Recruits, locals gather for Pitt football camp

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The emphasis of first-year Pitt football coach Paul Chryst and his staff during the spring was teaching fundamentals and basics to the Panthers players to improve their skill level.

He embraces his role as an educator to players beyond his roster, especially in Pitt's football camp season, which begins today.

Over the next three weeks, thousands of campers will come to Pitt's campus to work with Chryst and his coaches.

"The important thing for me is that every kid who comes to camp learns at least one thing he can take back with him to help him become a better football player," Chryst said.

Pitt has one-day "prospect camps" today, Saturday and next weekend at Pitt's UPMC South Side football facility.

The "Little Panthers" camp for ages 5 to 11 will be June 18-19 and there will be a "specialist" camp June 21.

The camp season ends with the passing camp and 7-on-7 tournament June 23-24. It attracts area schools from different levels and allows them to compete.

But the prospect camps are the ones that interest most.

At these camps the coaching staff evaluates high school players -- one part of the process in a player developing into a Division I prospect with a scholarship offer.

However, because so few players who attend the camps will earn scholarships, Chryst said that isn't the main focus.

"Obviously the recruiting piece, the evaluation part of it, is a big thing and it is good for us because we can see a lot of players," Chryst said.

"But you limit yourself if that is the only thing you are focused on and that is the only thing you care about.

"We want to help kids become better football players, we want to get a chance to meet people in the community, meet high school coaches, meet parents -- it is really a very enjoyable time."

Based on early registration numbers, the overall number of campers for this year could be among the highest that Pitt has coached.

"I think there will be more than 2,000 players coming through our doors and coming to our camps in the next few weeks," Chryst said.

"And that is exciting to me and my staff, especially being a new staff, as we will get plenty of opportunities to meet a lot of new people."

There also are coaches from about 40 other colleges who will work the camps and evaluate players for their programs.

Current players Khaynin Mosley-Smith, Ryan Turnley and Devin Street are three examples of players who arrived at camp with the Pitt coaching staff unsure about their abilities.

They all performed well enough to erase any doubts about their ability and earn a scholarship offer.

Arizona Cardinal running back LaRod Stephens-Howling is another player who came to camp hoping to impress the coaches enough to earn a scholarship.

"I think the key with the camps for us is we are looking to see if the player matches what we see on his game tapes," Chryst said.

"We get a chance to see players up close, see their athleticism, their size -- see how big they actually are and how they compete and take instructions and coaching.

"There are so many things you can learn about players just by observing how they carry themselves and how they interact with people and coaches and that's a big part of the process as well."

A number of prospects, some who already have offers, are expected to be at Pitt the next two days as the coaches try to fill the class of 2013 as well as begin evaluating players for future classes.

For more Information about Pitt camps go to


Paul Zeise: and Twitter @paulzeise. First Published June 8, 2012 12:00 AM


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