Paul Zeise: He had a terrible orange sweater on, looked like the great pumpkin. And he ain't picked up a tab in his life......
Fez Whatley: Was Keith Patterson offered the job at ASU as the Defensive Coordinator and turned them down to go to Arkansas State as the DC?
Paul Zeise: Yes, and I'll say this - talking to him all this week he really didn't want to go to Arizona State for a lot of reasons. Arkansas State is much closer to his home base and I think he also was hurt and shocked - like the rest of the assistants - by what Graham did and thought maybe now was a good time to try and make his own way in the profession. He also saw this, Ark State, as a great opportunity to be a part of something growing.
Al: Chryst is really pillaging Wisconsin's staff. If he can replicate the success at Pitt which has taken place at Wisconsin the past few years than im all for it. He can bring the waterboy while he is at it. You agree?
Paul Zeise: Well pillaging is a bit strong - he has grabbed two coaches and maybe a third will join him if he isn't promoted. But you are right - why wouldn't you want coaches who come from a winning culture and a winning program.
Big City: Don't you think some of the Todd Graham hate is a bit much? Sure he's a slippery guy but what he did is practically normal these days. The kids learned a good life lesson, but the lashing out doesn't come off well IMO.
Paul Zeise: No, not from the kids. From the people around the program, yes, it is ridiculous. He's a football coach and what he did was a part of the profession. LIke I've said before - I have no beef with the guy, he was always good to me and I wish him well. But the players are a different story - he spent the last 11 months beating their ears about character, integrity, relationships, etc. etc. and then he pulls that? And then he comes up with "I'm coming back to talk to you" when everyone knows he had no intention too? I'd be angry if I was a player, also.
Cooks 1982 denim buttonup: Chances on Lumpy's 6th year? Chances on Shayne Hale contributing next year? Also, if WVU plays in Big XII somehow next year, does Pitt still get stuck in Big East?
Paul Zeise: Very good, in fact I will be surprised if Chris Jacobson isn't granted a 6th year he is the perfect case for why the hardship was invented.
MPM: With respect to Dodge's comments, did he tell Todd Graham what Sunseri's strengths and weaknesses were and suggest plays with Graham ignoring him?
Paul Zeise: Of course, but he has now had about five weeks to sit and watch films and evaluate every game and so he has an even better idea about what Tino struggled with and what he was good at - and now HE is calling the shots, not someone else. It is one thing to offer suggestions to someone else, it is another thing to be able to call the shots yourself.
yinzDahnny: With Chryst filling LB and DC spots on his staff, where do you see Tom Bradley filling in on the staff? Secondary coach? DL coach? And do you see Bradley convincing Pederson to bring back the Pitt Script logo?
Paul Zeise: Well I am pretty sure that the dance team is looking for an assistant coach and Jack Anderson has said he heard Bradley was really good at coaching drummers, so maybe he will land a spot as the assistant band director ...
Look, can we please let the "Tom Bradley is a candidate for every opening at Pitt" stuff die. If you read it somewhere, hear it, see it, whatever, please do yourself a favor and say to yourself "THIS AIN'T HAPPENING"
Bill: Does Chryst trim a qb or two (change position/not renew) and does he honor all of Graham's scholarship offers?
Paul Zeise: He said he will honor every scholarship and he will honor every committed player's commitment. So I don't see him trimming anyone, though there are always transfers when a new guy goes in. But anyone that wants to stay will be welcome
Pennis Stinkbox: Can we get a prediction on the game?
Paul Zeise: Ok with this we will end because I have to get to Pitt practice. It is their final practice before the game, tomorrow they have a walk through and Saturday is the game.
I think Pitt will play well, I think they will play really well on defense and on offense they will grind out just enough on the ground to score some points and win in the fourth quarter. I'll say something like Pitt 27 SMU 23.
Paul Zeise: Thanks for participating and we will do this again soon once recruiting season heats up. Enjoy the game.