Mike B.-Sarasota, FL: Sam, great job this year on assuming the Panther beat. From your observations at practice and speaking with the coaches ... any insight(s) as to Freshman redshirts progress this year, along with players like E. Price?
Sam Werner: Price has certainly worked his way back in more and more as the season as progressed. I think it made sense for him to take the redshirt, though I'm sure the coaching staff wished he was available in the middle of the season when they were so thin at linebacker. I would certainly expect him to factor in for playing time this spring. Because he has been in and out, it's a little tough to figure out exactly what LB position he'll be playing, but I think he could be a nice backup for Shane Gordon in the middle.
As far as other RS freshmen, there are two guys I'd point to. First, and I know I talk about him seemingly every week, but Adam Bisnowaty. I know the staff really likes the way he has filled out his frame this season, and I think he's a real threat to win the starting left tackle job next season. That would also allow Cory King to move back inside, to his natural position. Second, I think Ryan Lewis might have a shot to grab a starting cornerback spot next year. He has traveled to just about every road game this season (even though he's redshirting) and that's usually a sign that a staff likes a guy and expects him to play a lot next year.
Rich in Pa: Now that Alvarez has publicly said he won't pursue Chryst, what are the next big recruiting fish to fry for the staff?
Sam Werner: The big boys: Robert Foster and Tyler Boyd. Those two could turn Chryst's first full class into a total home run. I think Pitt has a very, very good shot at Foster and a pretty good chance at Boyd, too (though that's a little less concrete). I also know they'd like to take as many guys as they can in this class, so I'd expect it to be filled out with some maybe lower-rated linemen or guys they can build up in the system. One name I'd look at is Philadelphia OT Jaryd Jones-Smith. He seems like a prototypical guy the staff can get into their workouts, bulk up and turn into a productive lineman by his junior or senior year.
Corey: Now that Chryst is (almost) definitely not going to Wisconsin, how long do you see him staying at Pitt?
Sam Werner: That depends on a lot of things. Chryst will have a longer leash than most coaches just because Pitt is so desperate for stability at that spot, but at the same time he'll have to show he can win consistently. Also, just because Wisconsin isn't pursuing him this time doesn't mean they won't go after him if whoever they hire falls flat on his face. I think Chryst really is a man of his word and has every intention to stay at Pitt for a long time. I don't see him leaving Pitt for a "better job" at any point, unless that job is Wisconsin.
Will: How will PITT structure the bowl practices? In other words how will he work the younger players into the practices?
Sam Werner: Because the BBVA Compass Bowl is so late, it really gives the staff a lot of freedom to structure practices the way they want. They'll get started this weekend with some light work, then take next week off for finals. The week after finals, they'll have a week of practice. This will likely be a lot of the young guys doing a lot of what the staff calls "Pitt vs. Pitt," meaning Pitt running its offense vs. the Pitt defense, with no scout team. This is the period where most of the young guys will get in and the older guys will get a break. After that, they'll have a few days off for Christmas, then return for practice and gameplanning for Ole Miss, at which point the focus will probably shift back to the guys who are actually playing in the game.
Dont tease the Badger: DO you think all of this will hurt recruiting?
Sam Werner: No. On the contrary, I think this will help. The biggest negative for Pitt on the recruiting trail over the last few years has been the instability at the head coaching spot, but Chryst staying put is one of the biggest statements for stability Pitt can make.
Sam: Your job could have been really interesting for a few months had Alvarez not just made that statement...
Sam Werner: Well, I came into this job knowing that it would likely involve two things: A trip to Birmingham and covering a coaching search. One for two ain't bad...
Sam: A question though... Any realistic chances of Devin Street skipping his senior year? It seems highly unlikely. I'd like their receiving core next year if he stays around..
Sam Werner: Street said before the Rutgers game that he will return next year. Now, obviously that could change. Like a lot of guys facing that decision, I would expect him to put his paperwork in with the NFL just to get a gauge on where his draft stock is. If it comes back way higher than expected, maybe he goes. At this point, though, I would be surprised if he's not back next year.
Zinger: With Strong staying at Louisville, Chryst staying at Pitt, and Fedora staying at UNC, and Cutcliffe staying at Duke, it appears the ACC's demise has been overblown? These coaches were all rumoured to be interested in SEC and Big 10 jobs.
Sam Werner: This is definitely a good week for the ACC. I don't think anyone's going to confuse it for the SEC, which, depending who Tennessee hires, could end up with 13 or 14 high-quality coaches.
But I do think it's a good sign for the future of the ACC that more coaches than not consider these jobs to be good enough to stay at. Now, as we've seen, there are certainly some weasels in college athletics, so guys like Strong and Barry Alvarez (and Paul Chryst) appear to be the outliers, but it shows that guys think they can win and do well in the ACC. Also, especially in Louisville's case, it shows that these schools are willing to spend money in order to keep coaches.
mike: Do u believe alvarez reasoning for not hiring chryst? or is it a nice way of saying hes not interested in chryst
Sam Werner: I think some of that will depend on who WIsconsin ends up hiring. If they go with someone with a lot of head coaching experience, it might have been Alvarez being nice when he doesn't think Chryst is ready. If they go with someone else with not a lot of coaching experience, I think it shows that he really just didn't feel comfortable about hiring Chryst away after one year.
I've never interacted with Barry personally, but I know people who have, and everyone says he is a stand-up guy. I'd lean towards believing he just proved that today.
Pitt13to9: How many tweets/emails/phone calls did you get on Tuesday...say around 3:30-4PM?
Sam Werner: Too many. I was actually joking earlier in the day about Bielema possibly leaving, not thinking it was a real possibility. Be careful what you wish for...
josh: The ACC was going to go with 9 conference games but changed to 8 at some point. Pitt was scheduled to have 5 away conference games, so I assume one of those will be lost. I also assume we're losing Wake Forest, since Syracuse (protected cross-over) is on the road. Does this all sound correct? All of this is to ask, what will be done for the 12th game? Irish, 'nova, Navy are 3 non-cons...who's the fourth?
Sam Werner: That all sounds right, though I'm not sure the ACC home/away splits have been determined yet, especially with the teams jumping around and Louisville taking Maryland's spot.
As for the fourth non-conference game, we're still waiting. It will be a home game, and the people I've talked to have indicated that it will almost certainly be against a "mid-major" Division I-A team, i.e. a MAC-level team.
Mike B.-Sarasota, FL: With all of the new staffs being built this year, any speculation/conjecture on changes to Coach Chryst's staff?
Sam Werner: I haven't heard any rumblings indicating that coaches could leave, but that's not to say it won't happen. As the new coaches around the country settle in, there's always the chance that guys could get phone calls and better job offers. I would not worry too much about any of these guys jumping to Bielema's staff at Arkansas, though.
Today's news is certainly a step in the right direction for the staff sticking around, but that could change.
Guest: is Foster still on target to make his decision right before Christmas? Any idea on when Boyd may make a decision?
Sam Werner: Foster will make his decision Dec. 21 at Central Valley High School. Boyd will announce Jan. 4, the day before he's slated to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
Patriot9: How do you see Pitt matching up against Ole Miss?
Sam Werner: I haven't watched much Ole Miss film yet. That's on the docket for this week and was delayed a bit because of that pesky Wisconsin thing. But just looking at the numbers and some of Ole Miss' results this season, they look like basically an SEC-version of Pitt. They've put together some impressive games (beating Miss St., almost beating LSU and Texas A&M) but also have some puzzling losses (Vanderbilt and a 35-point blowout loss to Texas). Very balanced on both sides of the ball, with their run defense a little bit better than their pass defense. Once I watch some film of them I'll have a better idea of their schemes and what exactly they do on both sides of the ball.
Wexford Wag: ESPN yesterday listed Harper's missed 39 yd. field goal against Notre Dame as the top (most significant) play in college football this year. Oh, what could have been! Any word on any other kickers in the pipeline for next year other than Blewitt, the recruit?
Sam Werner: What could have been, indeed. Though, to be fair to Harper, Pitt had plenty of other chances to win that game. But the offseason would certainly feel much different if that kick had gone through the uprights.
As far as kickers coming in, I would expect Blewitt to win the job next year. The staff likes him and it's generally not a great idea to use too many scholarships on kickers. Pitt also has RS soph. Drake Greer and fr. Brad Lukasak on the roster if they want to look at some other options.
Sam Werner: Alright, folks. That's all for today. Thanks for stopping by this week's Pitt football chat. This will be the last one for a few weeks, barring a total change of heart from Paul Chryst and Barry Alvarez (and let's all hope that doesn't happen.) My next chat will be Thursday, Jan. 3 at noon when I'll be coming to you live from Birmingham, Ala.